Yves Lévy Presents the Inserm Roadmap for 2018


Professor Yves Lévy, Chairman and CEO of Inserm, expressed his wishes for 2018 during a ceremony in Paris on January 16, 2018. This was an opportunity to report on the action taken and announce the major action for roll-out over the coming year.

Midway into the Inserm 2016-2020 strategic plan, "much has been already accomplished with regards to the innovative actions put forward," said Yves Lévy, Chairman and CEO of Inserm, in a speech given during the 2018 New Year's ceremony. "Inserm will not be reining in its ambitions in the new year – quite the opposite."

Gene therapy and genetic variability

Yves Lévy
Yves Lévy @ Inserm / Mehrak

In scientific and technological terms, the Accelerators of Technological Research (ART) and the cross-cutting programs have become key mobilization methods at Inserm.

The ARTs are intended to speed up technological research and give research teams access to the innovative technology that stems from it. Two of these programs are already in place. As a result of the ultrasound ART, five laboratories are currently receiving innovative neuroimaging equipment and will be guided in the implementation of their projects. The ART is also developing other projects, such as the functional brain imagining of newborns.  The second ART, based on bioprinting, was inaugurated in October 2017 in Bordeaux. Four pilot projects are under development and the ART has contributed to the Aviesan working group on alternative approaches to animal experimentation.

In early 2018, a new ART based on gene therapy will be launched in Evry. This will boost the development of new viral vectors, bioproduction technology and genome editing tools. The objective   is to speed up the proof of concept transfer from Inserm laboratories to clinical practice.

The cross-cutting programs are another form of innovation from the current strategic plan. "They allow us to build on our national profile in order to take on scientific challenges out of reach for isolated teams." The two initial programs rolled out on ageing (AgeMed) and the microbiota are showing real promise. A third program on genetic variability within the general population is slated for launch this year. Coupled with the French Plan for Genomic Medicine 2025 (in French) and the Constances cohort, it will help create and maintain a unique knowledge base combining longitudinal monitoring with genome mapping of the population.

A global network in sight

"The European and international influence of Inserm remains one of our key objectives, making partnerships with high strategic value crucial," said Lévy.

In 2017, Inserm made a direct contribution to the development of the European Research Area by setting up two European Associated Laboratories (EAL) with the United Kingdom, signing a cooperation agreement with the University of Leiden, coordinating major European projects* and playing a significant role in the governance of various key European initiatives**. These cooperation activities are sure to continue in 2018, beginning with the signing of a framework agreement between the French Plan for Genomic Medicine 2025 and the Genomics England program.

In China, while the Wuhan P4 high level biosafety laboratory – based on the Inserm Jean Mérieux P4 model in Lyon – has recently opened, cooperation on the prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases is set to continue. Both nations must also establish new scientific projects based on artificial intelligence and the silver economy. The French-Chinese collaboration should draw on Inserm research for the latter.

If we also factor in current or future programs on themes such as 'health and the environment' (with the NCSE), 'drug dependency' (with NIDA) in the United States, 'immunization research' and 'research into emerging infectious diseases' in Africa, as well as all action by the ANRS network, Inserm's international development appears substantial indeed. To raise its profile, Lévy announced the creation and deployment of a global Inserm network.

Committed to societal challenges

In France, Inserm plays a major role in the coordination of health research. The French Plan for Genomic Medicine 2025 will be the focal point for various 2018 actions. However Inserm has been or will soon be entrusted with several new assignments.  During the French national food conference, the Prime Minister spoke of the need for Inserm expertise on pesticides and the impact of substances used in farming. Meanwhile, the Ministers for Research, Health and the Ecological Transition called on Inserm to help prepare the fourth National Health and Environment Plan. Inserm must also prepare for the implementation of a National Public Health Research Plan and the definition of the third Rare Diseases Plan. "The government is correct in that it needs us and our ability to rally the troops."

Inserm is not alone as it tackles these projects and ambitions which are underpinned by a site policy coordinated with the other public and industrial biomedical research players in France. Inserm's budget and recruitment level for researchers, engineers and technicians should echo those seen in 2017. "We're at the crossroads of several concerns affecting our citizens: health, ethics, research and innovation. Together we can speak proudly of our ongoing improvements to a powerful tool for both science and the community," Lévy concluded.

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