Scientific Watch N°11 - From 21/05/2016 to 03/06/2016

Please find every other two weeks a small Scientific Watch regarding cultural and scientific activities in France. [2016-N°11 from 21/05/2016 to 03/06/2016]

From 21/05/2016 to 03/06/2016

Editors :

Gabriel BENET, Scientific Officer - Hong Kong

Julie METTA, Scientific Officer - Hong Kong

Justin MONIER, Scientific Officer - Hong Kong

Isabelle SAVES, Attachée for Scientific & Academic Affairs - Hong Kong

Contact :




1- Energy & Environment

1.1- Ocean pollution : focusing on the fragmentation of plastic waste

First discovered by sailors, the masses of plastic debris floating at the center of vast ocean vortices called gyres are today under close scrutiny by scientists. To better understand the fragmentation of microplastics under the effect of light and abrasion by waves, researchers combined physico-chemical analyses with statistical modeling. Findings obtained by researchers from CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) and Université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier from samples collected during the 7th Continent Expedition. They are published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology on 23 May 2016.

Original article published on CNRS’ website, 23 May 2016. Source

1.2- World Oceans Day at UNESCO, 8 June 2016

For the third consecutive year , the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the Ocean & Climate Platform have planned a day of conferences for the World Oceans Day At UNESCO, in Paris, on June 8th.
This day will begin with events and an Open Campus for the young public on the topic of plastic at sea and climate. In addition, there will be conference open to all on the topic of Ocean and Climate issues.
From COP21 to COP22, this day will be an opportunity to pursue the mobilization for the recognition of the importance of the ocean in the climate machine and the integration of the Ocean in the implementation of the the Paris Agreement.

For more information, please visit Source

1.3- Grasslands recover more easily from heatwaves and droughts when atmospheric CO2 levels are high

Extreme climatic events such as heatwaves and droughts may affect the ability of terrestrial ecosystems to sequester carbon. Recently, INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research) and CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) researchers carried out a large-scale experiment exploring this topic at the Ecotron facility in Montpellier. Using samples of permanent upland grassland, they made an unexpected discovery: elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide help grasslands recover from extreme climatic events and limit the negative impacts of water stress. Published online in an early edition of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), this work underscores the importance of fully examining ecosystem interactions when studying climate change.

Original article published on Inra’s website, 31 May 2016. Source

1.4- French minister warns of mass climate change migration if world doesn’t act

Global warming will create hundreds of millions of climate change migrants by the end of the century if governments do not act, France’s environment minister has warned. Mrs. Ségolène Royal told ministers from 170 countries at the UN environment assembly in Nairobi (23-27 May 2016) that climate change was linked to conflicts, which in turned caused migration.

Original article published on, 26 May 2016. Source

1.5- Paris bans cars built before 1997

From July 1, 2016, the French capital will ban vehicles older than 19 years from driving in the city on workdays as an application of the antipollution scheme adopted by the Paris Council in February 2015. Motorcycles will also restrictions, with a driving ban on all two-wheeled motor vehicles made after 2000. Fines will be implemented gradually from October 1, 2016. These vehicles will still be allowed on the roads before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m., and without restriction on weekends. About 10% of the Parisian automobile fleet will be affected.

Original article published on, 30 May 2016. Source

1.6- Tara left Lorient harbour for its 11th expedition

Scientific sailboat Tara cast off on Saturday 28 May 2016 from Lorient. She heads toward Panama before reaching the Pacific ocean. On board, teams of biologists and oceanographers will take turns during 2 years to get coral samples all along the 150,000 km of her route. After expeditions in the Arctic, the boat had to be adapted to the environmental conditions of Pacific as well as the scientific equipment.

Original article published on, 30 May 2016. Source


2- Health & Society

2.1- French budget for scientific research will not be decreased as initially planned

After the announce of reductions in several governmental budgets including research (a draft decree was presented at the legislative parliament finance committee on 18 May 2016, canceling credits of euros 256 millions (2.2 billion HKD) for the mission “research and higher education”), great concerns raised among the French scientific community regarding cuts in the fundings of public research institutions. World renowned French scientists (7 Nobel Prize and 1 Fields Medal laureates) condemned the decree project. Six of them were received by the French President François Hollande on 30 May 2016, who decided to abandon euros 134 millions (1.2 billion HKD) credits cancellation.

Original article published on, 30 May 2016. Source

2.2- Benzodiazepines: too many patients with undesirable side-effects risks

In 2013, almost half of benzodiazepines users presented risks of undesirable side-effects associated to this class of drug: either they use other medications not compatible with benzodiazepines, either they suffer from medical conditions requiring precautions or contraindicating the use of benzodiazepines. These facts have been highlighted by a study conducted by the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm, team “Médicament et santé des populations”, unité 1219 Inserm/université de Bordeaux) in the context of the pharmaco-epidemiological platform DRUGS-SAFE funded by the French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety (ANSM).

Original article published on Inserm’s website, 17 May 2016. Source

2.3- The issue of medical deserts in France addressed at the 99th congress of the French mayors

Hundreds of cities in France are affected by the lack of medical doctors in the different countrysides. The Association of the mayors of France (AMF) chose this issue as the opening debate of its 99th congress held in Paris on May 31, 2016.

Original article published on, 31 May 2016. Source

2.4- Post-mortem insemination: France authorizes gametes exportation to Spain

Post-mortem insemination is forbiden in France but authorized in Spain. On 30 May 2016, the French Council of State arbitrated the case of a Spanish woman whose deceased husband froze his sperm in Paris. Her request to obtain the exportation to Spain had been rejected by administrative tribunal. In this situation, the Council of State has judged the refusal as “an excessive infringement to the respect for private and family life” and extraordinarily authorized the gametes exportation.

Original article published on, 31 May 2016. Source

2.5- WHO risk communication: short video after the International Zika Summit held at the Institut Pasteur in Paris

Zika virus poses many questions and concerns for humanity. Scientists and experts are racing to understand the relationship between Zika virus infection and associated neurological complications such a microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. The Institut Pasteur, WHO (World Health Organization) and other partners convened reserachers and public health experts working on this ongooing public health emergency to share preliminary results and discuss next steps. The international Zika summit took place at the Institut Pasteur, Paris on 25-26 April 2016, with more than 500 participants. A short video captures some of the issues and ideas presented during the two-day summit.

Please find the video on WHO website. Source


3- Research and Education

3.1- Summer School 2016 in Metagenomics, 12-16 Septembre 2016

Metagenomics, the sequencing of DNA directly from a sample without first culturing and isolating the organisms, has become the principal tool of “meta-omic” analysis. It can be used to explore the diversity, function, and ecology of microbial communities.
The aim of this 4-day workshop organized by The French Institute of Bioinformatics, France Génomique and the Institut Pasteur will be to give researchers and students an overview of the tools and bioinformatics techniques available for the analysis of next generation sequence data from microbial communities. Its content will focus on the taxonomic assignment and the functional analysis of metatranscriptomic and metagenomic data. The format will comprise a mixture of lectures and hands-on practical tutorials where students will process example data sets in real-time.
Application deadline: Monday June 20, 2016

Please find more information here: Source

3.2- French cave sheds new light on the Neanderthals

Deep inside Bruniquel Cave, in the Tarn et Garonne region of southwestern France, a set of man-made structures 336 meters from the entrance was recently dated as being approximately 176,500 years old. This discovery indicates that humans began occupying caves much earlier than previously thought: until now the oldest formally proven cave use dated back only 38,000 years (Chauvet). It also ranks the Bruniquel structures among the very first in human history. In addition, traces of fire show that the early Neanderthals, well before Homo sapiens, knew how to use fire to circulate in enclosed spaces far from daylight. The research, reported in the 25 May 2016 issue of Nature, was conducted by an international team including Jacques Jaubert from the University of Bordeaux, Sophie Verheyden from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) and Dominique Genty of the CNRS, with logistical support from the Société Spéléo-Archéologique de Caussade under president Michel Soulier and the backing of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.

Original article published on CNRS’ website, 25 May 2016. Source

3.3- Targeting metals to fight Staphylococcus aureus

Researchers from CEA (French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission), CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research), Aix-Marseille Université and INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research), have discovered a unique system of acquisition of essential metals in the pathogenic bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. It represents a new potential target for the design of antibiotics. These results were published in the journal Science on Friday the 27th of May 2016.

Original article published on CNRS’ website, 26 May 2016. Source

3.4- Vigilance in the vines: can grapevine downy mildew adapt to resistant grape varieties?

New varieties of grape, resistant to pests such as grapevine downy mildew, are appearing on the market. But little is known about a pathogen’s ability to adapt to resistant varieties. By comparing the aggressiveness of different mildew populations, INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research) scientists (Joint Research Unit for Vine Health and Agroecology (INRA, Bordeaux Sciences Agro) have shown that while global resistance in grape varieties is good, mildew can adapt quickly, thus reducing the effectiveness of this resistance. Results of the study have been published in Evolutionary Applications on May 13, 2016.

Original article published on Inra’s website, 13 May 2016. Source

3.5- Baclofen could cause sleep apnea syndrome

A research study led by units 1063 Inserm/Université d’Angers and 1042 Inserm/Université de Grenoble in collaboration with the university-affialiated hospitals CHU d’Angers and CHU de Grenoble, the clinic La Louvrière in Lille, the hospital Bichat-Claude Bernard in Paris and the University Paris 7-Denis Diderot analysed the nocturnal breathing rate of baclofen-treated patients and showed that the drug can cause severe sleep apnea, while baclofen is getting more and more prescribed since the discovery of its potential in alcohol-dependence caring. The study has been published in Chest (May 2016, Vol 149, No. 5).

Original article published on Inserm’s website, 31 May 2016. Source

3.6- Cancer: developping new antitumoral therapeutics

Many cancers resist to chemotherapies currently available. The research team “Pathologies and cellular stress signaling pathways” (Unit 113 Inserm/Université de Strasbourg) led by Dr. Christian Gaiddon in collaboration with the University of Singapore obtained promising results in vitro with a new class of molecules whose action mechanism is radically different from the mechanism of classic antitumoral drugs. They worked on the cytotoxic effect of a metalloprotein complex based on ruthenium. Results have been published in the journal Chemical Science.

Original article published on Inserm’s website, 26 May 2016. Source

3.7- How does the cytomegalovirus affect the developping brain?

Congenital cytomegalovirus infections (CMV) often alter the brain development in embryos. A French research team led by Prof. Stéphane Chavanas (Toulouse-Purpan Physiopathology Centre, unit 1043 Inserm/CNRS/Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse) in collaboration with I-stem Institute (unit 861 Inserm/ université d’Evry Val d’Essonne, Genopole d’Evry) has described how the infection targets a specific cellular receptor, PPAR gamma. These findings have been published in the journal PLOS Pathogens on April 14, 2016.

Original article published on Inserm’s website, 26 May 2016. Source

3.8- Cancer: crucial role played by communicating junctions between cancer cells and blood capillaries

Researchers from Inserm (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research), unit 866 Inserm/université de Bourgogne, Dijon, have shown that direct communication between cancer cells and microvascular cells plays a crucial role in tumoral growth, notably via micro-RNA transfer. Results have been published by the journal Oncotarget, online edition of April 5, 2016.

Original article published on Inserm’s website, 26 May 2016. Source

3.9- Skin cancer: a French team synthesises new drugs with surprising powers

Finding new, more effective and personalised treatments for cancer is the challenge of many researchers. A challenge that has been successfully met by a team from Inserm (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) led by Stéphane Rocchi (Inserm Unit 1065, “Mediterranean Center for Molecular Medicine”), which has just synthesised and developed new drugs for melanoma. One of them, known as HA15, reduces the viability of melanoma cells without being toxic for normal cells. This work has just been published in the journal Cancer Cell.

Original article published on Inserm’s website, 25 May 2016. Source

3.10- HIV: Identification of key immune response receptors in patients spontaneously controlling infection

A small number of patients infected by HIV spontaneously control viral replication without antiretroviral therapy, and do not develop the disease. The ability of these rare patients, known as “HIV controllers”, to suppress HIV replication appears to be down to a highly effective immune response. Scientists from the Institut Pasteur and Inserm observed that CD4+ T immune cells in these patients, recruited from the ANRS CO21 CODEX cohort, were capable of recognizing tiny quantities of the virus. This highly sensitive detection is dependent on the expression of specific T cell receptors on the surface of immune cells, which target the HIV capsid protein with high affinity. The preferential expression of these receptors appears to keep the immune system on a constant state of alert, thereby enabling the patients to control HIV. These findings have been published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Original article published on Inserm’s website, 19 May 2016. Source

3.11- In search of the missing xenon

The noble gases, also called rare gases, such as xenon, are the most inert atomic group, but can become reactive under extreme conditions. An international team of scientists (CEA-French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, University of Cambridge, University College London, Tohoku University, European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, Grenoble, Ehime University, Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology) used a combination of several synchrotron techniques and ab initio modelling to investigate a possible direct reaction between xenon and oxygen at high pressure. They managed to synthesise two oxides under high pressure. This demonstrates that xenon is reactive at pressures relevant to the Earth’s interior. This study, published in Nature Chemistry, could help to resolve the so-called “missing xenon paradox” by providing evidence for a possible storage of this element in the deep Earth planet.

Original article published on CEA’s website, 31 May 2016. Source

3.12- Inauguration of the FRIPON network

The core of the FRIPON project (Fireball Recovery and Planetary Inter Observation Network) is to determine the source region(s) of the various meteorite classes, collect both fresh and rare meteorite types and perform scientific outreach. This will be achieved by building the densest camera network in Europe (100 digital cameras covering the entire French territory), based on state of the art technologies and associated with a participative network for meteorite recovery. The project is supported by different French scientific institutions (Observatoire de Paris, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, University Paris-Sud, University Aix-Marseille, CNRS, CNES).

More information on FRIPON’s webpage. Source

3.13- When Listeria attacks the intestinal microbiota

Although several Listeria strains can cause listeriosis, some are particularly virulent. This is because they secrete a toxin that damages the intestinal microbiota, preventing it from serving as a barrier and promoting infection. The results of this study, carried out by Javier Pizarro-Cerdà’s team in the unit led by Pascale Cossart (Institut Pasteur, INSERM, INRA), were published in the journal PNAS on May 2, 2016.

Original article published on Institut Pasteur website, 19 May 2016. Source

3.14- Young French students excel in mathematics international competitions

A student from Lycée Louis Le Grand, Paris, won the gold medal in the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad 2016, and another student from Lycée du Parc, Lyon, won the Balkan Mathematical Olympiad 2016, giving good hopes for the upcoming “Tournoi français des jeunes mathématiciennes et mathématiciens” and the 57th International Mathematical Olympiad, hosted by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (6 - 16 July 2016).

Original article published on, 30 May 2016. Source


4- Technology & Transport

4.1- RATP launches its first 100% electric bus line

The “Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens”, the Parisian public transportation company has launched on May 30, 2016 the entry into service of the “Bluebus”, an electric bus with a transport capacity of 91-100 people and an autonomy of 180 km. The line will actually be 100% electric when the 23 buses will have been delivered. This prefigures the objective of a fleet 80% electric by 2025.

Original article published on, 30 May 2016. Source

4.2- French Tech: 283 millions euros raised by 133 start-up at the first quarter 2016

According to the barometer published by eCap Partner and Capgemini consulting, French digital start-up have carried out 133 fundraisings at the first quarter 2016, reaching 283 millions euros. The volume increase is of 34% compared to first quarter 2015, 20% for the value increase. The average fundraising reaches 2.2 millions euros compared to 2.7 millions euros in 2015. 3 sectors in particular distinguish themselves: apps and technologies, health and cosmetics, and the financial technologies. 90% of funds come from French investors.

Original article published on, 30 May 2016. Source

publié le 03/06/2016

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