Cell biology, development and evolution

The institut seeks to take stock of the research situation in these fields ...

... put forward specific actions for improving the performances and competitiveness of French research and provide effective coordination between all the organizations and institutions concerned by these themes.

This ITMO is run by a management team comprising Jean-Maurice Dura, Research Director at the CNRS, and Thierry Galli, Inserm Research Director.

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Interview of Thierry Galli, co-director of the thematic multi-organization institute Cell biology, development and evolution



The remit of this ITMO is focused on the concepts of eukaryotic cell organization and functioning and their possible integration in an organism. It appeared to us that the study of how multicellular organisms develop could not be dissociated from knowledge about cellular mechanisms, as the cell is the basic structure of the morphogenesis of the living organism and the organization of tissue. One of the Institute’s primary aims is to promote an integrated vision of how multicellular living organisms function and to foster research paving the way to the uninterrupted examination of mechanisms from the level of molecular complexes right up to the whole organism. This is a crucial goal for 21st century biology and, if achieved, will revolutionize our approach to living systems and their natural or artificial conception.

2009 marked two hundred years since the birth of Charles Darwin and 150 years since the publication of The Origin of the Species. It therefore seemed important to remember that all these mechanisms at work in cells have evolved and diversified over time; trying to detect the traces of this evolution in the behaviors of current species is consequently a major challenge for biology. In addition to celebrating the anniversary of the central figure that was Charles Darwin, we should also renew the concept of epigenetics, prompted by the memory that 2009 also marked two hundred years since Jean-Baptiste de Monet chevalier de Lamarck’s masterpiece, Philosophie zoologique was published – a forerunner in the advent of evolutionary biologists.





This Institute coordinates research in the following thematic areas:

Cell biology, comprising the following terms:

  • cell proliferation, growth and division (mitosis and meiosis) and cell death,
  • cytoskeleton, binding and migration,
  • sub-cellular compartmentalization and cellular component traffic,
  • signaling,
  • polarity and cellular morphogenesis,
  • stem cells, asymmetrical division and cell lineages.

Developmental biology:

  • setup of early focus areas
  • fields and gradients, inductions and organizational patterns of the embryo
  • differentiation and organogenesis
  • reproduction
  • aging

Evolutionary biology:

  • evolution-development concepts (evo-devo)
  • molecular and cellular mechanisms of evolution

In addition to these themes, this Institute oversees discussions on and the organization of more cross-disciplinary or technological themes. Working groups are currently being set up on the following:

  • the relations between cellular biology, developmental biology and animal and plant diseases,
  • the development of integrative biology and systems biology to give an insight into the complexity of the living organism,
  • the use and development of animal and plant models to get a better grasp of developmental and evolutionary mechanisms,
  • the use and development of new technologies for observing phenomena from the sub-cellular level to the level of the model organism.

CNRS FRE 3011 "Virology and human pathology" cellular biology laboratory, "Influenza virus" team. Faculty of medicine RTH Laennec (Lyon) ; © Inserm, P. Latron

CNRS FRE 3011 "Virology and human pathology" cellular biology laboratory, "Influenza virus" team. Faculty of medicine RTH Laennec (Lyon).


Directors: Thierry Galli and Hervé Moreau

Policy Officer : Christine Lemaitre

Experts Committe : see ITMO presentation

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