For more than a century, the Institut Pasteur (IP) has led the struggle against infectious diseases.
The Association of Friends of the Institut Pasteur Japan was created in 2002 to strengthen the Institut Pasteur’s scientific exchanges with Japan. The Association Pasteur Japon (APJ) was established in 2005 as a non-profit organization (NPO). For ten years, APJ funded young Japanese researchers to research at the IP through postdoctoral fellowships co-financed by the Embassy of France to Japan. In 2016, IP created the Fondation Pasteur Japon (FPJ), to expand the scope of its activities in Japan and improve its governance. FPJ aims to promote research and facilitate the dissemination of scientific knowledge in the field of life sciences to the general public. During the same year, IP also created two Pasteur International Units (PIUs) at the Institute of Medical Sciences, the University of Tokyo (IMSUT), and the Center for Genomic Medicine at the Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University (KU) to strengthen research & development between IP in France and Japan research organization.
In 2020, IP created the Institut Pasteur Japan office (IPJO) directed by Dr. Anavaj Sakuntabhai under the Direction International (DI) and Direction des Applications de la Recherche et des Relations Industrielles (DARRI) at IP in Paris. The aim is to achieve IP's missions in Japan, by strengthening existing collaborations, facilitating new collaborations, and increasing the visibility of IP and French sciences in Japan. In January 2023, FPJ was re-organized to support the activities of IPJO and its PIUs, and to establish the Institut Pasteur Japan (IPJ) along with the IPJ Innovation Center in Japan.
Anavaj Sakuntabhai, MD, DPhil, is a Professor at the Institut Pasteur (Paris), where he was recruited in 2000 to develop a program on the genetics of infectious diseases. He is also the Director of the Institut Pasteur Japan office since 2020.
He discovered a variant on a promoter of DC-SIGN associated with gene expression and the outcome of Dengue virus infection. He published an important finding on the positive selection of G6PD (glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase) and its effect on Plasmodium vivax density in Science. His recent research has shown that both gene-gene and gene-environmental interactions play a significant role in susceptibility to malaria and Dengue fever. He successfully coordinated two important projects on genetic susceptibility to malaria and dengue involving teams from France, Thailand, Cuba, France and Senegal. He has also coordinated a global network for Dengue fever research for the Institut Pasteur International Network. He proved that asymptomatic dengue-infected individuals could transmit the virus to mosquito vectors, which has a huge impact on dengue surveillance and control. In addition, he found that T cells are highly activated in asymptomatic as compared with symptomatic infections. The last two findings led to a new concept of monovalent dengue and Zika vaccine development.
He has significant experience in the coordination of international programs and has been the coordinator of the European FP7 project on Dengue Framework for Resisting Epidemics in Europe (DENFREE). He was involved in investigating two recent global outbreaks of infectious diseases, Ebola and Zika. Currently, he is a leader of the Pasteur International Center for Research on Emerging Infectious Diseases (PICREID) – a multi-million-dollar program supported by the NIH. The project is implemented in West, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia, linking large observational multi-center cohort studies with basic scientific research and leading to increased preparedness for new epidemic threats in the region. Recently, he was appointed as the director of the Institut Pasteur Japan office to establish a trans-disciplinary network on Emerging Infectious Diseases between Japan, France, and countries in Africa and Indo- Pacific region. He is now an adjunct professor at McGill Genome Center, McGill University, a visiting professor at the Center for Genomic Medicine, Kyoto University, Institute of Medical Science, the University of Tokyo (IMSUT), and Nagasaki University.