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The Pasteur Institute in Paris was inaugurated on November 14, 1888. Its founding was in part made possible through an international appeal for funds, to which Emperor Dom Pedro II responded with a sizeable cash contribution. The institute owes its existence in large part to the worldwide impact of the development of the rabies vaccine by Pasteur and his associates.

The institute was established with two main purposes: to guarantee the supply of rabies vaccine and diphtheria serum for European colonies in Africa and Asia and to lend continuity to Pasteurian studies on infectious diseases. Over the years, however, it would do much more.

Cruz was the first Brazilian to study at the institute. Before him, Augusto Ferreira dos Santos, professor of mineral chemistry at the Rio de Janeiro School of Medicine, had been in Paris to learn the stages of rabies vaccine production with the group headed by Pasteur, in 1886. Upon his return to Brazil, Ferreira dos Santos organized and became the first director of the Pasteur Institute in Rio de Janeiro. It actually opened its doors in February 1888, nine months before its French counterpart.

Cruz attended the Pasteur Institute during the heyday of discoveries about the pathogenic nature of microorganisms. Moreover, the outlook for the treatment of infectious disease seemed limitless thanks to serum therapy, which had been further bolstered by the development of diphtheria and plague sera in 1894.

Cruz forged rewarding personal and professional relations with some of the institute’s scientists, especially Émile Roux and Elie Metchnikoff, which resulted in a productive exchange of correspondence on techniques for producing sera and vaccines. It was this collaboration that underpinned the French mission to Brazil in 1901, which investigated the mechanisms of yellow fever transmission, then one of Brazil’s chief public health scourges.

The Pasteur Institute eventually came to cover the world, with branches in dozens of countries. Its early research program grew steadily and the institute extended its reach into various fields of knowledge, such as immunology, molecular biology, and tropical medicine. Its researchers have long made outstanding contributions not only in the area of rabies and diphtheria but also in the prevention and treatment of diseases like the bubonic plague, tetanus, typhus, yellow fever, tuberculosis, polio, and, more recently, hepatitis B and AIDS.

Down through its history of over 120 years, some of the world’s leading scientists within their specialties have worked at the Pasteur Institute, including ten Nobel Prize winners. Among Cruz’s contemporaries alone stand Émile Roux, one of the creators of diphtheria serum; Alexandre Yersin, who, together with Shibasaburo Kitasato, identified the bubonic plague bacillus; Albert Calmette, one of the inventors of the tuberculosis vaccine (BCG), in conjunction with Camille Guérin; and Elie Metchnikoff, the discoverer of phagocytosis.

Armed with this vast expertise, it is no surprise that the Pasteur Institute remains one of the world’s foremost research centers in biomedical science.