Doctor Pierre Kamoun, president of the scientific council of the Foundation until May 2012, gives us an insight into the 2011-2012 activities.
For the scientific council, the year 2011-2012 was marked by the arrival of new members. Who are they?
In May 2011, the scientific council of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation welcomed new members: Dr. Cartier-Lacave, paediatrician and geneticist, who can be remembered for her remarkable success in gene therapy; Pr. Alexandre Rémond, who teaches genetics at the university in Lausanne; Jean-Maurice Delabar, research director at the CNRS, whose scientific interest is focused on the study of Down Sydrome and, more particularly, on future therapeutic possibilities using enzyme inhibition; Pr. Michel Simoneau, specialist in neurobiology and neurogenetics at the Bichat University in Paris; Denis Ravel, biochemist specialised in the pharmaceutical development of new medication.
How are the projects that were accepted by the Jérôme Lejeune’s scientific council doing and what can you tell us about their geographic origin?
In 2011-2012, 137 scientific projects were submitted to the Jérôme LeJeune’s scientific council; the figures are increasing rapidly, partly because a European programme with the same objectives ended at that date.
The members of the scientific council analysed the files and 37 of them were chosen to receive grants. The average grant per project is 32 000 euros. Most of them are programmed over two years and only 7 over one year. 14 projects were assigned to French teams, 16 to European teams and 7 to North American teams.
What pathologies were involved?
If the title “therapeutics boost” was given to the 2010-2011 activities (Letter of the Foundation of January 2012), 2011-2012 activities could be given the title: “back to fundamentals”. Indeed, the research projects with therapeutic aims which had been funded the previous year are still going on, but there are no new projects in that field. Among the projects, 16 involved research on Down Syndrome, including 2 projects with unique innovations on a clinical level, one being about olfaction and the other about the overexpression of a gene (Dyrk1a) and the thyroid abnormality observed in that disease. 14 projects were about the study of animal models for Down Syndrome and the mechanisms of action on some of the genes of chromosome 21.
What’s more, 12 projects were about Fragile-X, involving very fundamental studies on the mechanisms involved in cognition and their abnormalities in this syndrome. The 9 projects that are left were about intellectual disabilities with, for each one, mechanistic studies, i.e., molecular mechanisms. One project, in particular, was devoted to Smith-Magenis Syndrome for which the Foundation receives a 10 000 euro donation every year. Finally, several of the studies which received grants involved the study of stem cells related to mental retardation.
What can you say about the years you spent as president of the scientific council ?
On a personal level, I quit being president of the scientific council glad of having been useful during all those years. My feelings were shared by all the members of the scientific council because the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation brings substantial help to research without geographic distinction: it’s the only charitable foundation that supports research in all parts of the world.
Having the opportunity of seeing the evolution of the ideas and techniques in the field of genetics and genetic diseases enriched my mind. It is, therefore, not without a little nostalgia that I quit being president of the scientific council in favour of Dr. Marie-Claude Potier, assisted by Dr Nathalie Cartier-Lacave as vice president.
To them both, I wish as much happiness as I experienced during these past years.