Having excelled as a student, Louis Pasteur went to the "École Normale Supérieure", a French "Grande École", and chose to study the optical activity for the polarised light of tartaric acid crystals and tartrate derivatives of the fermentation of wine. He demonstrated in his Scientific Thesis, which he presented in 1847, that living organisms produce optically active asymmetric crystals, which differentiates organic materials from the mineral world. He began his career as a supply teacher of chemistry at Strasbourg University, and was then appointed first Dean of the faculty of science, which had just been created in Lille in 1854 at the age of 32 years. It was in our city that Pasteur, who was working at the request of the region's brewers, made some fundamental observations between 1854 and 1857 on alcoholic fermentation. This gave rise to microbiology and the discovery of the role of germs in infections.
In 1894, the north of France felt the full force of a serious diphtheria epidemic. A delegation from the local council went to Paris to consult Louis Pasteur on the quickest way of setting up the production of the new serum which had just been developed by Emile Roux at the Institut Pasteur that had recently been created in 1888.
Pasteur agreed to create a laboratory in Lille for the production of anti-diphtheritic serums. This temporary laboratory was created in 1894 at the Halle aux Sucres (sugar market) in the historic part of Lille. Just before his death in 1895, Louis Pasteur agreed to give his name to this laboratory and he chose Albert Calmette to be its first director.
The Institut Pasteur of Lille was built in large part thanks to the city of Lille, the population of the Nord Pas-de-Calais and the generosity of Albert Calmette who would transfer the income of the sale of some of his patents. Subsequently, Albert Calmette developed the BCG vaccine in these premises at the beginning of the 20th century with the help of Camille Guérin.
Very quickly, Albert Calmette took interest in tuberculosis and will be joined by the veterinary surgeon, Camille Guérin. An object of primordial research that would be the focus of their attention for twenty years in reaching the discovery of an effective vaccine that would bear the names: the BCG (Bacillus of Calmette and Guérin) developed in the premises of Institut Pasteur de Lille. From 1905 to 1919, the two researchers worked on this vaccine that was successfully used for the first time on young children in 1921. In 1928, the BCG vaccination programme was widely extended throughout the world. Even today, the researchers of the Institute continue to fight against tuberculosis and walk in the footsteps of Calmette and Guérin. Camille Locht's team worked on developing a booster vaccine that would prolong the effectiveness of the initial BCG and a treatment for making the Bacillus Koch more sensitive to antibiotics so that the doses and associated side-effects could be reduced.