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March 4, 2004

Pitt, French Institute to Collaborate

The French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) and Pitt’s School of Medicine have signed an international collaborative research agreement that is the first of its kind for the French institute and an academic medical center in North America. Similar agreements are pending between INSERM, an organization analogous to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and institutions in Canada and Boston.

The international agreement marks a research initiative aimed at sharing technologies and scientific strategies and establishing new models for scientific excellence in France, the United States and the international community.

Among the projects being readied for joint investigation are studies involving the characterization of a variety of stem cell populations such as hematopoietic stem cells, that is, stem cells derived from bone marrow and blood.

Other stem cell populations to be studied include pancreatic islet cells, stromal cells — those coming from connective tissue — and endothelial cells, which make up the lining of blood vessels and other internal organs.

The agreement was made possible because of the 2003 recruitment of Bruno Peault, a major figure in French biomedical science, to the medical school.

Peault, who also has joint appointments with the University’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, will remain head of an INSERM unit in France, which will serve as the French counterpart of the joint laboratory. Prior to coming to Pittsburgh, Peault was research director at the same INSERM department he will head as part of the joint project.

The scope of the collaboration is expected to expand beyond investigation of stem cells. Scientists will be reviewing other programs such as hepatology, psychiatry and neurobiology.

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