History of the institute

Institut Cochin was created on January 1st 2002 as a multidisciplinary biomedical research center, affiliated with the Université René Descartes (now Université Paris Cité), Inserm, and CNRS, under the direction of Axel Kahn. At the time, the creation of the institute was in response to the desire of a dozen independent laboratories from Inserm and CNRS to merge into one administrative structure capable of providing a strong scientific environment and a high level of technological support to its staff.

At the beginning

The hospital and the institute take their name from the priest Jean-Denis Cochin (1726-1783), who in 1782 founded a hospice for the poor and workers of the faubourg Saint-Jacques, which later became the Cochin Hospital. With the creation of university hospital centers in 1958, a fundamental and clinical research center was added to the Cochin Hospital, on the premises of the Paris Faculty of Medicine.

The arrival of the first research units to the Cochin site

In 1967, under the impetus of Georges Schapira and the biochemical researchers on his team, Jean-Claude Dreyfus and Jacques Kruh, the Institute of Molecular Pathology was created to tackle human genetic diseases using an original approach, which was still in its infancy at the time: molecular biology. This institute gradually developed within the current Faculty of Medicine of University, thanks to numerous individuals, such as Jean Rosa, Dominique Labie, Jean-Claude Kaplan, Axel Kahn, Jacques Hanoune, and Jacques Jami.

In 1984, Axel Kahn became director of the Inserm unit entitled Genetics and Molecular Pathologies. At the same time, a laboratory dedicated to the study of murine retrovirology, directed by Jean-Paul Lévy, was also developed on the Cochin Hospital site. In the 1990s, this unit was split into two groups headed respectively by Sylvie Gisselbrecht and Jean-Gérard Guillet.

In 1990, the arrival of new research units directed by Donny Strosberg, Françoise Russo-Marie, and Pascale Briand gave rise to the idea of grouping the research units present on the site into a single institute, operating on a federative basis. Thus, the Cochin Institute of Molecular Genetics (ICGM) was born through the initiative of Axel Kahn and Jean-Paul Lévy. Other groups subsequently joined the ICGM, including the CNRS laboratory of Jean Girard Guillet and the Inserm units of Richard Benarous and Paul-Henri Roméo.

The birth of the institute

Institut Cochin was officially created on January 1st 2002 through the merger of all the laboratories present at the ICGM into a single research unit (UMR). It was the first research center in France to be supervised by Inserm, CNRS, and a University.



  • Jean-Paul Lévy (1990-2001), director of ICGM
  • Axel Kahn (2002-2007), director of Institut Cochin
  • Pierre-Olivier Couraud (2008-2021), director of Institut Cochin
  • Florence Niedergang (2022- ), director of Institut Cochin