Jacques Ravel, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, as well as Associate Director for Genomics at the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS), both at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, has been named a 2015-2017 Blaise Pascal International Research Chair, one of the most prestigious European science awards. He is spending this year working at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, and over the next two years will divide his time between Paris and Baltimore.
While at the Institut Pasteur, Dr. Ravel is working with Philippe J. Sansonetti, MS, MD, Professor of Microbiology at the Institut Pasteur and the Collège de France in Paris, and a member of the U.S. National Academies of Science, and a microbiologist who is interested in intestinal pathogens. Working with Dr. Sansonetti, Dr. Ravel will address the following central question: “Can a pathogen, to be successful, become a commensal, by subverting the fine-tuned balance between the host and the microbiome?” The pair are examining how some harmful microbes find niches within hosts, and transform themselves into more “friendly” bacteria. In particular, they will try to better understand how Chlamydia, which is pathogenic in some parts of the body, can live in the gastrointestinal tract without triggering problems. The Chair Blaise Pascal is funded by the Ile-de-France region of France. Dr. Ravel will also be organizing a symposium to highlight his research work in France, and to feature global collaborators and leading scientists. The symposium will take place at the College de France, a renowned research and teaching institution established in 1530 by King François 1st.
“Being able to work at the Institut Pasteur, and with Dr. Sansonetti is a fantastic opportunity. For over 100 years, the Institute has continuously been a leader in the battle against infectious diseases,” said Dr. Ravel. “Having immersed myself in genomics over the past 15 years, the Chair Blaise Pascal is giving me a rare opportunity to re-engage myself with my original research focus in microbiology and interact with global leaders in microbiology, cell biology and immunology who are focusing on the role of the human microbiome in infectious diseases.”
The Blaise Pascal Chairs were established in 1996 to honor foreign scientists in all disciplines. The award is named for the eminent 17th-century French genius, Blaise Pascal, who was a mathematician, philosopher, inventor and physicist. Previous laureates include Gerard Debreu (1983 Nobel Prize in Economics), Ahmed Zewail (1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry), Georges Smoot (2006 Nobel Prize in Physics), Elizabeth Blackburn (2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), and Michael Levitt (2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry).
Dr. Ravel is one of two Blaise Pascal Chairs selected this year. The other is Piero Madau, PhD, a professor of astronomy at the University of California, Santa Cruz.