Mohamed-ali HAKIMI Host-Pathogen Interactions & Immunity to Infections

Course and current status

HAKIMI Mohamed-ali, PhD

Born in Algeria in March, 09 – 1974 - Married, two children

Current position

  • Since 2019 : INSERM Research Director (DR1)
  • Since 2004 : Leading the team Host-Pathogen Interactions & Immunity to Infections (IAB, Grenoble)
  • Since June 2020 : Director of the Department 3 (IAB)

Past position and Diploma

  • 2000 Ph.D. in Plant Molecular biology, Joseph-Fourier University, Grenoble, France
  • 2000-2003 Post-Doctoral fellow in Breast cancer and chromatin research Dr. Ramin Shiekhattar (Wistar Institute / Penn University, Philadelphia, USA)
  • 2004-2008 INSERM Permanent Scientist CR2
  • 2008 HDR (Diploma for the capacity to supervise PhD. Thesis)
  • 2009-2010 INSERM Permanent Scientist CR1
  • 2011-2018 INSERM Permanent Scientist DR2

Scientific recognition

Prizes and/or distinctions:

  • 2015 - Recipient of National Junior Award Sanofi / Institut Pasteur
  • 2014-2019  ERC consolidator grant
  • 2007 – 2011 - « Interface contract with Hospital » CHU Grenoble/INSERM
  • 2004- 2009 - ATIP and ATIP+ CNRS award grant
  • 2003 - Recipient of « Prix Claude Paoletti » (CNRS award)

      Chair of learned and scientific societies / Grant evaluation panels:

  • 2017: Elected F1000 Faculty member – Section Microbiology/Parasitology
  • New deputy director and scientific coordinator of the LABEX ParaFrap_2d edition ( ): 2020-2024 / 6M€ - 25 teams, 18 PhD students.
  • 2016-2021: Panel member of the CSS5 INSERM committee
  • 2012-2013: Panel member of the Agence National de la Recherche (ANR SVSE6) > 30 grants reviewed
  • 2018, 2019 and 2020: Panel member of "la Caixa" Foundation Committee >30 grants reviewed/year

Organisations of meetings and symposia:

  • 2018 - Chairman of the EMBO workshop: Molecular advances and parasite strategies in host infection, Les Embiez, France - Funding from the EMBO (32,000€). Participants: 200.
  • 2017 -Member of the scientific Committee of the 14th INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON TOXOPLASMOSIS to be held in Tomar (Portugal) - Participants: 280.
  • 2013 - Member of the Organizing Committee of the 12th INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON TOXOPLASMOSIS to be held in Oxford (UK) - Participants: 300.

Invitations to meetings and symposia (> 50 invitations) including:

  • 2022 - Invited Speaker – Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on the Biology of Host-Parasite Interactions, 2022, Rhode Island, USA
  • 2022 - Invited Speaker – EMBO conference / ParaFrap Meeting- New frontiers in host-parasite interactions at the cell, tissue and organism levels, Oct 2021 Les Embiez, France
  • 2018 - Chairman of the EMBO workshop / ParaFrap Meeting: Molecular advances and parasite strategies in host infection, Oct 2018, Les Embiez, France.
  • 2017 - Invited Speaker – EMBO conference - Hijacking host cell signalling and epigenetic mimicry during Infections, Pasteur Institute 13-17th June 2017, Paris, France.
  • 2014 - Invited Speaker – Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on the Biology of Host-Parasite Interactions, June 8-13th, 2014, Rhode Island, USA


Thesis and HDR committee

  • PhD referee of 17 students (4 times Jury Président)
  • Member of 10 Thesis committee and HDR referee of 3 colleagues

Participation in editorial committees (books, collections, etc.)

  • Since 2018: Associate Editor at Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
  • Since 2012: Advisory Board member at Molecular Microbiology
  • Since 2012: Editorial board member at Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology
  • Since 2011: Editorial board member at PLoS ONE

Scientific summary

Toxoplasmosis: understanding the (epi)genetic paths involved in immune evasion, parasite persistence and transmission between hosts 

Background: Toxoplasma gondii is a prevalent single-celled eukaryotic parasite causing toxoplasmosis, a food-borne zoonotic disease potentially life-threatening in immune-suppressed individuals and in the unborn fetus. Toxoplasma has a flexible life cycle that alternates in multiple host species. The asexual development takes place in a wide range of mammals and birds, the intermediate hosts, while sexual reproduction occurs exclusively in felids, the definitive hosts. The acute phase of the infection in the intermediate host is typified by the expansion of the tachyzoite population and its dissemination throughout the host. As immunity to the parasite develops, tachyzoite differentiates into the slow-growing bradyzoite, which form latent cysts in neurons and muscle cells that can persist for the lifetime of the infected host. Bradyzoite can revert back into tachyzoite in response to a compromised immune system (e.g., HIV-infected, transplant and chemotherapy patients) or upon ingestion by a new host via carnivorous behavior. When cysts are ingested by domestic and wild cats, bradyzoites settled within enterocytes differentiate into merozoites. This developmental branching point is followed by the sexual reproduction with the formation of gametes that upon fusion will yield sporozoites residing in oocysts that are excreted in the environment by cat and commonly infect humans and livestock.

The team focuses on elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which Toxoplasma is orchestrating immune evasion and lifelong persistence in a great range of hosts. We are investigating how Toxoplasma deploys sophisticated mechanisms i) to profoundly modify the cells it infects to promote parasite persistence (WP1) and ii) to reshape its own genome to sustain transmission between different hosts (WP2). Along the way, we discovered new anti-parasitic compounds that efficiently prevent acute toxoplasmosis (WP3).

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