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You are here: Home / Teams / CIRI group : Personnic N - Persist / Presentation of the team

Presentation of the team

Fueling Innovation: The Vital Role of Cutting-Edge Basic Research in Powering R&D and Transforming Discoveries for Public Benefit


As a research group, we firmly believe that fostering the highest quality and most creative basic research is the cornerstone of driving innovation in R&D and ultimately delivering transformative solutions that benefit society.


Cutting-Edge Basic Research for Transforming Discoveries


Bacteria are members of large microbial communities the functionality of which lies in the ability of individual bacterium to specialize in performing different tasks . During the infection process, the robust clonal pathogen expansion leads to a genetically identical population of bacteria. The bacterial specialization then occurs primarily as the result of phenotypic heterogeneity, i.e., the transient expression of alternative phenotypes to improve the performance of the entire isogenic population. Research addressing infection processes has recurrently overlooked the ability of genetically identical bacteria to develop, constantly and reversibly, subpopulations with distinct functionalities and physiologies. This phenomenon is of major clinical importance as it implies the formation of persisters, rare individuals that transiently enter dormancy, stochastically or in response to stresses, thereby evading the bactericidal activities of antibiotics, causing non-resolving infection and relapse. 

Contributing to- and fostered by- the recent advances in single-cell technologies, we have explored for 10 years the variability in the molecular composition of individual isogenic bacteria, investigating how it shapes their individual performance in specific tasks and how the distribution of those phenotypes contributing to a higher functional performance of the population in complex systems, i.e., a host subjected to antimicrobial therapy. We developed an innovative single-cell based pipeline to track, collect and analyse within-host phenotypic variant that rendered important breakthroughs reachable. We can provide, with an unprecedented resolution, valuable information regarding the pathogen single-cell dynamics and the associated physiological parameters, on the bases of which new molecules and therapeutic strategies can be developed and/or evaluated. We are valorizing this approach by integrating opportunistic multidrug resistant pathogens causing ventilator-associated pneumoniae, that have been ranked by the World Health Organization as a critical priority pathogens to promote drug research and development. Our work primarily focus on the antibiotic persisters. Our research provides new fundamental insights regarding the pathogen phenotypic variation during the infection while contributing to answering major societal issues. 



SFR BioSciences (UAR3444/US8)

At the CIRI, we benefit from an extraordinary scientific environment. It includes teams specific know-hows and models and a tight link to the clinics. In addition we have a direct access to the SFR Biosciences (UMS3444/US8), a federative structure that covers all the technological facilities necessary to conduct our research projects.



Our research has been historically sitting at the interface between medical microbiology, cell biology, and molecular biology as exemplified by our research achievements (Here). Our work relies on an innovative combination of cutting-edges single-cell techniques (flow cytometry, cell sorting, image flow cytometry, confocal microscopy, and microfluidics), omics analysis as well as classical methods in microbiology, cell biology, molecular biology, infection biology. In the recent years we have contributed to the field of bacterial phenotypic heterogeneity, persistence and virulence by investigating the single-cell dynamics of pathogen during the infection.

Our group originates from the junior group led by Nicolas Personnic at the University of Zürich (Switzerland), sponsored by the Swiss National Foundation (Ambizione program), to study the phenotypic heterogeneity of Legionella pneumophila. A big thanks to Pr. Hubert Hilbi for his support !