A short biography: "Mathematician and physicist, AD moved into experimental microbiology in the early seventies. To understand the rules of gene organisation in Bacteria, AD spearheaded in 1985 a collaboration with computer scientists to bring artificial intelligence techniques into the study of integrated problems in molecular genetics. This convinced him that time was ripe for exploring genomes as wholes, with the help of a decisive effort in computer sciences. In 1987 he put forward the sequencing of the genome of a model bacterium, Bacillus subtilis. This advice was shaped in 1988 into an European collaboration, supported by Japan from 19…
A short biography: "Mathematician and physicist, AD moved into experimental microbiology in the early seventies. To understand the rules of gene organisation in Bacteria, AD spearheaded in 1985 a collaboration with computer scientists to bring artificial intelligence techniques into the study of integrated problems in molecular genetics. This convinced him that time was ripe for exploring genomes as wholes, with the help of a decisive effort in computer sciences. In 1987 he put forward the sequencing of the genome of a model bacterium, Bacillus subtilis. This advice was shaped in 1988 into an European collaboration, supported by Japan from 1990 and completed in 1997. The first unexpected discovery of this work was, in 1991, that many genes (at the time, half of the genes) were of entirely unknown function. A great many of these genes are involved in processes leading to occupation of a particular niche, and are therefore essential for pathogenicity and virulence. Recently, his work established that genomes are organised into a core genome coding for functions reminiscent of the origin of life, the paleome, and a set of genes, the cenome, permitting the organism to occupy a particular niche. The paleome comprises genes essential to support life and genes necessary to propagate life, making living organisms information traps. This is at the heart of the contribution of AD to Synthetic Biology.
AD was also involved in research in epistemology, ethics and popularisation of Science. He has published four books, including a book on the origin of life and a book on genomes (The Delphic Boat, Harvard University Press, 2003). He has a continuous interest in exchanges with other civilisations (creation of a Chinese-European University Without Walls in 1990, Umberto Eco, chairman). This triggered his interest to promote genome research in Hong Kong, where he stayed for three years, creating the HKU-Pasteur Research Centre Ltd in 2000 and setting up, with the support of the government of Hong Kong, a bioinformatics infrastructure for genomics. A former research director at the CNRS and head of a Research Unit (Genetics of Bacterial Genomes) at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, he was the director of the Department Genomes and Genetics there and member of the Board of Directors of the Institut. He is now President and Chief Scientific Officer of a company focusing on metabolic bioremediation of chronic stresses (ageing included), to help patients on long-term drug treatment to overcome the secondary effects of drugs as well as propose remedies to the ravages of age. He is a member of the French Academy of Sciences."
AD maintains an E-seminar in epistemology, the "causeries du jeudi". These are a revival of the discussions of the Centre Royaumont pour une Science de l'Homme, initiated in the early seventies mostly by Jacques Monod. This Centre unfortunately disappeared after Monod's untimely death. This took place at the time of the destruction, in most Western countries where it still existed, of an education system based on Humanities. For this reason it became incongruous, if not plainly obscene, to speak of philosophy (or poetry) inside a "hard-science" laboratory. However, in the early nineties, there was a first hint that young scientists became interested again in the reasons underlying their own endeavours. This is what prompted the organisation of a weekly meeting in the Regulation of Gene Expression Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, where people interested in the nature of Science would come and discuss general issues. This was at a time when a programme with Chinese Universities, as well as the University of Bologna in Italy, were experimenting an unorthodox exploration of anthropological studies of the West by Non-Westerners. For two years, the discussion was centered on a presentation of the Presocratic Philosophers (http://www.normalesup.org/~adanchin/causeries/Presocratics.html), starting with the observation that the quotation of Democritus which made the title of the famous book of Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity, was apocryphous, and entirely foreign to the Greek spirit (http://www.normalesup.org/~adanchin/causeries/monod.html). Subsequently, the major theme of the Causeries was the concept of function. The discussion was initiated by Yves Brette, a former manager of the Bull Company, who spoke about the nature of the functions of human artefacts. From then on the discussion focused on many topics, ranging from Aristotelian philosophy, Cassirer, Leibniz, to concrete issues in functional genomics, and genome annotation. At the onset of the founding of the HKU-Pasteur Centre the discussion was moved to Hong Kong, where it began with a discussion about the nature of Science and knowledge in Europe and in Eastern countries.
During years 2001-2002 and until march 2003, the causeries were held at the Department of Mathematics of the University of Hong Kong, as Working Seminar - Conceptualized Biology: first steps to define what life is (2nd Series - 2002-2003). They started again at the Institut Pasteur in october 2003. In Paris, this working seminar was temporarily interrupted. Several ongoing efforts were nevertheless developing in parallel: the conference Le Logique et le Biologique held at the University Paris I on april 22nd 2005 is an illustration. Since 2006 the discussions have resumed a more regular course, with conferences, seminars and discussions in Paris and in Hong Kong. A central focus at the time is Symplectic (Synthetic) Biology. This work was followed up by the creation of an open access journal, Symplectic Biology. This journal failed to develop in a context where Open Access publication has suddenly become extremely lucrative (authors pay for being published, in a move not different from advertisement), so that hundreds of new journals have been created, and keep being created (as of march 2013).