Tributes to Canadian Virologists


Dear CSV Members
In 2022, we unfortunately saw the passing of Dr. Pierre Talbot, who was a friend, colleague and mentor to many among the Canadian virology community. Below are some heart-felt words from some of our colleagues who worked closely with Pierre. He will be missed greatly.

A seasoned researcher who has pursued against all odds his hypothesis that coronaviruses could contribute to the development of certain neurological diseases, Pierre Talbot leaves a rich scientific and human legacy to the Canadian and international scientific community. Forty years ago, when he began his career as a professor-researcher at the Armand-Frappier Institute, now the Armand-Frappier Health Biotechnology Center (AFSB) of the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS), coronaviruses weren't on many researchers' radars. Indeed, causing common colds, the epidemic potential of coronaviruses was not fully recognized. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shed light on the neuropathological potential of coronaviruses and gives a new perspective to his research. A scientist committed to serving his community, he was involved at several levels in the administration of research, whether as Chair of the Virology and Viral Pathogenesis Committee of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), as Chair of the National Organizing Committee of the congresses of the International Union of Microbiological Societies or as director of the AFSB research Center. Professor Talbot's scientific legacy is considerable and will be a source of inspiration for many researchers in the years to come.


From a personal point of view, Pierre has been a caring mentor who has encouraged and supported the career development of several generations of researchers, including myself. He was instrumental in my decision to do my postdoc in Switzerland and then return to INRS to pursue my career as a researcher there. These were two major decisions in my professional and personal life, and I will be eternally grateful to him. Thank you, Pierre!

- Alain Lamarre, PhD INRS



Pierre Talbot was a respected Canadian virologist who dedicated his career to coronaviruses. When human coronaviruses were still mainly associated with common colds, he developed tools to track down and scrutinize these viruses. Inspired by animal coronaviruses affecting the nervous system, Pierre developed an innovative research program on the neurovirology of human coronaviruses. During his fruitful career, he elegantly demonstrated the neuro-invasiveness, neurotropism, and neurovirulence of human respiratory coronaviruses. He identified several virus- or host-mediated mechanisms contributing to the ‘corona-neurovirology.’ The quality and magnitude of Pierre’s work led to a new paradigm: respiratory viruses, such as human coronaviruses, can contribute to neurological disorders. Recently, numerous scientists facing a new respiratory coronavirus, SARS-CoV2, fully appreciated his meaningful work.

Beyond his remarkable scientific accomplishments, Pierre has been an exceptional supervisor, mentor, and colleague. He created a friendly, dynamic, fulfilling working atmosphere in his laboratory. Pierre, a calm, generous, and benevolent man, encouraged relevant, stimulating, and respectful discussions. He gave his trainees a lot of freedom and empowerment to fully develop their potential. Pierre remained an accessible and attentive mentor for his former students. As a professor and researcher, he generously contributed to the international, national, and local scientific communities; he organized conferences, participated in peer review committees,revised manuscripts, sat on thesis committees, and reached out to the rising generation of researchers.


Pierre Talbot, the scientist, mentor, and colleague, will be remembered with great respect and fondness.


- Nathalie Arbour
Ph.D. student in Pierre Talbot’s team (1994-1999)
Professor, Department of Neurosciences, Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal Researcher, Centre de recherche du CHUM, Montréal.


When I met Pierre in 1996, it was to ask him to be my co-supervisor of my master's degree on the virus of vesicular stomatitis (VSV)... part one of "the Talbotian adventure" then, no, Pierre did not only work on coronaviruses! We must believe that we both really enjoyed the experience, since the adventure continued during my doctorate, also on the VSV. Even before I finish this second part of "the Talbotian adventure", Pierre offered me the possibility to work with him as a research associate. “You will help me supervise the new ones” he said! This third part of the adventure lasted for 16 years, until a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trying to see "The Big Picture", I have heard this expression hundreds of times from Pierre in our famous laboratory meetings... He always tried, most of the time successfully, in making an accurate synthesis of the student project and the overall situation of the lab. Despite the many disappointments and pitfalls that line the life of a researcher (article or request for funding refused, for example), he knew how to remain “zen” and move forward. Pierre loved being a researcher and said it was the best job in the world: “Being paid to research, discover and go to conferences; wow! as he sometimes said. I had the chance to go to conferences a few times with Pierre and one of the most masterful memories I keep is... tasting oysters and a cold beer in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge in the bay of San Francisco... a beautiful afternoon in July 2000. This wonder at new discoveries, still present even after almost four decades at the head of the neuroimmunovirology lab... that was all Pierre. Greetings Mr. Talbot!

- Marc Desforges PhD (doctoral student in Pierre's team from 1999 to 2003)
Clinical specialist in medical biology, Microbiology laboratory, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Ste-Justine


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