“Decoding fundamental host-microbe interactions to better control infectious diseases !” is the motto of the International Center for Infectiology Research, the CIRI!

CIRI was created on 1st January 2013 by the Inserm, CNRS, ENS Lyon and University Claude Bernard Lyon 1. Along with these trustees and with its other partners, i.e., the Institut Pasteur, the FondationMérieux and the Hospices Civils de Lyon, the CIRI comprises over 20 teams behind one goal: the fight against infectious diseases, the second cause of death worldwide. Through a multidisciplinary approach combining microbiology (bacteriology and virology), immunology, cell biology, clinical research and epidemiology, plus a strong interface with the industry, the CIRI intends to be a research center opened to therapeutic innovation and to act a major player in the areas of medical prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.

Causing 15 million deaths per year, infectious diseases represent a major threat to human society, due to evident health issues, but are also a threat to the animal and vegetal biodiversity, with potential socio-economic damage. Respiratory infections, diarrheal disease, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria each cause more than 1 million deaths per year. Numerous emerging and re-emerging pathogens are constantly modifying the field of infectious diseases, contributing to an increasing death toll. A lack of hygiene raising food safety issues and nutritional disorders (including malnutrition and metabolic disorders) is contributing to a weaker resistance to infection. The development of modern medicine is also correlating with a surge of health care-associated infections (1.4 million nosocomial infections occur per day worldwide). Moreover, a growing number of bacterial and viral infections are at the origin of different forms of cancer. Finally, specific, highly pathogenic or highly contagious agents have been recognized as putative bio-terrorism agents.

Now more than ever, the control of infectious diseases requires a pluridisciplinary approach toward a common goal: to eradicate or control infectious diseases. Indeed, recent advances on some diseases of crucial importance for human health have emphasized that an efficient understanding of diseases requires considering the host-pathogen relationship at the center of a complex and environment-dependent network of interactions, from the molecular and cellular levels up to individuals and host populations, taking into account their social, behavioral, and nutritional environment. Thus, the ambition of the CIRI is to promote an integrated approach on a broad range of host-pathogen interactions. It aims to be internationally recognized as a top-level center dedicated to fundamental research on microbiology and immunology, and to translate scientific discoveries into clinical or industrial applications, at least up to early proofs of concept.

The CIRI is meant to implement an essential further step of the development of the research in Infectiology in Lyon through a highly structured co-operation between academic and clinical research communities, on the Charles Mérieux campus. It will play a pivotal role by structuring the interactions between academic and private research, and by promoting socio-economic opportunities through strong partnerships with operators involved in the innovation or pre-industrial development, including the LyonBiopôle and the IRT BioAster. The CIRI will thus constitute a strong interface with industry, with increased collaborations with key actors in the domain of human and animal health on the Lyon area and optimal potential for valorization of results.

The CIRI currently includes nearly 300 researchers, faculty members, graduate students, engineers and technicians in ca. twenty teams that have been enrolled becauseof their strong expertise in key basicdisciplines for the study of infectious diseases (i.e., microbiology, immunology and cell biology) and also of their capacity or specific interest to translate novel knowledge, of scientific or technological nature, in translational research programs and applied research. It is a joint research Unit (INSERM U1111 – CNRS UMR5308 – ENS Lyon – UCB Lyon 1), which brings together research teams from the Human Virology Unit (Inserm U758 – ENS Lyon, Dir FL Cosset) from the I2V Unit (Inserm U851 – UCB Lyon 1, Dir Marvel J) and three teams from the CNRS, the FondationMérieux and the InstitutPasteur.

In large, the research programs of CIRIconcern objectives of broad interest in the field of infectious diseases, which are:

  • Integrated immunology for vaccination and biotherapies.
  • Metabolo-infectiology and non-communicable diseases.
  • Nosocomial infections.
  • Emerging and highly pathogenic infections.
  • Consequences of co-infections with human pathogenic agents.

These programs are conducted in collaboration with other institutions and socio-economic entitiessuch as the Hospices Civils de Lyon, the Finovi Foundation, the Laboratory of Excellence Ecofect, the P4 laboratory, the LyonBiopôle, the IRT BioAster,and industrial partners. In addition, a dozen new teams, with expertise in various disciplines related to infectious diseases (epidemiology, pathology, etc..) or other related disciplines (e.g., modeling, cell biology,…), will be recruited through specific Calls for applications launched at national and international level, to complement the expertise of the CIRI, to broaden its impact in the field of infectious disease research and consolidate its scientific objectives. Overall, this will be facilitated in the coming years thanks to the introduction on the Campus of Lyon-Gerland, of a building dedicated to CIRI.

François-Loïc Cosset, Director of the CIRI
24thJuly 2013