2 French scientists win European award for communication

September 21, 2007

French cell biologists Christian Sardet and Ali Saib are joint winners of the 2007 EMBO Award for Communication in the Life Sciences. Both recipients present science in a unique format that is both enlightening and entertaining, a key requirement in winning the award. Using different media, they have produced resources for researchers, as well as for teaching and communicating science to the broader community.

Professor Ali Saib of the University of Paris 7 receives the award in recognition of his steadfast interest in communicating scientific material to the broadpublic and students of all ages. He initiated a project to educate young people in the inner city of Marseille on infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and STD. Following its success, he established an innovative project named "Les Apprentis-Chercheurs" - novice researchers", an action of 'L'arbre des connais¬sances' - the tree of knowledge, an association he founded. This project collaborates with high schools, universities,the INSERM and CNRS Research Institutes allowing undergraduate students to visit research labs and work directly with scientists on research projects, bridging the gap between science and society. Based on the project's achievements, similar initiatives are underway at the Cochin, Cordeliers, Pasteur and Curie Institutes with others joining in the near future.

Saib recently collaborated with FRANCE 5 as scientific author on a film project on the merging world of viruses to raise public awareness on this complex but critically important field. The documen¬tary "Dr Virus and Mr. Hyde" received the "Grand Prize" at the International Festival of Science Documentaries and the "Science Prize" at the International Festival of SCOOP and Journalism. Additional film projects are currently under development.

As a researcher, he has focused on the cellular mecha¬nisms of the traffic of incoming retroviruses from the plasma membrane to the host chromosome. Models he has drawn with his team for the Primate Foamy Virus were confirmed for many other retroviruses, including HIV, and may represent a novel target for therapeutic intervention on the incoming phases of retroviral infections.

On hearing the news of his selection, he said, "I'm really honored to receive this Award. Communicating life sciences to the public and especially to youngsters should be part of our daily job. This is important both to give them the minimal scientific tools for understanding our world and future challenges, and to recreate a link between scientists and the society. Such an effort should also be considered when evaluating researchers' activities."

Dr. Christian Sardet, through his highly original use of interactive multimedia technology, communicates scientific information including detailed molecular events. An established embryologist, he presently heads the BioMarCell group in Villefranche-sur-Mer, at the Marine Center of the University of Paris 6 (UPMC) and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).

His establishment of a creative team to produce educational animations called BioClips evolved into the annual International Festival Cinema of the Cell held during ELSO meetings in Nice, and Dresden, and relayed by the BioClips.com website. Commenting on his award Sardet said, "I am honoured that my passion for biology, imagery and communication is recognised".

Outside of molecular and cellular embryology, Sardet challenges cell biology to "go visual, go public, and go interactive". Exploring the Living Cell, the recent DVD made vith Véronique Kleiner is rich in film and animations on the subject of cells. We learn how cells were discovered, how they function, how they impact health and disease and what the future holds. The DVD also includes "Voyage Inside the Cell," a shortversion of Sardet's prized 3D film on exhibit in Science Centers in Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin.

Stanford University's David Epel maintains that Sardet's strong aesthetic sensibilities have always made him stand out in the field. "Christian is someone who sees art and beauty in the biological world and in the real world."

The winners will be present to receive the prize on November 2, 2007 at the annual EMBO/EMBL Science and Society Conference in Heidelberg, Germany.
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