In late June, a conference on working with primate models in biomedical research was held in Paris. The day before the conference, the French minister Frédérique Vidal opened a French research centre called IDMIT (which also organised this conference). This constitutes a milestone in European collaboration between biomedical research institutes.
‘With its primate models, IDMIT is completely focused on research on serious infectious diseases,’ says Jan Langermans (BPRC's deputy director), who attended the event in Paris in his capacity as the Chair of IDMIT's Scientific Advisory Board. ‘The main difference between them and us is that this new institute does not breed monkeys itself, but purchases them from recognised centres outside Europe, particularly in Mauritius.’
Greater capacity for research
This new organisation was also established to further centralise the work being carried out in France with regard to primate models. The Paris-Saclay University (formerly known as Paris-Sud University) and the Institut Pasteur are important partners in this organisation. Jan explains why the establishment of this new research centre, which already has some 250 monkeys, is so important. ‘The opening of this new institute confirms the increasing demand for primate models in research on major infectious diseases. If we work together, we will have greater capacity in Europe to carry out the important work that is necessary in the fight against infectious diseases. Moreover, these types of partnerships help you stay up to date with what is happening, and prevent you from unnecessarily duplicating other people's research.’
Focus on new techniques
The ‘One Health & Infectious Diseases Symposium’ mainly attracted biomedical researchers, biologists, medical researchers and chemists. Jan Langermans served as the co-chair to the second afternoon session. He enjoyed the successful and wide-ranging event, designed to connect medical and veterinary experts. ‘What was interesting was not just the results recently obtained in the field of infectious diseases such as HIV, influenza and Zika, but also the latest techniques, such as mapping out the immediate immune response very soon after the injection, and in very great detail. This will teach you about the course of an infection and its early manifestations much sooner. What was also new to me was the use of new nanotechnology, for instance, to direct antibiotics to the right spot. We keep a close eye on the development of new techniques like this, so that in the future, we will be able to glean even more information from our studies, while experimenting on fewer animals.’