Université de Strasbourg

Brigitte Kieffer

Paul Ehrlich Chair (2022-2024)

Brigitte Kieffer

Brigitte Kieffer is a research director at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) and has pursued most of her career at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology (IGBMC), University of Strasbourg France. She was also visiting professor at the University of California of Los Angeles (1998-2006), and full professor at McGill University, Montréal (Canada) from 2014 to 2019.

Opium use, heroin abuse and the misuse of medicinal opioids are since centuries at the centre of societal challenges. Brigitte Kieffer is internationally recognized for her research on opioid receptors. Her group isolated the first gene encoding an opioid receptor, opening an entire research field towards understanding the molecular basis of opioid-controlled behaviours. Her genetic dissection of the opioid system demonstrated that both the unrivalled pain-killing properties of morphine, and its strong addictive potential, are mediated by the mu opioid receptor. She showed that this receptor is also responsible for rewarding properties of most drugs of abuse, as well as social reward. Brigitte Kieffer furthermore identified brain circuits where the receptor operates to facilitate reward, reduce aversive states, or mediates the negative affect of opioid dependence and withdrawal. Her group also discovered that another opioid receptor, the delta opioid receptor, improves anxiety and depressive-like responses, leading delta agonists into clinical trials to treat major depressive disorders. She pioneered the direct visualization of opioid receptors in the brain, opening the path to localize G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) with subcellular resolution in vivo. Her work has implications for research on pain, addiction and mood disorders, and more broadly for neurosciences and psychiatry. 

Brigitte KiefferProfessor Kieffer became junior member of the Institut de France in 1994, EMBO -European Molecular Biology Organization - member in 2009, and was elected member of the French Academy of Sciences in 2013. She has received several awards from the French Academy of Sciences (Jules Martin (2001); Lounsbery, joint with US National Academy of Sciences (2004); Lamonica Prize for Neurology, (2012)). She was Laureate 2014 for Europe of the International L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science. She was named as Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour (2012), and Officer of the National Order of Merit (2017). Brigitte Kieffer has published around 300 original papers in international peer-reviewed journals, written more than 50 invited reviews and book chapters, and presented at over 200 invited conferences throughout the world.

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Inaugural lecture

On 1 June 2023, Professor Kieffer gave her Paul Ehrlich Chair Inaugural Lecture “The brain on opiates: for better and for worse”. Read more about the topic of the lecture, or view the video:

The Paul Ehrlich Chair

The Paul Ehrlich Chair in the life sciences was created in 2022, as one of three temporary chair positions with a duration of two years, for Strasbourg-based researchers who have made an exceptional contribution to their field. The Chair is named in honour of Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915), a German physician and scientist who studied in Strasbourg and is widely recognized for his research on haematology, immunology and pharmacology. Known as the father of chemotherapy, he was awarded the 1908 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contributions to immunology. He was the founder of the present-day Paul Ehrlich Institute, a German federal institute for vaccines and biomedicines.

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