French Parasitology Alliance For Health Care

The Introductory workshop of the LabEx ParaFrap was organized at the University of Montpellier and grouped all ParaFrap PhD students in a sort of "autumn school". The workshop, held from October 21st - 31st, 2013, was organized by Prof. Patrick Bastien, with the assistance of Slavica Stanojcic and Yvon Sterkers (from University of Montpellier). The workshop was animated by Sabrina Marion (from University of Lille) and Prof. Patrick Bastien. It gave the opportunity to the students of listening to prestigious French and international speakers, from the universities of Brussels, Glasgow, Heidelberg, Munich, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Lille, Marseille, Paris, Strasbourg, and Montpellier, with the acknowledged participation of SANOFI® and MAN-ROS THERAPEUTICS® (pdfsee Program in PDF)

The aims of the workshop were (i) to create a common base of 'general knowledge' and research spirit in Molecular Parasitology for this students' class; (ii) to increase the students' knowledge of the PIs involved in the LabEx and their activities; (iii) to create a stimulating 'esprit de corps' within this students' class; (iv) in this way to help promoting links and collaborations within the network.

Its practical objective was to have the students immersed in modern parasitology for two weeks, with recent updates and critical analyses of publications in the field. The general scheme of the workshop involved two talks in the morning followed by discussions around scientific papers in small groups in the afternoon. The talks were divided and organized in thematic blocks: parasite cell biology, parasite genetics, host-parasite relationships, metabolism and drug design and immunogenetics. One whole day of the workshop was dedicated to drug development and the world of enterprise and took place in Sanofi® in Montpellier. During this visit, the students had a chance to hear an overview lecture about preclinical and clinical development of medicinal drugs and some data on Sanofi® drug research and development program. According to students’ opinions, this opportunity expanded their knowledge about R&D in industry and was highly appreciated.

The planning of the workshop was intense, with lectures in the morning and critical analyses of published articles in the afternoon. The talks were organized informally to allow fruitful interactions with the students. In the afternoon session followed scientific papers presentations by the students and interactive discussions about the papers which the students had read and analysed previously. Thus, ParaFrap PhD students were trained to discover the weaknesses and strengths of certain scientific findings and to better assess the approaches used in research and the limits in the experimental design. On top of these daily training sessions, six scientific movies and three practical demonstrations were organized as late afternoon or evening sessions.

The spirit of this workshop was to create an emulating atmosphere among the students and lecturers, not only to introduce the students to modern parasitology, but also to promote cooperative links between the students and the different groups of the LabEx. Leaving unforgettable memories to its participants, it created a 'school spirit' among French PIs and students in the field. This mere satisfaction would have been sufficient to say that it was a real success.

The Bioinformatics Course of the LabEx ParaFrap was also organized at the University of Montpellier from January 5th - 9th, 2015. It was compulsory for all ParaFrap PhD students and also welcomed the recently recruited post-docs of ParaFrap as well as other PhD students from the ParaFrap research groups. The Course was organized by Prof. Patrick Bastien (University of Montpellier) and Prof. David Roos (University of Pennsylvania, USA) with the assistance of Slavica Stanojcic and Yvon Sterkers (Montpellier). It was animated by the famous team of the eukaryotic pathogens database 'EuPathDB', accustomed to give courses all over the world. This included David Roos himself, Omar Harb and Suzanne Warrenfelz; a great deal of help was given by Cameron McPherson, a bioinformatician from Artur Scherf's lab at Institut Pasteur, who assisted the workshop during the 5 days.

The programme of the Course included many exercises on a variety of matters, including genome browser exercises, gene page exercises, interpretation of RNAseq, transcriptomics and proteomics data, motif searches, colocation queries and, on the final day, a group project with a final presentation (pdfsee Program in PDF). The course gave priority to working in small groups, which was both stimulating and fruitful, particularly for difficult exercises.
After dinner, evening lectures were given in a casual setting by renowned international researchers.

The workshop was a complete success, particularly in view of the fact that many students were at first reluctant to this matter. The evaluation questionnaire filled in by the participants revealed a 90-100% 'excellent' rate. Not only did it provide a unique opportunity to get familiar with an essential research tool for modern research. But working together also fostered new acquaintances between the post-docs and the PhD students from different groups of the network, thus stimulating new or existing collaborations.

ParaFrap Workshop1 students at SANOFI ParaFrap Bioinformatics Course Group picture2