[Where Are They Now?] Jean Millet: “My ties with HKU-Pasteur continued well beyond graduating”

Today we are catching up with Jean Millet, 2010 PhD graduate at HKU-Pasteur and alumnus of the 2nd edition of the Virology Course, who is now working for the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE) as a permanent researcher.

HKU-PRP: What is your best memory at HKU-Pasteur and what makes this place special for you?

Jean Millet: In the summer of 2004, I had the unique opportunity to join HKU-Pasteur for my bachelor’s laboratory internship. At the time I was studying at Université Paris Sud (XI) in France and I was very excited to join HKU-Pasteur because it allowed me to discover virology research in Hong Kong, the city I grew up in. I was trained by Dr. Béatrice Nal-Rogierand Dr. François Kien working on SARS-CoV structural protein cloning and expression.

This was in the wake of the 2002-2003 SARS-CoV outbreak that hit Guangdong Province, Hong Kong, and several countries worldwide. It turned out to be a great first-hands research experience during a very interesting and pioneering time at HKU-Pasteur as the lab had just been reorganized to focus on emerging viral infectious diseases.

This cemented my desire to continue research and training at HKU-Pasteur where I went on doing my master’s lab training, participated in the excellent HKU-Pasteur Virology Course (2nd edition!) and pursued my Ph.D. research training combined with a graduate exchange program with the Pasteur Institute in Paris in the Viral Genomics and Vaccination lab. My ties with HKU-Pasteur continued well beyond graduating as a few months before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was invited to join the 2019 HKU-Pasteur Virology Course focused on Coronaviruses, this time as a tutor. Having received training in the multicultural and world-class scientific environment HKU-Pasteur fostered was a key highlight of my experience there.

HKU-PRP: What did you do after graduating from HKU-Pasteur and what are you doing now?

Jean Millet: After my Ph.D. graduation in 2010, I did a postdoc in Gary Whittaker’s lab at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in Upstate New York, on the East Coast of the US. There I pursued research on animal and human coronaviruses, including Feline Coronavirus, MERS-CoV as well as on other enveloped RNA viruses.

Currently, I am based in France, working as permanent researcher at INRAE (France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment), in the department of Animal Health and within the Molecular Virology and Immunology Unit, where I work on studying virus-host interactions, pathogenesis, and vaccine development of RNA viruses infecting fish aquaculture species, including alphaviruses and rhabdoviruses.

HKU-PRP: In one word, how would you define your experience at HKU-Pasteur?

Jean Millet: Foundational.

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