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Presentation of the HFP2024

Members of the Organizing Committee

Guilhem JANBON (Course Organizer & Chairman)

RNA Biology of Fungal Unit, Department of Mycology
Institut Pasteur
25 rue du Dr Roux 75015, Paris, France
Phone: +33 14568 8356 E- mail: janbon@pasteur.fr

Elaine BIGNELL (Course Organizer & Vice-Chairwoman)
Medical Research Concil Center for Medical Mycology
at the University of Exeter
Geoffrey Pope Building, Stocker Road, Exter EX4 4QD Exeter , UK
Phone +44 07958 567310, Email : e.bignell@exeter.ac.uk

Mike LORENZ (Course Organizer & Vice-Chairman)
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
McGovern Medical School
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth Houston)
6431 Fannin St., Houston, TX 77030, USA
Phone +1-713-500-7422, E-mail: Michael.Lorenz@uth.tmc.edu

Jessica Quintin
(France) (Deputy Chair, 2026 Course Organizer)
Clarissa Nobile  (USA) (Deputy Vice Chair, 2026 Course Organizer)
Agostinho Carvalho (Portugal) (Deputy Vice Chair, 2026 Course Organizer)


Members of the International Scientific Advisory Boar

Elizabeth BALLOU (United Kingdom) Damian KRYSAN (USA)
Bridget BARKER (USA) Salome LEIBUNDGUT-LANDMANN (Switzerland)
Agostinho CARVALHO (Portugal) Oliver KURZAI (Germany)
Robert CRAMER (USA) Donna MacCALLUM (United Kingdom)
Christina CUOMO (USA) Joachim MORSCHHAUSER (Germany)
Iuliana ENE (France) Clarissa NOBILE (USA)
Atilla GACSER (Hungary) Jessica QUINTIN (France)
Sarah GAFFEN (USA) Marcio L RODRIGUES (Brazil)
Rebecca HALL (United Kingdom) Patrick van DIJCK (Belgium)
Hubertus HASS (Austria) Duncan WILSON (United Kingdom)

  The course

Fungal infections are widespread and a significant threat to global health. Fungi infect billions of people, yet their contribution to the global burden of disease is greatly underappreciated. Many human fungal pathogens are opportunistic pathogens that exist as part of the natural human microbiota, e.g. Candida spp. colonize the gut and mucosa, dermatophytes live on the skin, hair and nails and Aspergillus spp. colonize lung tissues. Most affected individuals suffer relatively “minor” mucocutaneous infections, but millions of patients contract serious and life-threatening invasive infections. There is high mortality rate associated with invasive fungal infections, which can exceed 50% and is a major concern. The mortality of fungal infections is significantly higher than that of most bacterial infections. Systemic aspergillosis results in a mortality of 60-90%, despite intense antifungal therapy. This associated mortality can be attributed to inefficient diagnosis, the availability of only a limited spectrum of antifungal drugs and the emergence of drug resistance. This is the case both in developing countries and in wealthy nations, where lethal mycoses compromise the treatment of patients with cancer, in intensive-care, and those with severe immunodeficiencies. The increasing numbers of temporarily or permanently immunocompromised patients pose a prominent problem for public health as they are vulnerable for fungal infections, resulting also in a significant financial burden. Candida spp. are the fourth common cause of sepsis in intensive care units. Thus, research on infections with human fungal pathogens has become a very active field over the last two decades.

The aim of this course is to disseminate the current state-of-the-art knowledge of the biochemical, molecular and genetic mechanisms of fungal pathogenesis to junior scientists and to provide them valuable networking opportunities with world leaders in this exciting area of research. Importantly this course will give the junior scientists the opportunity to present their research to a wider audience of experts. This ensures that we keep early career scientists engaged in this area of science and give them valuable contacts to support their career progression.

The structure of the course has been designed to provide the students with both an overview of the current knowledge and an update on the most recent advancements in several fields that encompass most of the molecular research conducted on fungal pathogens.

Six plenary sessions and four workshops will be organized that cover the following aspects:


Session 1: Clinical challenges and epidemiology of fungal infections.

Fungal infections are very often neglected, and the difficulties in diagnosing, treating and curing these infections are sometimes not understood. To find improved solutions, the molecular and biochemical approaches in medical mycology must be informed by these challenges. Therefore, this session will focus on providing the clinical context to the molecular studies, i.e. explaining the basis for the existence of this field of research. Urgent current clinical and epidemiological questions will be exposed. These questions are upstream of the biological mechanisms pertaining to fungal infections presented in the following sessions. Here the clinical challenges and the newest epidemiological analyses will be presented to know what really needs to be done at the bench to be translated to the bed. 


Session 2: Molecular and cell biology of fungal pathogens: Understanding the unique aspects of the cell biology of pathogenic fungi is critical when investigating the ability of these organisms to cause disease. In particular, signaling pathways and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms involved in the adaptation to specific host niches, fungal morphogenesis, contact-sensing, cell polarity, and the dynamics of the cell wall, cryptococcal capsule and cell surface proteins are being deciphered using novel genomic, genetic and systems biology approaches.


Session 3: Microbiome and microbial interactions: In the previous course, we had an open discussion on the role of the mycobiota in health and disease. It has become clear that the role of fungi in the host has been understudied as most methods to isolate DNA were based on bacterial lysis leaving fungal cells intact. However, fungi that are opportunistic pathogens compose part of the natural human microflora and inhabit niches in the body alongside other microbes including pathogenic bacteria. Recent evidence suggests that the mycobiome can impact on human health and also contribute to complex multispecies infections (for example in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients). In turn, human conditions such as obesity can impact on the mycobiome. In this session, we will have presentations on the role of fungi in the microbiome and how they may link to health and disease.


Session 4: Crossing disciplines: Research on human fungal pathogens is a highly interdisciplinary field. Some examples that stress the importance of crossing discipline borders are: (i) the one health aspects regarding the emergence of antifungal drug resistance in the environment (linked to research on plant pathogenic fungi),(ii) the need for integration of different datasets to understand complex interactions in human fungal infections (linked to research in systems biology and medicine) and (iii) the strong interaction of fungi with commensal bacterial in the microbiome, which is a highly intertwined combination of bacteriome and mycobiome. To account for the relevance of these fields for young and emerging scientists working on human fungal pathogens, we have invited ground-breaking researchers from fields that are complementary to our research and will bring new perspectives. Looking beyond the barriers of our own discipline, the talks would provide new ideas for interdisciplinary research, and insights into related disciplines relevant to fungal infections. Technological advances and new research concepts, which might become relevant to our research field will be presented. This idea here is to identify concepts or technologies with strong potential that are currently applied or will be applied to fungal pathogen research for new discoveries, enabling students to get a first-hand insight into novel interdisciplinary approaches.


Sessions 5 and 6: Host-pathogen interactions, the host and pathogen perspectives: Major progress has been made in our understanding of the virulence of human fungal pathogens and their interplay with the host. Indeed, the virulence of human fungal pathogens is now being addressed in the context of the interaction of fungal and host cells, using a variety of models and providing insights into the role of the innate and adaptive immune response in the progression of fungal disease. Human genetics is also providing valuable insights into the human signaling pathways that contribute to susceptibility to fungal infections. Finally, the study of fungal virulence is now combining focused studies of well identified virulence factors as well as high-throughput studies allowing compendiums of virulence genes to be identified.

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