2023 Inserm Prizes: Innovative research at the service of patients

Prix Inserm 2023© Inserm

‘Through its Prizes, Inserm celebrates this year five emblematic winners of our collective effort to conduct and support health research with efficacy and creativity,’ emphasises Inserm CEO, Prof. Didier Samuel. Throughout 2023, and as Inserm prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary next year, its staff has continued to promote the health of all citizens thanks to major advances across all areas of biomedical research. The work of the five scientists selected to receive this year’s prizes reflects the rich and innovative nature of Inserm research. The Inserm Grand Prize is awarded to Nadine Cerf-Bensussan, a pioneer in the exploration of the microbiota, who has been studying intestinal immunity for more than forty years in order to improve patient care.


Nadine Cerf-Bensussan, Inserm Grand Prize

Prix Inserm 2023© François Guénet/Inserm

Inserm Research Director Nadine Cerf-Bensussan heads up the Intestinal Immunity laboratory at the Imagine Institute in Paris, where she is studying the role of the intestinal immune system, which on the one hand protects us from pathogens, but on the other has to tolerate the nutrients and many bacteria present in the microbiota.

More specifically, her work aims to better understand intestinal pathologies, including gluten-induced coeliac disease, as well as the links between the gut microbiota and its host.

Although this type of research is gaining traction right now – with the general public being familiar with the terms ‘microbiota’ and ‘gluten intolerance’ – this was not the case when she began her career 40 years ago.

She entered the field somewhat by chance, first through a hospital internship in Claude Griscelli’s Department of Immunology and Haematology at Necker-Enfants Malades, then by moving towards a post-graduate diploma (DEA) and an internship at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where she developed her first antibody against intestinal lymphocytes in rats.

Back in France in the early 1980s, she committed herself to research, successfully completing a competitive examination to become an Inserm staff scientist in 1987 – still in the team of Claude Griscelli, who went on to serve as Inserm CEO from 1996 to 2001. There Cerf-Bensussan developed the first antibody against human intra-epithelial lymphocytes and saw in coeliac disease – which is now widely discussed in the media – an ideal model for studying the role of these lymphocytes and, more broadly, intestinal immunity.

The rest of her career so far has been punctuated by major advances in the understanding of the microbiota and intestinal immunity. For example, with her team, the researcher demonstrated the key role of the segmented filamentous bacterium, a true ‘star of intestinal immunity’. The team is currently continuing to study this bacterium in order to identify its mechanisms of action and how the host controls its expansion in the gut.

In 2014, the integration of the team at the Imagine Institute was a major opportunity to develop new themes in the field of genetic intestinal diseases. In particular, Cerf-Bensussan and her colleagues have created a cohort of patients suspected of having monogenic intestinal disease. Thanks to their efforts, a genetic diagnosis was made for around 30% of those patients and a high-throughput sequencing-based diagnostic tool was developed. The team is also trying to establish a catalogue of genes essential to the balance of the intestinal barrier and to define their precise roles, where needed.

I’m delighted about this Grand Prize, which I see as the recognition of the importance of this interface that is constantly exposed – not just to a considerable mass of microbes but also to the multiple components of our diet and environment. It’s as if we had awarded the prize to the gut!’ concludes Cerf-Bensussan.


Thomas Baumert, Research Prize

Prix Inserm 2023© François Guénet/Inserm

As both a physician and a researcher, Thomas Baumert has furthered knowledge on fibrosis and liver cancer in order to develop innovative treatments to improve patient care. These efforts have earned him the Research Prize.

This passionate scientist is currently Director of the Institute for Viral and Hepatic Disease Research in Strasbourg. His team – which has around fifty people at present – is responsible for major advances in the field.

Their work on immune response and the entry of the hepatitis C virus into cells contributed to the treatments subsequently developed by private pharmaceutical companies. This is a significant step forward considering that hepatitis C was responsible for the deaths of many people from liver cancer twenty years ago, and that it can now be cured.

Other research published by his team, in collaboration with several international laboratories, testifies to Baumert’s dynamism and spirit of innovation – always at the service of patients.

The scientists have: discovered a new therapeutic target for fibrosis and liver cancer – a protein overexpressed on the surface of diseased tissue cells called ‘claudin 1’; drawn up an ‘atlas’ of all human liver cells and their mechanisms of action; and developed a kind of ‘mini liver’ that mimics the prognostic signature of fibrosis and cancer.


Alexandre Loupy, Innovation Prize

Prix Inserm 2023© François Guénet/Inserm

Winner of the Innovation Prize, Director of the Paris Transplant Institute and the Paris Transplant Group, Alexandre Loupy is a nephrologist, biologist and biostatistician. Multifaceted expertise that enables him and his team to develop innovative tools to improve kidney transplantation.

One of the many advances in which he has participated is the 2013 discovery of antibodies that strongly increase transplant rejection.

Then, more recently, his team developed an algorithm called iBox that uses biological, immunological and genetic parameters to predict graft rejection risk, graft survival and transplant patient mortality. A valuable tool to help doctors adjust monitoring and treatment.

The development of this algorithm was entrusted to Predict4Health, an Inserm, AP-HP and Paris Cité University start-up that Loupy founded in 2019. The algorithm underwent a clinical trial in Europe and has completed the regulatory process enabling its reimbursement to French social security beneficiaries. iBox is now used to monitor 10,000 patients in France and is currently under development to monitor chronic kidney diseases and heart, lung, and liver transplants.

Despite sharing his time between France and the US – where he teaches, Loupy has no intentions of abandoning the French research world and is immensely proud of this prize that rewards the work of his whole team.


Marina Kvaskoff, Opecst-Science and Society Prize

Prix Inserm 2023© François Guénet/Inserm

Marina Kvaskoff is an epidemiologist at the Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health Research (CESP) in Villejuif and devotes her time and energy to research into endometriosis – a long-overlooked gynaecological disease.

Her efforts to better understand and raise awareness of it have earned her the Opecst-Science and Society Prize.

Following her PhD, the researcher – who joined Inserm as staff scientist in 2016 – headed to the US to train at Harvard University with Stacey Missmer, a pioneer in endometriosis epidemiology and now Chair of the World Endometriosis Society.

Eager to better understand this disease that affects many women but about which little is known, she embarked on research in which she saw that certain exposures in childhood (passive smoking, dietary deprivation, intense physical activity, etc.) increase the risk of developing it. She also shows that endometriosis is linked to the risk of different cancers.

Important research, which has remained niche for too long, despite the support of Inserm. However, since 2018, the strong mobilisation of patient associations and celebrity advocacy have brought endometriosis out of the shadows. The disease is becoming a subject that is taken seriously by health authorities. In 2022, the French government announced its desire to set up the ambitious Epi-Endo programme on the epidemiology of endometriosis, led by Kvaskoff as part of the Women’s Health, Couples’ Health priority research programmes and equipment (PEPR).


Ghislaine Filliatreau, Research Support Prize

Prix Inserm 2023© François Guénet/Inserm

For thirty years, Ghislaine Filliatreau, Inserm’s Scientific Integrity Officer, has channelled all her energy and detailed knowledge of the research ecosystem into serving research. An approach that has earned her the Research Support Prize.

After joining Inserm in 1983 as a researcher in cellular neurobiology, she joined the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research twelve years later to work on the development of open archives – what is now known as ‘open science’.

She has also headed up the Science and Technology Observatory, which is tasked with devising indicators to support the definition and evaluation of research policies.

Experience that is as rich as it is varied, enabling her to fully understand the challenges of research and the reality of laboratories.

In 2016, she returned to Inserm as Scientific Integrity Officer, whose mission is not only to manage breaches of integrity, but also to prevent them by providing expertise and advice for the promotion of reliable and robust research.

A task that is close to her heart and which she fulfils with great energy and success. She also co-directs the LORIER programme (The organisation for ethical and responsible research at Inserm) and participated this year in the development of Inserm’s public speaking charter.


The Inserm Prizes

The Grand Prize pays tribute to a French scientific research player whose work has led to remarkable progress in our knowledge of human physiology, treatment and health research more generally.

The Research Prize honours a researcher whose work has particularly marked the fields of basic research, clinical and therapeutic research, and public health research.

The Innovation Prize is awarded to a researcher whose work has been the subject of entrepreneurial value creation.

The Opecst-Science and Society Prize honours a researcher, engineer, technician or administrative worker who stands out in the field of research promotion and through their ability to be in dialogue with society and attentive to the health questions of its citizens.

Finally, the Research Support Prize is awarded to an engineer, technician or administrative worker for significant achievements in the support of research.

When We Always Benefit From Focusing on Health: Inserm Unveils Its New Advertising Campaign

A still from the Inserm commercial. © Directed by: Ugo Mangin, production: Yohannes Cousy

One year after its large-scale poster campaign in France’s railway stations and Paris subway, Inserm uses its slogan On gagne tous les jours à s’intéresser à la santé [We always benefit from focusing on health] in a 30-second TV commercial broadcast from June 7 to July 30.

Directed by Ugo Mangin with the support of the Insign agency and commissioned by Inserm’s Communications Department, this commercial illustrates just how many of our daily actions are – without our knowing – the result of research conducted at the Institute.

Throughout the 30-second sequence, the viewer is immersed in the thoughts of a woman, who is out and about and comments on the everyday scenes she sees around her. This is how we find out that a saxophonist has preserved his breathing thanks to specific proteins, that the Nutri-Score enables a young woman to eat a healthy sandwich, and that a middle-aged man continues to skateboard thanks to his chondrocytes.

In keeping with the 2022 poster campaign, the commitment to integrating surprising and complex science into an everyday scene was maintained in order to engage viewers and encourage them to visit Inserm’s website to find out more.

“Inserm is a strong brand, a label of quality in terms of health science that French people trust. Nevertheless, we need to be even more visible and anchored in everyone’s daily lives in order to communicate on our research as close as possible to where the needs are and show the findings of that research. This campaign is the link between the biomedical science produced at Inserm and its concrete translation for the health of us all,” points out the Communications Department.

“The COVID-19 crisis has shown just how medical research is essential to our health. Through this commercial, we wanted to make the impact of our research visible to everyone. It is essential for the general public to realize that excellence in research is conducive to quality medicine. It is our role to find more promising and effective new treatments as our knowledge advances,” explains Prof. Didier Samuel, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Inserm.

InScience 2023: The Festival That Does Your Health Good

affiche Inscience 2023

June 1 to 15, 2023 will mark the third edition of InScience – a festival held by Inserm for visitors to discover and discuss questions of health and medical research. With its rich program deployed across France, InScience is particularly intended for young people, enabling everyone to learn more about Inserm’s work and become actively involved in their own health.  With meetups with scientists, podcasts, videos, virtual reality games, comic books… there is something for all tastes.

For the past three years, InScience has aimed to break taboos surrounding health, counter stereotypes of the world of research, and bring the scientists and general public closer together – enabling the two worlds to meet directly. This festival reflects Inserm’s desire to democratize scientific research and make it more transparent, giving each individual the tools to become actively involved in their own health.

Support from the French National Research Agency (ANR)[1] means that this year the festival is bigger than ever, offering a richer program than previous editions. Original forms of scientific popularization, including podcasts, an original comic, escape games, and a partnership with Tik Tok influencer Tangleroux complete the offering. Places that are very popular with the general public, such as Ground Control in Paris, will host scientific mediation activities.


carte lieux InScience 2023

The highly comprehensive program (see below), with events that can be attended in person or online, seeks to make medical research advances accessible to all citizens, regardless of where they live. The events will be hosted in no fewer than 24 places in 12 French cities, and are open to everyone free of charge.


[1] Inserm’s various regional offices had responded together and won the ANR call for proposals on the theme of Science with and for society (SwafS)

Discover the Program

The program can be found on the Inserm website, as well as the dedicated Twitter and Tik Tok accounts.

Check out the teaser.


Focus on Original Formats

InScience is also about original ways to popularize science, for example through podcasts and a comic.

Through a series of 10 podcasts available on all platforms, InScience sets out to discover women and men who work for the health of us all: researchers. The objective being to talk about research professions and create vocations among young people.

In addition, a collaboration between Inserm and comic book author Maité Robert has led to the creation of a comic narrating the research projects of ten 2018-2019 ANR winners. The idea is to show that medical research is maybe not so complicated when explained with words and images that are accessible to everyone.

This comic can be obtained free of charge at InScience events.

Professor Didier Samuel Appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Inserm

Didier Samuel PDG Inserm 1er février 2023

Didier-Samuel ® Christophe-PEUS

Appointed today in the Council of Ministers following the proposal of the Minister of Higher Education and Research and the Minister of Health and Prevention, Professor Didier Samuel becomes Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Inserm.

Doctor and researcher, Didier Samuel has devoted himself to both fields throughout his career.

Professor of Hepatology at Université Paris-Saclay, Director of the Department of Hepatology and Hepatic Intensive Care at Paul-Brousse Hospital and Medical Director of the liver transplant program at the same hospital, Samuel has treated and monitored over 4,500 liver transplant patients. Dean of the Paris-Saclay Faculty of Medicine since 2017 and elected Chair of the Conference of Deans of Medicine in 2022, he also chaired France’s National Committee for Research Coordination.

Since 2005, Samuel led an Inserm research unit devoted to the physiopathogenesis and treatment of liver diseases. His expertise in the field of liver diseases and liver transplantation is internationally renowned.

“I am pleased and honored to have been appointed to carry out the important mission of chairing Inserm, which plays a central role in medical research in France. Committed to the quality of our scientific research, convinced that it is also the foundation for high-quality medicine, it is my wish to promote innovation, excellence, and fruitful coordination among all who endeavor for our biomedical research, serving the health of all citizens,” declares Professor Didier Samuel, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Inserm.

2022 Inserm Prizes: Forming a Common Front for Our Health

Prix Inserm 2022

© Inserm


“Awarding the Inserm Prizes is a key point in the Institute’s life, enabling us to showcase the various talents of our staff and the great wealth of the research we conduct to form a common front for the health of our fellow citizens. But it is also an opportunity to emphasize our involvement at the heart of society, our commitment to scientific research that is effective, ethical and accessible to as many people as possible,” states Inserm CEO, Gilles Bloch.

This year, the Inserm Prizes are awarded to five individuals whose results and commitment to high-quality research demonstrate scientific excellence and the Institute’s central place in society. The Inserm 2022 Grand Prize goes to Olivier Delattre, an oncopediatrician whose work has led to major discoveries in childhood cancers.


Olivier Delattre, Inserm Grand Prize

Prix Inserm 2022

Olivier Delattre © Inserm/François Guénet

Once a pediatrician, always a pediatrician,” may well be the expression that best describes Olivier Delattre’s commitment. Director of the Cancer, heterogeneity, instability and plasticity unit (unit 830 Inserm/Institut Curie), this researcher began his career by studying medicine, during which he developed an interest in pediatrics. His time with the Pediatric oncology department of Institut Curie in Paris encouraged him to specialize in childhood cancers and study biology alongside his work as a doctor.

In the early 1990s, he decided to focus entirely on research with the aim of improving the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of pediatric cancers – so he joined Inserm. In 1992, he was involved in a world first when his team identified and characterized the genes responsible for Ewing sarcoma, a form of bone cancer that occurs in children. This was followed by a series of discoveries with significant advances in the understanding of rhabdoid tumors, which are rare and very aggressive cancers.

In 2018, which represents another key step in his career, he founded the SIREDO center (for Care, innovation & research in childhood, adolescent & young-adult oncology) at Institut Curie in Paris, which he has been leading ever since. An initiative that brought together within the same place healthcare and research teams dedicated to solid tumors affecting the under-25s. In this pioneering center, the aim is to collaborate more effectively and ensure that basic research can quickly benefit patients.

It is this desire to always go further to serve the health of young patients and their families, by continuing to work tirelessly to better understand and treat their diseases, which has earned Delattre the Inserm Grand Prize.


Valérie Gabelica, Research Prize

Valérie Gabelica © Inserm/François Guénet

Mass spectrometry, an analytical chemistry tool more than a century old, has been given a new lease of life thanks to work by Valérie Gabelica and her team.

A researcher at ARNA (unit 1212 Inserm/CNRS/Université de Bordeaux), this chemist has developed with her colleagues an innovative method that combines mass spectrometry and circularly polarized light to improve the study of the structure of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and how they interact with other molecules. It is understanding these interactions that will help research to discover new medicines, for example.

A long-term endeavor, which offers biomedical research valuable new tools and demonstrates the importance and excellence of the interdisciplinary research conducted at Inserm.


Valérie Crépel, Innovation Prize

Valérie Crépel © Inserm/François Guénet

Temporal lobe epilepsy is the most common form of epilepsy in adults. In 2005, Valérie Crépel, Inserm research director at the Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology in Marseille, showed that kainate receptors of glutamate, a key neurotransmitter of the nervous system, were involved. Shortly afterwards, her colleague Christophe Mulle discovered that these receptors are a key element in the origin of this epilepsy in the hippocampus and a potential therapeutic target.

With the support of Inserm Transfert, Inserm’s subsidiary for tech transfer, the scientists filed a first patent in 2013. The project continued to develop, resulting in the creation of Corlieve Therapeutics in 2019. This start-up then became a subsidiary of Dutch biotech uniQure in 2021. The years of research in epilepsy and the efforts to create value have paid off in leading to the clinical trial of a treatment in patients.


Justine Bertrand-Michel, Research Support Prize

Justine Bertrand-Michel © Inserm/François Guénet

Trained chemist Justine Bertrand-Michel has dedicated her entire career to supporting researchers. Since 2021, she has masterfully led the MetaToul platform, the largest in France, with 6 teams, 40 engineers, 23 analysis systems and 4 robots.

This metabolomics platform analyzes metabolites, the compounds derived from the metabolism of all living things: glucose, amino acids, nucleotides, etc.

This work is her passion and requires a thorough understanding of the challenges faced in order to offer services, develop methods and train new staff – while keeping the budget balanced.


Priscille Rivière, Opecst-Science and Society Prize

Priscille Rivière © Inserm/François Guénet

Deputy director of the Inserm Scientific information and communication department, Priscille Rivière works to ensure the clear, transparent and rigorous dissemination of science to the general public.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it an increase in health misinformation.

The initiatives set up by Rivière with the communications team – from the Canal Détox series to the development of the Cellule Riposte network of researchers to answer media questions – now enable Inserm to play a role in the more global fight against fake news. And build a trust-based dialogue between scientists and citizens, to improve the health of all.

The Inserm Prizes

The Grand Prize pays tribute to a French scientific research player whose work has led to remarkable progress in our knowledge of human physiology, treatment and health research more generally.

The Research Prize honors a researcher, lecturer-researcher or clinician-researcher whose work has particularly marked the fields of basic research, clinical and therapeutic research, and public health research.

The Innovation Prize is awarded to a researcher whose work has been the subject of entrepreneurial value creation.

The Research Support Prize is awarded to an engineer, technician or administrative worker for significant achievements in the support of research.

Finally, the Opecst-Science and Society Prize honors a researcher, engineer, technician or administrative worker who stands out in the field of research promotion and through their ability to be in dialogue with society and attentive to the health questions of its citizens.

À l’Inserm, la lutte contre la pandémie de Covid-19 se poursuit