History of Hellenic Pasteur Institute

Hellenic Pasteur Institute has been an institute with a significant and unique role in the areas of public health and biomedical research in Greece for almost a century (1920-2010). This historical period was characterized on one hand by dramatic changes in the political life of Greece, mainly during the first half of the 20th century and on the other hand by great scientific achievements and progress that combated major issues in public health caused by infectious diseases. The major mission of HPI since its founding has been the protection of public health. As time progressed biomedical research was developed in the areas of Microbiology, Immunology, Biochemistry and more recently Neurobiology.

The first Pasteur Institute was founded in Paris in 1888 to serve the new science of Microbiology and its applications in medicine, public health, agriculture and industry, as well as in research for the development of vaccines and serums. This was followed by the establishment of a network of Pasteur Institutes in various parts of the world, mainly in French colonies, but also in other countries.

The creation of the Hellenic Pasteur Institute comes through a series of events starting from the need to reorganize the Greek army in the early 20th century after the Greco-Turkish War of 1897. The work of this reorganization, awarded by the Greek State to send the French Army . The leader of this mission, Brigadier Eydoux, proposed in 1911 to the Ministry of Military the creation of an Institute Pasteur in Greece. This was followed by a proposal of the Health Officer in the same mission, chief doctor Odilon Arnaud, to the Prime Minister of Greece, Eleftherios Venizelos, in 1912. Venizelos supported the creation of the Institute, in the context of his social public health policy, but also in terms of strengthening the bilateral relations with France. In 1919, the project is mainly funded by Sir Basil Zaharoff, friend and supporter of Venizelos, not only for the purchase of land and buildings, but also with an annual grant for the operation of the Institute until his death. On April 26, 1919 the creation of the Hellenic Pasteur Institute – Zaharoff Foundation was approved by Royal Decree by the
Greek State.

Given the political will and financial support, the organization of the Institute undertaken by Albert Calmette, deputy director of the French Institute Pasteur, who was responsible for organizing the international network of Pasteur Institutes. Along with George Abt and George Blanc, he traveled to Athens in 1920 and oversaw the founding of the Institute. In March 1920 the opening of the Hellenic Pasteur Institute takes place.

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