Describing the biological processes of the DNA molecule to the cell that ensure its proper functioning or, the opposite, generate dysfunctions.


Elucidating the complexity of the genome… “why life?”

A transdisciplinary approach

BIG is the strategic and extremely ambitious research program for setting up the bases of a complete description of molecular events related to the transmission and expression of genes.

Housed in the future Integrative Cell Biology Institute (I2BC) on the Gif-sur-Yvette campus, the BIG project brings together close to 100 researchers and lecturer-researchers, and it is based on all of the experimental and technological platforms available locally, in particular, Imagif and the SOLEIL synchrotron.

Understanding in order to improve medical treatments

Understanding biological processes, i.e., reactions that normally occur in a living organism or a cell, requires in-depth knowledge of the interactions among molecules within the cell: levels of organisation and control of cells, complex interlocking between cells, molecular structures, functions, etc. This will be one of the major challenges of the 21st century, because these molecular mechanisms will allow us to understand why one cell is healthy, remains healthy or, on the contrary, is affected by an infectious agent.

This knowledge thus constitutes an enormous therapeutic potential and will likely revolutionise the way we conceive medical treatments.

By extension, a better understanding of the complexity of the living being and approaching it in its entirety will provide a solid background on the way to conceive life for applications in areas as essential to humanity as energy or a sustainable food supply.

The BIG advantages

A full description of the functioning of the genome (expression, transmission) today seems to be an accessible objective. The best teams are mobilising everywhere around the world. The Université Paris-Saclay is ready to take up the challenge by:

  • Multidisciplinary approaches combining scientists from different fields sharing the common interest of understanding the functioning of genomes;
  • Internationally recognised teams combining their expertise in genetics, genomics, bio-information, cell biology and structural biology, biophysics and nano-biotechnologies;
  • The support of advanced technological platforms.



Biology is not new, and many changes have marked the study of life. One of the most basic changes is undoubtedly the discovery of the DNA structure in 1953 that made it possible to understand how genetic information is copied and transmitted: each DNA segment (the genes) gives instructions and determine how each cell (muscle cell, neuron, etc.) functions during its life. All of this hereditary information constitutes the genome of an organism. It is unique. Although the genome is correctly identified, the genes that make it up are not yet all identified. They make up the bulk of information that must be gathered and analysed to reach true understanding of the living being. These are the many challenges of biology. We call this process integrative biology, an even more complex approach because each gene is regulated, modified by the environment, by our body and even by our past.