Coordinateur scientifique de Tara Oceans; Génomique, Bioinformatique, Microbiologie, CNRS
I’m interested in understanding the evolution of large DNA viruses or « giruses » (for giant viruses) that have large genomes encoding more than 300 and up to over 1000 genes. They hold, as a whole, a hugely rich but the least explored genetic pool, the diversity of which may compare with that of cellular domains. Why giruses have such large genomes ? How did they evolve during their long history of interactions with cellular hosts ? Why are they so different at the genetic sequence level while they share similar morphology at the virion phase of their life ? My approach is genomics and metagenomics combined with state-of-the-art bioinformatics techniques.
My current research projects include (1) comparative genomics of giruses isolated from marine unicellular algae, and (2) metagenomics of giruses in aquatic environments all over the world (TARA-GIRUS, Biomarks). In a more broad perspective, I believe that genetic, species and morphological characterization of microbial world on our planet is an essential step towards advancing current biology. This might parallel with the efforts of naturalists in 18th century, who collected and classified macro-organisms, finally leading to « Systema Naturae » of Carl Linnaeus and, a hundred year later, to « On the Origin of Species » by Charles R. Darwin. I wish my research will contribute to this research field and sometimes leads to a good paper (in Nature or Science, hopefully ;)