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08 - 12 - 2016

Animal models : 4 questions to Jean-Stéphane Joly, head of the EFOR network

Jean-Stéphane Joly is the scientific coordinator of the EFOR network, the Network of Functional Studies in Model Organisms. He explains what this network is and the EFOR infrastructure that resulted. 

Animal models : 4 questions to Jean-Stéphane Joly,  head of the EFOR network


Jean-Stéphane Joly is an agronomist engineer from AgroParisTech, head of the UMR 9197 INRA/CNRS laboratory team at the Paris Saclay Neuroscience Institute. Having obtained a DEA in developmental biology, and defended a thesis on zebrafish at the Pasteur Institute, he recently spoke about zebrafish in a ‘Le Monde’ article and is currently the scientific coordinator of EFOR. He agreed to answer our question.


Recently you came back on the genesis of the zebrafish model, in an article in ‘Le Monde’. Why is this model so interesting for you? 


JSJ: “This is a model that is widely used in laboratories. There are currently 220 teams working on the zebrafish in Europe. Much support has been provided to this model, particularly in the United States, where it is considered promising in biomedical research, particularly for regenerative medicine.

The advantage of this model is that it is a vertebrate, which has all the organs of a vertebrate, the heart, kidneys, brain… There are many more cell type to monitor than in the fly for example! And the other big advantage is that the embryo is very transparent. This model has been extensively used in microscopy, with fluorescent lines in particular. A very spectacular use of zebrafish is in the field of immunity: for example, macrophages (cells of the immune system), that can eat bacteria, can be observed in real time under a microscope.

A metaphor that refers to a soccer game is often used as a comparison. Now, thanks to zebrafish, we can see the ball in detail and the game live, as a movie, and not just through pictures. A revolution took place thanks to zebrafish, when development could be understood thanks to those extremely precise films.”


You are currently the scientific coordinator of EFOR, the Network of Functional Studies in Model Organisms. Can you explain what this network is all about ? 


JSJ: “ EFOR is a network of scientific animations that aim to allow different researchers to meet and talk about their experimental models. EFOR organizes an annual meeting where researchers, sometimes working on models that are even mode original that zebrafish (xenopus, marine invertebrates, etc.) come together to discuss different animal models that exist. For the time being, the meeting is aimed at French or French-speaking researchers, and isn’t meant for international purposes.

Moreover, we now have a website,, where you can find fact sheets on the different models  (35 animal models and 16 plant models), where researchers can find information (genome sequencing, reproduction, pros of the models, infrastructures that are used…), contacts of fellow researchers to answer their questions and help them develop different models, etc.” 


On the EFOR website, we can also find the TEFOR infrastructure,-. What is TEFOR and what is its purpose ?


JSJ: “the TEFOR infrastructure was born in 2013, three years after the creation of the EFOR network. It is a distributed infrastructure that supports research in two non-mammalian models : zebrafish and drosophila. It was financed by the ‘Investments for the Future’ Program. It involves bringing together different platforms, which are themselves structures offering services for research laboratories. The aim is to bring together different platforms, in areas such as genome editing, transgenesis and phenotyping… Indeed, the public institute platforms, which offer services to laboratories, are small. They couldn’t meet the varied demands of laboratories. So we have grouped several platforms so they can specialize once more on their core use, and work better together, in order to respond to unique invoices issued by a unique desk, upon request of the laboratories. The idea is also to pool resources, because some research requires devices (microscopes for example) with very high costs, which are not always accessible to all laboratories. “


How would you summarize the purpose of EFOR and TEFOR for the general public that are unaware of them ? 


JSJ: “ The aim of both EFOR* and TEFOR* is to help improve the functioning of research laboratories, either by enabling them to meet, or by helping them change model organism, or by proving them with resources, or animal lines they need for their research. EFOR intends to inform research teams, to push them to think about which models need to be used, to complement a model with another, to minimize the number of animals used in laboratories, to favour one model over another, especially f it is simpler to use, or more socially acceptable … TEFOR, which is now part of the CELPHEDIA infrastructure, also contributes to the improvement and standardization of protocols and to the reduction of the number of animals used in laboratories. 

There are not that many countries where encounters and cooperation between various model organisms is encouraged. Generally, we have the mouse on one side, the zebrafish on the other, the Drosophila set apart, but their use in the same laboratory for the same research is rarely encouraged. This is a fairly original initiative, and I think it really helped some model organisms get known, particularly those that are still underrepresented in the laboratory.”



*Note that both EFOR and TEFOR infrastructures include a manager, Johanna Djian-Zaouche, who is responsible for the operational and administrative aspects.  



Interviewed by Hélène Bour