Monique Lafon is Head of the Viral Neuro-Immunology Laboratory at Institut Pasteur since 2001. She is also, since July 2014, Director of the Virology Department. A former student of the “Ecole Normale Supérieure”, Monique Lafon holds a PhD in Biochemistry/Microbiology from the University of Paris Descartes.
Within the laboratory of Viral Neuro-Immunology of Institut Pasteur (Paris) Monique Lafon's research focuses on the virulence of the rabies virus and seeks to understand how rabies virus escapes the host defenses. Her team has discovered that rabies virus has evolved robust mechanisms i) to upregulate PD-L1 (B7-H1) at the surface of the infected neurons, allowing the destruction of protective T lymphocytes through a PD-1/PDL-1 mechanism, and ii) to activate survival signaling pathways leading to the protection of infected neurons against premature apoptosis.
They have shown that a peptide whose sequence includes the G protein cytoplasmic domain reproduced the neuroprotective property of the G protein. This leads interesting openings for the construction of a drug to treat neurodegenerative diseases. To analyze the capacity of CNS drug to enter into the brain, and the rabies virus derived peptide in particular, they designed an in cellulo 3D model combining a human endothelial barrier and a triculture of human neurons, astrocytes and microglia, the BBB-Minibrain. This model gave the opportunity to study the passage of molecules targeting the nervous system, and to investigate the neurovirulence of Yellow Fever vaccines by following a 3R approach (Replace, Reduce and Refine animal use in the experiments).