The Doerenkamp-Naef-Zbinden Chair for Alternative Methods

Location: University of Geneva (Switzerland)

Date of establishment: 2009

Duration of contract: 5 years

End of furtherance: 2013 

Chairholder: Prof. dr. Pierre Cosson

The chair was created in order to promote the development and implementation of non-animal methods in biomedical research through research and teaching. The research work performed within the chair’s activities is focused on the development and implementation of new in vitro methods with the potential to reduce significantly animal experiments in fundamental and applied research. Two main facets to this work has been established: first to develop alternative models to study bacterial infections, and second to implement a facility producing in vitro antibodies. Teaching is also an important facet of the chair’s activities including:


  • providing an introduction to non-mammalian models to young academic students - A combination of practical and theoretical courses has provided a good introduction for medical and biology students.
  •  teaching alternative methods to young researchers - Former PhD or postdoctoral students from our laboratory have spread our techniques to several other laboratories worldwide.
  • introducing advanced researchers to alternative methods - This has been done notably in the framework of courses to researchers engaged into animal experiments, to whom alternatives can be presented.

Information about the chair at the University of Geneva can be found at the follwoing link (in French):

→ (in French)


Highlighted projects:


  • Recombinant antibodies: an in vitro alternative to animal use

Recombinant antibodies are a new technology allowing the production of antibodies without using animals. The use of this technology can potentially reduce very significantly the number of animals in research laboratories, while at the same time facilitating research work. However, so far this technology has not spread to fundamental biomedical research laboratories due mainly to its relative sophistication.

In 2012 the staff of the chair initiated a core facility aimed at making the recombinant antibody technology available to research laboratories at the Geneva Faculty of Medicine, and to reduce the use of research animals. This facility is placed under the supervision of Pierre Cosson and hosted in the Faculty’s laboratory space. The long-term vision is to create a fully open facility that will produce reagents for the whole scientific community worldwide and will make animal experimentation obsolete in this field of biomedical research. 

  • Use of Dictyostelium amoebae to study bacterial pathogenicity

Froquet, R., Cherix, N., Burr, S., Frey, J., Vilches, S., Tomas, J.M., Cosson, P. 2007. An alternative host model to evaluate Aeromonas virulence. Appl. Environmental Microb. 73: 5657-9.

Cosson, P, Soldati, T. 2008. Eat kill or die: when amoeba meets bacteria. Curr. Opinion in Microbiol. 11: 271-76.

Alibaud, L., Köhler, T., Coudray, A., Prigent-Combaret, C., Bergeret, E., Perrin, J., Benghezal, M., Reimmann, C., Gauthier, Y., van Delden, C., Attree, I., Fauvarque, M.O., Cosson, P. 2008. Pseudomonas aeruginosa virulence genes identified in a Dictyostelium host model. Cell. Microb.  10: 729-40.


Froquet, R., Lelong, E., Marchetti, A., Cosson, P. 2009. Dictyostelium discoideum: a model host to measure bacterial virulence. Nature Protocols. 4:25-30.


Vallet-Gely, I., Novikov, A., Augusto, L., Liehl, P., Bolbach, G., Péchy-Tarr, M., Cosson, P., Keel, C., Caroff, M., Lemaitre, B. 2009. Hemolytic activity of Pseudomonas entomophila, a versatile soil bacterium, is linked to cyclic lipopeptide production. Appl. Environmental Microb. 76: 910-21.


Lima, WC, Lelong, E, Cosson, P. 2011. What can Dictyostelium bring to the study of Pseudomonas infections? Seminars-Cell. Dev. Biol. 22:77-81.

Lelong, E., Marchetti, A., Simon, M., Burns, J.L., van Delden, C., Köhler, T., Cosson, P. 2011. Evolution of Pseudomonas aeruginosa virulence in infected patients revealed in a Dictyostelium discoideum host model. Clin. Microb. Infect. 17:1415-20.

  • Non-mammalian host models to develop new antibacterial drugs

Benghezal, M., Adam, E., Lucas, A., Burn, C., Orchard, M.G., Deuschel, C., Valentino, E., Braillard, S., Paccaud, J.P., Cosson, P. 2007. Inhibitors of bacterial virulence identified in a surrogate host model. Cell. Microb. 9:1336-42.


  •  Use of Dictyostelium amoebae to study host defense mechanisms

 Benghezal M, Fauvarque MO, Tournebize R, Froquet R, Marchetti A, Bergeret E, Lardy B, Klein G, Sansonetti P, Charette SJ, Cosson, P. 2006. Specific host genes required for the killing of Klebsiella bacteria by phagocytes. Cell. Microb. 8:139-48.

Lelong, E., Marchetti, A., Guého, A., Lima, W.C., Sattler, N., Molmeret, M., Hagedorn, M., Soldati, T., Cosson, P. 2011. Role of magnesium and a phagosomal P-type ATPase in intracellular bacterial killing. Cell. Microb. 13:246-58.

Le Coadic, M., Froquet, R., De Lima, W., Dias, M., Marchetti, A., Cosson, P. 2013. Phg1/TM9 proteins control intracellular killing of bacteria by determining cellular levels of the Kil1 sulfotransferase in Dictyostelium. PLOS One, 8:e53259.


  •  New alternative host models

 Bergeret E, Perrin J, Williams M, Grunwald D. Engel E, Thevenon D, Taillebourg E, Bruckert F, Cosson P, Fauvarque MO. 2008. TM9sf4 is required for Drosophila cellular immunity via cell adhesion and phagocytosis. J. Cell Sci. 121:3325-34.

Le Coadic, M., Simon, M., Marchetti, A., Ebert, D., Cosson, P. 2012. Daphnia magna, a host to evaluate bacterial virulence. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 78:593-5.