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The "Prion" task force was awarded the 2018 INRA Award for "Science with an Impact". 

La task-force Prion en chiffres. © INRA, GAVALDA Véronique
Updated on 05/09/2019
Published on 12/17/2018
Keywords: BREVES

In pursuit of prions

INRA prion specialists are focusing their efforts on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), other prion diseases (prionopathies) such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and the function of the normal (properly folded) prion protein, which remains a mystery. This work will require a significant investment. It will be crucial to train the next generation of researchers, who must be committed to long-term work: for certain studies, 10 years can be necessary to achieve a single publication because these diseases can take up to 50 years to develop!

Outwitting the prion

"The work has been thrilling! The last 20 years have flown by,” says Olivier Andréoletti, a veterinarian and pathologist who joined the team early on, in the late 1990s, "We were exhilarated by the possibilities: the research slate was blank." Human Rezaei, a biophysicist, continues, "Starting from zero, we worked together to define concepts and create tools that we could use to better understand prion diseases." A geneticist focused on in vivo models, Jean-Luc Vilotte finishes, "And we always had complete trust in each other." Even as they receive this award, which recognises fundamental research with crucial societal impacts, the scientists will not rest on their laurels because so much remains to be done. "The concepts and tools we have developed for prion diseases can help researchers take a new look at other diseases that are caused by protein accumulation in the brain, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's," explains Vincent Béringue, a biochemist.

The task force rewarded

The "Prion task force" has involved teams and resources from four research centers: Île-de-France - Jouy-en-Josas, Occitanie-Toulouse, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, and Val de Loire, along with four scientific divisions: Animal Health, Animal Genetics, Animal Physiology and Nutrition, Chemical Food Safety and Consumer Behaviour.

The five scientists in charge are :

  • Olivier Andréoletti, veterinarian and pathologist, UMR IHAP Toulouse;
  • Vincent Béringue, biochemist, UR VIM, Jouy-en-Josas;
  • Jean-Michel Elsen, geneticist, UMR GenPhySE, Toulouse
  • Human Rezaei, biophysician, UR VIM, Jouy-en-Josas;
  • Jean-Luc Vilotte, geneticist and biologist, UMR GABI Jouy-en-Josas.

And the following research units:

  • Molecular Virology and Immunology (UR VIM)
  • Animal Genetics and Integrative biology (UMR GABI)
  • Host Pathogen Interactions (UMR IHAP)
  • Genetics, Physiology and Farming Systems (UMR GenPhySE)