I-Stem results from the combination of two different and independent entities: a joined Research Unit of Inserm and the University Evry-Val d’Essonne and the laboratory managed by CECS (le Centre pour l’Etude des Cellules Souches) itself supported by the French Muscular Disease Association (AFM). I-Stem is one of the four laboratories that are directly associated to the AFM. I-Stem also benefits of a strong support from Genopole, which registered its development as one of the major projects of the site in its strategic plans since 2005.
- The CECS
CECS is a non profit association governed by the Law of 1901, which was created by AFM, with the help of Genethon, in order to ensure the development of the institut I-Stem. In 2007 CECS funded its laboratory including engineers and contractual administrative staffs working in I-Stem in close collaboration with the academic teams.
The board of directors of CECS is as follows:
• President: JF. Malaterre, Vice President for Research and Administrator AFM
• KS. Robert: Administrator CECS
• A. Bouchard: Administrator AFM
• A. Méjat: PhD,Administrator AFM
• S. Braun: Scientific Director AFM
• A. Urtizberea : Paediatric Neurologist, Bayonne Hospital
• F. Lamy: Administrator AFM
CECS CEO is Raymond Zakhia.
In 1958, patients and relatives gathered within the AFM with one goal: to cure neuromuscular diseases. Their strategy: to carry on a combat on all fronts against diseases, scientific research with patient assistance and to implement a strategy of general interest against genetic diseases. The AFM initially sought to understand the origin of the diseases, before innovating on assistance and therapy. The annual Telethon provides the means to fund research and to create a care system, assumption of responsibility and adapted diagnosis. This innovating strategy is bearing its fruits since some of these diseases considered incurable are under therapeutic test. The AFM has become one main actor of the scientific and medical research and on economy of health.
The national institute of health and medical research has the role of developing biological, medical research and in pubic health, of ensuring the diffusion of knowledge and developing the results of its research.
It comprises more than 10,000 researchers, engineers, technicians and research directors, academics hospitals experts, and students, 7,000 publications each year, 300 laboratories and 60 federative research institutes to improve health.
The University of Evry-Val d’Essonne is one of the four new universities created in 1991 within the framework of the development of higher education in France and of the reorganisation of the Parisian universities.
Located in an expanding district, the University was constituted as a multi-field school and turned to professionalism lessons to mix the needs for its economic and social environment.
With more than 150 formations suggested – of which more than half in professional matter -, it gives training in scientific and technological disciplines, law and economics, management and social sciences.
Recognized as a dynamic structure, supporting a fast integration in the active life, it counts today more than 10,400 students and answers to a large public, registered in initial as well as continuous formation.
The University also represents an important pole of research, with 22 laboratories and 2 doctoral schools, in particular in Life Sciences in connection with Genopole.
Created in 1998 on the initiative of the French government, the local authorities and the AFM, Genopole® is carrying on an original concept: to mix in the same place academic and private research laboratories, biotechs and high level teaching.
The objective of Genopole® is to support the development of large scale biology and the creation of biotechs companies in order to position France at a good level in the international scientific and industrial competition.
Genopole® has quickly become a site of reference. The campus currently federates:
– more than 20 research laboratories
– about fifty biotech companies.
The I-Stem Institute integrates three different activities: basic biological research , a technological research for development and application, and a biological and technological resource centre. To each one of these main types of activity correspond specific forms of organization, ways of financing and different partnerships, which will be created gradually and in a coordinated way to ensure complementarity.
A basic biological research laboratory
I-Stem first of all includes a basic biological research laboratory, the field of which is defined by practical purposes but which also explores fundamental questions. The exploration of the therapeutic potential of stem cells requires the characterization of their biological properties, the deciphering of the mechanisms that underlie their pluripotency and their capacity at differentiation, by the understanding of the signals that direct their fate towards discrete cell phenotypes… Their therapeutic use requests further, in particular in the case of substitutive therapies, the analysis of their capacities of integration in injured adult tissues and of their potential tumorigenicity, as well as the development of original ways of delivery. The application to monogenic diseases also encompasses numerous topics of basic research, including the definition of the pathological mechanisms, the identification of the biomarkers, etc…
The basic research laboratory combines two methods of organization and financing, namely a traditional research unit with a stable personnel, and a number emergent teams that benefit from contractual funding and are integrated on site at I-Stem for periods of 3 to 5 years.
A technological laboratory for development and application of therapies
The final objective of I-Stem is to propose to doctors and patients therapeutic products applied to monogenic diseases. It thus should install the circuits which go from scientific discovery to application, i.e. coherent technological units structured to develop the therapeutic products within an industrial-type framework, fulfilling all requirements for human application. The bulk cell production, the long term automated cell culture, the development of tools for sorting out and inducing specific cell phenotypes are key elements for the development of the therapies.
The similarity which one can find between these activities and those carried out by many companies of biotechnology has nothing fortuitous. In fact, one can consider that I-Stem is partly a “not-for-profit biotech”, which shares the ground of activities of many privately held companies. Several industrial partners are already associated with these activities and it appears essential to us to still enrich these partnerships, in particular through offering collaborations on site to private partners, biotech companies and the pharmaceutical industry.
A biological and technological resource center offering its know-how to external teams
I-Stem develops biological and technological resources as well as know-how of great value, not only for its own purposes but also for external, academic and industrial research teams, which have different objectives.
I-Stem can ensure for them a line of business, which will result in particular in the contractual reception on its site of external teams. I-Stem will devote up to 20% of its capacities to this line of business.