Professor Didier Raoult's ambition is to make Marseille become "the best centre in the world for the study of infectious diseases" by bringing together in the Méditerranée Infection Foundation and on one single site, at La Timone hospital, all contributors related to these diseases.
This foundation, created in November 2011 and directed by Professor Raoult, groups together the Méditerranée Infection University Hospital Institute (IHU) and the Infectiopôle Sud research centre, which has recruited, since its creation in 2007, 166 students from the South (originating from Asia, India, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa).
From 2015, "an average of 150 students" coming from developing countries will be recruited by Infectiopôle Sud that will now be a department of the foundation.
This aims at creating an "excellence hub in patient care, teaching and research" within the field of infectious diseases, gathering on the same site patients, doctors, researchers, industrial partners...", Professor Raoult said on Friday at a press conference.
Reminding that infectious diseases (AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis..) are the leading cause of death in the world with 17 million deaths per year, he said that the IHU was currently the ninth centre of studies of infectious and tropical diseases in Europe, with 550 scientific publications out of the 4 900 published in 2011 in Marseilles including all specialties.
"We broke three world records by discovering the worldwide largest bacteria isolated in human, and with the most genetic information; the worldwide largest virus isolated in human and the worldwide largest archae, another type of microbe, a type of bacterium, which has the worldwide largest genome", Professor Raoult was proud to say.
However the IHU is also developing more concrete projects such as diagnosis cases, designed in partnership with the shipping company CMA-CGM to establish an emergency diagnosis on cruise ships.
The institute has also developed mobile laboratories, "high-tech but requiring no technological training", allowing with about 18 m² and one person to make diagnosis in four hours (contagious or not, antibiotics or not ...), explained the professor.
The first one was set up in the Hôpital Nord in Marseilles; two others in Senegal, with one in a village without electricity. "This has radically changed the paediatric emergency rooms," assures Mr. Raoult estimating at 200 these necessary laboratories in France, especially for hospitals that do not have anymore of these..
"There is still plenty to discover in this world to improve the quality of care, this is what we want to be working on" concluded Didier Raoult.
To achieve this goal of excellence, the Foundation will acquire a new building of 20 to 25 000 m² on the Health Campus of La Timone Hospital in Marseilles, which should be operational by September 2015.
This site, receiving around 70 million euros funding (public funds, AP-HM, Regional and County Councils, University Hospital Centres of Montpellier, Nîmes and Nice..), will count 700 employees, including 500 for Marseilles' hospitals (AP-HM) and 200 of Aix-Marseilles University and the various partner institutions (INSERM, CNRS, IRD, Blood French Establishment ...).
Out of the 20 000 m², 5 000 will be dedicated to care with nearly 75 inpatient beds and 24 day-care hospital beds, 600 m² will be offices for industrial partners and 10 000 m² dedicated to diagnosis, research and the teaching.