Dr. Franck Halary

INSERM Research Associate in the Center for Research in Transplantation and Translational Immunology (CR2TI) 

Can you tell us about who you are and what your role in BIRDIE is?

My name is Franck Halary. I am an immunologist by training with interests in understanding how some specialized immune cells, the dendritic cells, could participate to the capture and transfer of a human kidney transplant-related virus, the BK polyomavirus (BKPyV). This virus is known to infect renal proximal epithelial tubular cells (RPETCs). I am the scientific head of the first work package (WP1), led by Nantes Université (France), one of the four BIRDIE partners. My role in BIRDIE is to make the link between the WP1 researchers, including myself, and the coordinator, Dr Carlos Mota, who ensures the work is done in due time and in line with the proposal.

What is the focus of the research that you are leading?

Well, the BKPyV I study for several years now is a species-specific virus. Although it targets RPETCs, we hypothesized the surrounding interstitium including micro vessels, stromal and immune cells might play a role in viral spreading. To date, no animal model can be used to tackle this. In BIRDIE, our goal is to combine organoids, organ-on-chip and bioprinting to generate a biologically-relevant model of a renal tubulo-interstitium to unravel the dynamic of the BKPyV infection and drug-induced nephrotoxicity with a high biological relevance.

What is your team working on right now?

The overall objective of the WP1 is to setup a long term microphysiological model of RPETCs (2D) at steady state and under pathological conditions. Its biological relevance to vivo cells or tissues is assessed by transcriptomics. At the moment, we are consolidating the 2D model. We have also started to assess its response to well-known nephrotoxicants like cisplatin, ciclosporin A or vancomycine. We have also applied spatial transcriptomics to post-transplant kidney biopsies to seek for differentially expressed biomarkers in chronic rejection samples compared to virally-infected ones.

Read more about BIRDIE’s contribution to kidney health

BIRDIE building a foundation for better kidney health

Kidney diseases affects approximately one in every ten individuals globally and Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is predicted to become the 5th leading cause of death worldwide. The main causes for CKD include diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as viral infection and immune system diseases. Today, therapeutic options offered to patients are still limited…