Published 23 June 2014 by Stephanie Hanel

Virtual Visit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris

Meet “Scientist Activist” Françoise Barré-Sinoussi

With the help of the NobelLabs 360°, we are able to visit the labs of Nobel Laureates and can almost look over their shoulders as they, together with their teams, perform their daily tasks. The multimedia presentations not only show 360° panoramas, but include several short videos and other interactive elements. Looking nosily around the lab is highly welcome!

The newest Nobel Lab is the research unit of Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The French virologist heads the department “Regulation of Retroviral Infections” at the prestigious Institut Pasteur in Paris. She was honoured by the Nobel Committee for the discovery of the HI-virus causing Aids.

NobelLabs 360°, © Volker Steger (


Normally, it would be a great honour to be taken on a lab tour at Institut Pasteur. But with the Nobel Labs, everyone can join in. The tour starts on the rooftop terrace, from where the Safe Lab, the cytometry lab and the Western Blotting labs can be visited. My advise: take your time to look around, then start one of the interview videos. In one of these, Beatrice Jaquelin, an engineer in the Safe Lab, tells us about her work under strict security measures and amidst the noise of all the necessary machines. The researcher Hicham El Costa explains how the Western Blot lab studies HIV-transmissions from mother to child. Interspersed are messages from their committed boss: she supplies background information on key questions of their research, for instance: how come that Green Monkeys can be carriers of HIV without getting ill? Barré-Sinoussi also says “We can do better!”, meaning that greater international efforts are necessary to study HIV and to reduce infection rates. She is not only a researcher, but she is also an Aids activist and has been the president of IAS, the International Aids Society, since 2012. By now, she has the inofficial title of a “scientist activist”, which see seems to enjoy.

NobelLabs 360°, © Volker Steger (

The format Nobel Labs also reveals: nowadays, relevant scientific findings are always the result of team work. In order to understand complex systems, you always need a large team contributing findings from different angles. But at the same time, you need charismatic researchers to explain to the world the relevance of this research effort. There is a current debate going on whether the concept of giving research awards to single researchers is still up-to-date. Shouldn’t prizes and awards go to the teams, groups or institutes that conducted most of the actual work? In the format Nobel Labs, scientific achievements are presented as what they are: the combined efforts of a strong team.

NobelLabs 360°, © Volker Steger (


At the 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi will give a lecture with the topic “On the Road Toward an HIV Cure”. Visiting her lab is an excellent preparation to understand her work – and it is easier to leave her lab behind knowing that we will soon be able to watch a video from her latest lecture here.

“Nobel Labs 360°” is a non-profit educational project by the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, performed by German photographer Volker Steger.


Stephanie Hanel

Stephanie Hanel is a journalist and author. Her enthusiasm for the people behind science grew out of her work as an online editor for AcademiaNet, an international portal that publishes profiles of excellent female scientists. She is an interested observer of new communication channels and narrative forms as well as a dedicated social media user and science slam fan.