Stochastic Models for the Inference of Life Evolution

SMILE | Stochastic Models for the Inference of Life Evolution | Collège de France


SMILE is an interdisciplinary research group gathering mathematicians, bio-informaticians and biologists.
SMILE is affiliated to the Institut de Biologie de l'ENS, in Paris.
SMILE is hosted within the CIRB (Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Biology) at Collège de France.
SMILE is supported by Collège de France and CNRS.
Visit also our homepage at CIRB.


SMILE is hosted at Collège de France in the Latin Quarter of Paris. To reach us, go to 11 place Marcelin Berthelot (stations Luxembourg or Saint-Michel on RER B).
Our working spaces are rooms 107, 121 and 122 on first floor of building B1 (ask us for the code). Building B1 is facing you upon exiting the traversing hall behind Champollion's statue.


You can reach us by email (amaury.lambert - at - ; (guillaume.achaz - at - or (smile - at -

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How Ecology and Landscape Dynamics Shape Phylogenetic Trees

Whether biotic or abiotic factors are the dominant drivers of clade diversification is a long-standing question in evolutionary biology. The ubiquitous patterns of phylogenetic imbalance and branching slowdown have been taken as supporting the role of ecological niche filling and spatial heterogeneity in ecological features, and thus of biotic processes, in diversification. However, a proper theoretical assessment of the relative roles of biotic and abiotic factors in macroevolution requires models that integrate both types of factors, and such models have been lacking. In this study, we use an individual-based model to investigate the temporal patterns of diversification driven by ecological speciation in a stochastically fluctuating geographic landscape. The model generates phylogenies whose shape evolves as the clade ages. Stabilization of tree shape often occurs after ecological saturation, revealing species turnover caused by competition and demographic stochasticity. In the initial phase of diversification (allopatric radiation into an empty landscape), trees tend to be unbalanced and branching slows down. As diversification proceeds further due to landscape dynamics, balance and branching tempo may increase and become positive. Three main conclusions follow. First, the phylogenies of ecologically saturated clades do not always exhibit branching slowdown. Branching slowdown requires that competition be wide or heterogeneous across the landscape, or that the characteristics of landscape dynamics vary geographically. Conversely, branching acceleration is predicted under narrow competition or frequent local catastrophes. Second, ecological heterogeneity does not necessarily cause phylogenies to be unbalanced--short time in geographical isolation or frequent local catastrophes may lead to balanced trees despite spatial heterogeneity. Conversely, unbalanced trees can emerge without spatial heterogeneity, notably if competition is wide. Third, short isolation time causes a radically different and quite robust pattern of phylogenies that are balanced and yet exhibit branching slowdown. In conclusion, biotic factors have a strong and diverse influence on the shape of phylogenies of ecologically saturating clades and create the evolutionary template in which branching slowdown and tree imbalance may occur. However, the contingency of landscape dynamics and resource distribution can cause wide variation in branching tempo and tree balance. Finally, considerable variation in tree shape among simulation replicates calls for caution when interpreting variation in the shape of real phylogenies.



The speed of vaccination rollout and the risk of pathogen adaptation

Vaccination is expected to reduce disease prevalence and to halt the spread of epidemics. But pathogen adaptation may erode the efficacy of vaccination and challenge our ability to control disease spread. Here we examine the influence of the speed of vaccination rollout on the overall risk of pathogen adaptation to vaccination. We extend the framework of evolutionary epidemiology theory to account for the different steps leading to adaptation to vaccines: (1) introduction of a vaccine-escape variant by mutation from an endemic wild-type pathogen, (2) invasion of this vaccine-escape variant in spite of the risk of early extinction, (3) spread and, eventually, fixation of the vaccine-escape variant in the pathogen population. We show that the risk of pathogen adaptation is maximal for intermediate speed of vaccination rollout. On the one hand, slower rollout decreases pathogen adaptation because selection is too weak to avoid early extinction of the new variant. On the other hand, faster rollout decreases pathogen adaptation because it reduces the influx of adaptive mutations. Hence, vaccinating faster is recommended to decrease both the number of cases and the likelihood of pathogen adaptation. We also show that pathogen adaptation is driven by its basic reproduction ratio, the efficacy of the vaccine and the effects of the vaccine-escape mutations on pathogen life-history traits. Accounting for the interplay between epidemiology, selection and genetic drift, our work clarifies the influence of vaccination policies on different steps of pathogen adaptation and allows us to anticipate the effects of public-health interventions on pathogen evolution.Significance statement Pathogen adaptation to host immunity challenges the efficacy of vaccination against infectious diseases. Are there vaccination strategies that limit the emergence and the spread of vaccine-escape variants? Our theoretical model clarifies the interplay between the timing of vaccine escape mutation events and the transient epidemiological dynamics following the start of a vaccination campaign on pathogen adaptation. We show that the risk of adaptation is maximized for intermediate vaccination coverage but can be reduced by a combination of non pharmaceutical interventions and maximizing the speed of the vaccination rollout. These recommendations may have important implications for the choice of vaccination strategies against the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.Funding StatementThis study was funded by a grant from CNRS MITI to SG.Author DeclarationsI confirm all relevant ethical guidelines have been followed, and any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained.YesI confirm that all necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived, and that any patient/participant/sample identifiers included were not known to anyone (e.g., hospital staff, patients or participants themselves) outside the research group so cannot be used to identify individuals.YesI understand that all clinical trials and any other prospective interventional studies must be registered with an ICMJE-approved registry, such as I confirm that any such study reported in the manuscript has been registered and the trial registration ID is provided (note: if posting a prospective study registered retrospectively, please provide a statement in the trial ID field explaining why the study was not registered in advance).YesI have followed all appropriate research reporting guidelines and uploaded the relevant EQUATOR Network research reporting checklist(s) and other pertinent material as supplementary files, if applicable.YesThis is a theoretical study.



Predicted success of prophylactic antiviral therapy to block or delay SARS-CoV-2 infection depends on the targeted mechanism

Repurposed drugs that are immediately available and have a good safety profile constitute a first line of defense against new viral infections. Despite a limited antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2, several drugs serve as candidates for application, not only in infected individuals but also as prophylaxis to prevent infection establishment. Here we use a stochastic model to describe the early phase of a viral infection. We find that the critical efficacy needed to block viral establishment is typically above 80\%. This value can be improved by combination therapy. Below the critical efficacy, establishment can still sometimes be prevented; for that purpose, drugs blocking viral entry into target cells (or equivalently enhancing viral clearance) are more effective than drugs reducing viral production or enhancing infected cell death. When a viral infection cannot be prevented because of high exposure or low drug efficacy, antivirals can still delay the time to reach detectable viral loads from 4 days when untreated to up to 30 days. This delay flattens the within-host epidemic curve, and possibly reduces transmission and symptom severity. These results suggest that antiviral prophylaxis, even with reduced efficacy, could be efficiently used to prevent or alleviate infection in people at high risk. It could thus be an important component of the strategy to combat the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in the months or years to come.

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