The Center for Microbes, Development and Health

A newly-created Center of Excellence at Institut Pasteur Shanghai, supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the City of Shanghai,recruits outstanding talents to comfort its research programs. 

Institut Pasteur Shanghai (IPS) was founded in 2004 by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Institut Pasteur and the Shanghai Municipal Government, with the aim to identify, monitor and combat emerging epidemic infectious diseases that repeatedly strike the Asian Continent and beyond.

In the context of IPS, “The Center for Microbes, Development and Health” addresses the “post-modern, non-communicable epidemics” emerging in high-income regions, including high susceptibility of newborns to infections, and the developmental defects affecting populations in low-to-middle income regions, the focus being on the etiological role plaid by the ongoing global degradation of the human-microbial interface.

As a matter of fact, new-generation sequencing and bioinformatics have promoted the human gut microbiota to a position of significant driver of development, health and disease, hence the need to decipher the cross-talks established between commensal microorganisms at homeostasis and in disease states. Major challenges remain in defining the frontiers of the mutualistic symbiosis and to which extent it impacts on development, physiology and disease occurrence in case of dysbiosis. Hence the Center will mainly aim at establishing causality links by combining strong basic research set as “cellular microbiology” of the host-microbe mutualism, and clinical studies.

Our basic assumption is that it is during fetal life and the early post-natal period that the mother’s, then the child’s microbes can – directly or indirectly - most efficiently imprint on the fate of the baby through their capacity to sense, integrate and transmit positive and negative environmental influences. Understanding the physiological bases of this mutualistic symbiosis stemming from a long co-evolution between Homo sapiens and his microbes is prior to accessing to disease mechanisms.

Hence our multidisciplinary Center will largely focus on the time frame encompassing the first 1000 days of life that are critical to found body growth, immunity, neurodevelopment and health in general. In low-to-middle-income regions, poverty, malnutrition and sustained exposure to poor microbiological environments weaken this foundation with severe consequences such as earlier mortality and increased morbidities, loss of growth and altered neurodevelopmental potential. In high-income countries, the loss of traditional dietary rules and global hygiene (water, food), combined with uncontrolled use of antibiotics, alter the diversity of microbial taxa to which humans have been ancestrally exposed, hence creating conditions for increased incidence of asthma, allergy, obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases and possibly some cancers.


Prof Philippe J. Sansonetti

Chief Scientist of “The Center for Microbes, Development and Health”

Institut Pasteur Shanghai and Chinese Academy of Sciences

Shanghai, China