Pascale Cossart

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No truce against bacterial infection

Pascale Cossart is a French bacteriologist, born in 1948.

When she was little she didn't feel particularly interested in science, and no one in her family was involved in anything related to it. But when she turned thirteen she bought a chemistry book for school, and the same day she brought it home she read it cover to cover. It was then when she realized what she wanted to do.

Her research has focused on Listeria monocytogenes, a deadly pathogen - an element able to cause a disease to the biology of a host, be it a human, an animal or a plant. This pathogen is transmitted through food and is responsible for diseases such as encephalitis, meningitis, bacteraemia or gastroenteritis.

Cossart has found the genetic and biochemical processes that make this bacterium is so effective and lethal. She has also unravelled the ways in which this pathogen crosses physiological barriers. For example, the gut and the placenta barriers, and the blood-brain barrier between the blood vessels and the central nervous system, which prevents the entry of many toxic substances. Her research is at the forefront of infectious disease biology, cell biology and microbiology.

Pascale has received, among others, the L' Oréal-UNESCO award for women in science, the Robert Koch Prize, and the Richard Lounsbery Award.

She is currently Director of the Bacteria-Cell Interactions Unit of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and Professeur de Classe Exceptionnelle at the same institution.

«None of the things I've done would have been possible without some of the wonderful people who are in my lab. I'm very careful about choosing who will work in the laboratory because it is very important to cultivate a team spirit and the feeling that we are all part of a group.»