A look back at Professor Francoise Barre-Sinoussi’s visit to Atlanta June 15-17, 2011

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Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, Director of the Control Unit of Retroviral Infections at the Pasteur Institute, Co-chair of the Expert Group of the United Nations on the prevention of AIDS (UNAIDS), and soon-to-be President of the International AIDS Society, was the guest of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (Yerkes), the Research Center of Emory on AIDS and the Emory Vaccine Center. She was accompanied by Michaela Müller-Trutwin, Dean of the Pasteur - Paris University International PhD Program. The Scientific Attaché of the Consulate General of France, Jacqueline Signorini, participated in the preparation and support of this visit.

June 16, Professor of Pathology, Guido Silvestri, Chief of the Division of Microbiology and Immunology at Yerkes, welcomed Francoise Barre-Sinoussi in the auditorium of Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory, where a first conference was held titled, “From the discovery of HIV to the end of AIDS: a discussion of scientific questions. Past, present and future" attended by an audience of nearly 700 people, including Consul General Pascal Le Deunff.

The distinction of the "Georgia Research Alliance" was delivered to Francoise Barre-Sinoussi later by the president, Michael Cassidy.

June 17 at Yerkes, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi presented a second conference "The role of NK (Natural Killers) cells in resisting of the spread of HIV/AIDS" to doctoral students and researchers from Yerkes. She has had many discussions with professors and researchers from Emory, including John Altman, Principal Investigator of the NIH Tetramer Facility, Walied Heneine, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Michael Powell of the Morehouse School of Medicine, Paul Spearman from the Division of Infectious Disease Department of Pediatrics, Raymond Schinazi, Director of the Biochemical Pharmacology Department and co-discoverer of several antiviral drugs.

At the Rollins School of Public School in Emory, a final tribute to Francoise Barre-Sinoussi happened in the evening. Hosted by researchers from Emory and the CDC where she had already been invited in 1983, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi spoke about the priority directions against AIDS: the development of a vaccine, microbicides and preventive lawn (especially from mother to child) and post-exposure.

This visit reflects the interest that French research places on the scientific community in Atlanta. International recognition of the expertise of Francoise Barre-Sinoussi on HIV/AIDS was expressed by a warm and vibrant welcome, which was done at Emory by several hundred doctors and researchers. Her presence at Emory demonstrated the interest in developing multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary cooperation at the international level in order to better define new therapeutic strategies for infectious diseases such as AIDS.

Some particularly promising research is under way between Michaela Müller-Trutwin, leader of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections unit at Pasteur, and Guido Silvestri of the Yerkes Pioneer Georgia Research Alliance, for the development of vaccines against HIV. It concerns the study of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), the origin of HIV among African green monkeys and sooty mangabeys in which there is an active mechanism of immune protection when they are infected.