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A new building for MICALIS, generator of innovative, internationally recognized research

The Xavier Leverve Building, new home to the MICALIS Joint Research Unit, was inaugurated on October 15, 2014. The event presented an opportunity to highlight three examples of the group’s cutting-edge research, which is focused on using microbiology to improve nutrition and human health.

Automated pipetting system in the MetaGenoPolis and MICALIS phenotyping-cloning facility. © INRA, NICOLAS Bertrand
By Pascale Mollier, translated by Jessica Pearce
Updated on 04/18/2016
Published on 10/14/2014

The Xavier Leverve Building was inaugurated October 15, 2014 at the INRA center in Jouy-en-Josas.

Read the article (in French) about the inauguration.

Covering 5,900 m², the new building houses MICALIS, an INRA-AgroParisTech joint research unit. MICALIS comprises 350 people, making it one of INRA’s largest research units. It is composed of 21 research teams, which focus on three themes:

  • microbiota: the microorganisms found in the human digestive tract
  • nutrition: studying microbiological safety and risks
  • synthetic biology, systems biology, and biotechnology

Here are examples of cutting-edge research being conducted on each of these three topics.

Illustration catalogue gènes. © INRA

Microbiota: cataloguing 10 million human gut microbial genes: an unparalleled accomplishment

Over the past several years, research on bacteria in the digestive tract (gut microbiome) has confirmed the major role they play in our health. An international consortium, in which INRA participates, has developed the most complete database of microbial genes ever created. The catalogue features nearly ten million genes and will constitute a reference for all research on gut bacteria.

(Results obtained thanks to MetaGenoPolis [an industrial biotechnology catalyst funded by the French Stimulus Initiative], whose research partners are the MICALIS Joint Research Unit, the Institute of Cardiometabolism and Nutrition [IHU ICAN], and the Catholic University of Lyon.)

Read the article

Restaurant collectif du centre de Jouy, chaque matin 150 baguettes de pain sont coupés pour le service du midi.. © INRA, NICOLAS Bertrand

Nutrition: A natural protein, Elafin against gluten intolerance

Scientists from INRA and INSERM (France) in collaboration with scientists from McMaster University (Canada) and the Ecole polytechnique fédérale of Zurich (Switzerland) have shown that Elafin, a human protein, plays a key role against the inflammatory reaction typical of celiac disease (gluten intolerance). They have also developed a probiotic bacterium able to deliver Elafin in the gut of mice. This innovation, published online in the American Journal of Gastroenterology on 8 April 2014, paves the way to new strategies to treat gluten intolerance.

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Chargement d'un séquenceur. Les produits des réactions de séquençage sont analysés automatiquement dans les séquenceurs (lectures) par électrophorèse sur gel.. © INRA, MAITRE Christophe

Synthetic biology: finding the minimal genome

In March 2012, two articles were published in the journal Science that described how Bacillus subtilis manages to live in a constantly changing natural environment. The results were the product of the BaSysBio research programme. They clarified, with an unprecedented level of detail, how all the bacterium’s genes are expressed under around 100 different experimental conditions (varying temperature, humidity, salinity, nutrient levels, etc.).

B. subtilis was also the subject of a second study programme, BaSynthec, which was initiated in 2010. It was focused on finding the minimal genome. To this end, it used the technique of progressively eliminating parts of the genome to identify the regions needed for basic functions, such as reproduction and survival. MICALIS Deputy Director Philippe Noirot comments, “We were identifying the parts of the genome that could and could not be removed”…

(MICALIS Joint Research Unit and the Mathematics, Informatics, and Genome (MIG) Research Unit, INRA center of Jouy-en-Josas)

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