The Pasteur-Weizmann / Servier International Prize

14/10/2015

Awarded every three years, the International Pasteur-Weizmann / Servier prize for biomedical research with a therapeutic aim rewards progress in themes that are of joint interest to the Pasteur-Weizmann Committee and the Servier Institute. The 150 000-euro Prize is awarded to a researcher, doctor, or a scientist for a major contribution to a biomedical discovery leading to a therapeutic application.

It brings together the Pasteur-Weizmann Council and the Servier Institute in the context of the promotion of scientific and medical research. The Pasteur-Weizmann Council aims to ensure and develop scientific collaboration between the Institut Pasteur and the Weizmann Institute of Science in the field of public health and biomedical research. The Servier Institute aims to advance medical research and promote collaboration between the medical community and universities. It therefore seemed obvious to both organizations to join in a common project: the creation of the International Pasteur-Weizmann / Servier Prize.

The goal of this award that pools the resources and reputation of three renowned institutions is to promote and support basic research, in particular the transition from laboratory research to medical therapy.

 

A crucial theme of public health: Emerging and re-emerging infections

 

For this 5th edition, members of the Scientific Committee wished to award the Pasteur-Weizmann / Servier Prize to researchers involved in the field of virology, the study of viruses and infectious agents. The jury had proposed the theme “Emerging Viral Pathogens: structural and molecular basis of virulence and mechanisms of related pathologies.” The Jury wished to draw attention to the struggle of the scientific and medical world against the threats to human and animal health posed by these viral pathogens.

Emerging and re-emerging infections are a real public health issue, as shown by the epidemic due to chikungunya virus, the re-emergence of dengue virus epidemics across the world or potentially threatening influenza virus outbreaks.

The spread of viral infections outside of their geographical origin is now common and can reach all parts of the world. Global warming and the many trips and exchanges of people and goods between countries tend to facilitate the spread of these infections. The recent chikungunya epidemic that hit the island of Réunion in 2005-2006, the first to be observed in a country with Western health standards, perfectly illustrates the importance of a good knowledge of molecular bases of host relationships / virus diagnosis, monitoring and control in the context of viral epidemics.

In choosing the theme of emerging and re-emerging viral infections, the scientific committee of the Pasteur-Weizmann / Servier Prize wanted to reward “a candidate who through his work and discoveries would best symbolize the quest for new knowledge put at the disposal of the humanity in the fight against the scourges of major pandemic viral infections.”

 

Felix Rey, winner of the 2015 Pasteur-Weizmann / Servier Prize

 

Born in Argentina in 1957, Professor Felix Rey graduated from the Faculty of Orsay in France where he completed his PhD in structural biology. A member of the Academy of Sciences since 2010, he led the Virology Department of the Pasteur Institute for 8 years, from 2004 to 2012. He currently heads the unit of Structural Virology and the CNRS UMR 3569 and Pasteur Institute in Paris.

An internationally renowned expert in the field of virology for his work on the replication mechanisms of RNA viruses, the structure of enveloped or non-enveloped viruses and their interactions with the host, Felix Rey is also known for his essential contribution in determining the three-dimensional structure of several enveloped viruses such as flaviviruses (dengue virus and West Nile virus) and alphavirus virus (Semliki forest virus and chikungunya virus), which have emerged or re-emerged in recent decades causing severe epidemics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcVcU86zjWw

Video on Professor Felix Rey’s work

 

Today he has been awarded the Pasteur-Weizmann / Servier 2015 Prize for his work on several families of emerging pathogen viruses which pose serious public health threats.

The fields Felix Rey investigated, along with numerous publications in prestigious scientific journals as Cell, Nature, or Science, are considered critical advances in the development of therapeutic strategies to fight these pathogens. Indeed, his works offer hope for substantial progress in improving the prevention and treatment of many viral diseases which mainly affect the poorest populations of the world.

The laboratory of Professor Felix Rey is carrying out work on two fronts at once: – Determining the structures of attachment protein of 3 families of virus rampant in Africa, South America, and Asia, and responsible for diseases such as Rift Valley fever, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, the Korean hemorrhagic fever (Hantavirus) or Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF). This project aims to enable the design of vaccines and antiviral treatments. – Coordinating the “Task Force” created in collaboration with the Pasteur Institute in Dakar with a view to creating an effective vaccine against Ebola, after coordinated the Chikungunya task force in 2005-2006.

With funding provided by the Pasteur-Weizmann / Servier Prize, Professor Felix Rey wishes to conduct projects related to diseases that pose a major problem in the aging population, but for which obtaining specific funds can be difficult. This is particularly true of projects on the human herpes virus family, such as the cytomegalovirus or the varicella virus.

The Felix Rey team hopes to better grasp the still relatively unknown process of entry of these viruses into cells, and thus contribute to therapeutic research.