Outreach, Scientific event, Special event

Review: conference by Professor Ardem Patapoutian, Nobel Prize in Medicine 2021

On Monday 4th of April, 2022, the neuroscience community of Marseille gathered to listen to the conference by professor Ardem Patapoutian. A touching welcome for the Nobel Prize winner, a unifying moment for the public, and a memorable opportunity to meet and exchange with the students and researchers.

Multi-audience conference

If Pr Patapoutian came to Marseille on April 4th, it was, of course, to share the story of his work and his discoveries with as many neuroscientists as possible. For the occasion, NeuroMarseille, AMU, the CNRS and the City of Marseille were in public representation by giving introduction speeches for this exceptional conference. But that was not all: NeuroSchool students and some NeuroMarseille post-doctoral fellows had a little extra: a tutored seminar with the Nobel Prize winner!

Ardem Patapoutian, tutored conference for students

Exchanges between the students and Pr Patapoutian

In the intimate Gastaut amphitheatre of the Palais du Pharo, more than thirty students and post-doctoral fellows gathered before the leading conference to meet Ardem Patapoutian. During the hour devoted to them, the professor was able to give details on specific aspects of his work and naturally answer questions from the students, who were both curious and impressed, but also touched by the very human and relaxed side of his character. After this exchange, he took pictures and joked with the students, then was accompanied to the main auditorium for the conference, addressed to the whole scientific community.

“A very unique and pleasant experience, being so close to a great scientist like him and talking about life and science with him… truly one to remember! ”  Alicia

“Good. Very close person. A bit difficult at the beginning, but then the conversation was fluid.”    Pedro

Main conference - Grand Auditorium, Palais du Pharo

A full audience

The conference, which was held in the splendid scenery of the Palais du Pharo on the afternoon of April 4th, was very well attended with about 600 people who came to listen to Pr. Patapoutian. The conference was aimed at the Marseilles Neuroscience community and the general public, even though it was given in English. “How do you feel? The molecules that sense touch” was the conference title, which aimed to explain the revolutionary discoveries for which the professor was rewarded. It was precisely the one on mechanosensitive Piezo ion channels which allowed them to understand the fundamental mechanisms of the “perception of touch”. The conference ended with a series of high-level questions from the audience. A standing ovation was the occasion for Ardem Patapoutian to thank his team and the work done by two former post-doc students, whose results led to more discoveries rewarded by the Nobel Prize. These two persons, Aziz Moqrich and Bertrand Coste, now researchers in NeuroMarseille’s laboratories, invited him to Marseille for this exceptional event enjoyed by all.

Aziz Moqrich (left), with Ardem Patapoutian (center) and Bertrand Coste (right)

Honoured teamwork

And yes, it is indeed partly thanks to these two researchers that Pr Patapoutian could obtain the international distinction. As a reminder, Aziz Moqrich, currently research director at the IBDM, has made a significant contribution by characterizing, during his post-doc with Ardem, different types of ion channels involved in temperature sensations. Bertrand Coste, a researcher at the LNC, had performed more than 70 knock-out tests for channels potentially involved in the sense of touch before succeeding in cells’ response’s abolishment to mechanical stimuli.
Ardem Patapoutian warmly congratulated and thanked his former collaborators for honouring their significant contributions: we witnessed a moving moment when he offered one of the 3 replicas of his Nobel Prize medal to Bertrand Coste for his outstanding work on the cloning of Piezo channels.

Photo gallery

Find our most beautiful pictures of the event, and more details on the history of the collaboration between the researchers and the Nobel Prize in our previous article!

Photo credits: © Ingrid Meucci Photo

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