Inserm brings together 15,000 researchers, engineers, technicians, and administrative staff around one common goal: to improve the health of all by advancing knowledge of life and disease, innovation in treatment, and public health research.

Improving human health

Since its foundation in 1964, Inserm has played a part in many key medical advances, including the first prenatal diagnostic tests, understanding of the HLA system, the first in vitro fertilization, identification of the AIDS virus, radiotherapy for cancer, the first skin graft, deep brain stimulation, and gene therapy.

Its mission is supported by the work of 9 Theme-Based Institutes, whose role is to monitor progress and take a lead on research in their respective fields. Research into HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C is also led and funded by the ANRS (French National Agency for Research on AIDS), an independent Inserm agency.

The Institute is distinguished by both the scientific excellence of its staff, and by its ability to provide benchtop to bedside translational research.

Inserm is the leading European academic biomedical research institution, and with nearly 12,000 publications a year is second in the world only to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). According to the 2016 ranking by Thomson-Reuters, Inserm is also the world’s 9th most innovative public research organization.

Playing a major role in coordinating health research

Inserm has always worked closely with hospitals, universities, and other public sector institutions. The majority of its research units involve staff from different institutions, and are located close to health-care establishments and teaching centers. The success of these partnerships depends on sharing skills, attracting talent, and proximity to patients.

Inserm is a founding member and chair of Aviesan, the French National Alliance for Life Sciences and Health. Through its scientific coordination of research topics, and the operational coordination of projects and resources, Aviesan is enhancing the responsiveness and effectiveness of French science.

Acting for society and with society

An ethical pioneer

Health-care discoveries and their applications raise numerous questions about respect for ethics and for life. Inserm played a leading role in creating France’s National Consultative Ethics Committee in 1983. The Inserm Ethics Committee itself plays a full role as a stakeholder in the dialogue between society and the scientific community. It provides support to Institute staff in identifying and integrating ethical issues into their projects from the very beginning.

Health-care expertise

In response to the rapid pace of change in public health, Inserm began producing its Collective Expert Reviews in 1993. Whether self-instigated or instigated at the request of a public authority, these reports provide support for public agencies and elected officials in taking difficult decisions on sensitive topics such as asbestos, lead, circadian rhythms in children, and disabilities.

With patients and for patients

Created in 2004, the Groupe de réflexion avec les associations de malade (GRAM ‑Think tank network with patient organizations) and the Associations, Research & Society (MARS) network coordinate joint action programs between Inserm and over 500 support groups for patients, disabled people, and their families. These provide opportunities for dialogue, reflection, and suggestion. Patient support groups are very active, and play a key role in democratizing health care and science. They are involved in organizing, and even funding research. 

Disseminating knowledge

Inserm strives to promote its researchers’ work and results. Both locally and nationally, it is involved in promoting scientific culture and sharing knowledge. Throughout the year, the Institute and its researchers seek to engage the public through laboratory open house days, conferences, theater shows, and exhibitions. Its popular science and audiovisual content, and the scientific current affairs Inserm magazine are further tools for providing the whole public with quality information.