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IDEM (“Immunity, DEvelopment, and the Microbiota”) explores the problem of biological identity at the interface between immunology, microbiology, and developmental biology.


The problem of biological identity (what counts as one individual organism, and what makes each individual organism the “same” though it constantly changes through time?) has a long history both in philosophy and in science. Recent data coming from immunology, microbiology and developmental biology may revolutionize our conception of the construction of biological identity through time, by showing that this construction depends crucially on environmental factors and, most importantly, on a constant dialogue with symbiotic microorganisms integrated into the organism (the “microbiota”).

IDEM aims at exploring how research done on the microbiota at the interface between developmental biology, microbiology and immunology impacts our conception of biological identity, and providing a new understanding of the way living things are continuously constructed through time and interact with their biotic environment.

Internal and External

Assessing from a conceptual and historical point of view the construction of biological identity through time


Understanding the exact mechanisms by which developmental processes in organisms depend on microbial symbionts

Individuality and the Holobiont

Determining how traditional conceptions of biological individuality may be modified by current research on the microbiota

Immune System

Asking whether the role of the immune system in the maintenance of the organism needs to be reevaluated

Constitutive immune mechanisms: mediators of host defence and immune regulation.

Paludan S.R., Pradeu T., Masters S., Mogensen T. (2020), Nature Reviews Immunology

Microbiota, symbiosis and individuality Summer School Meeting Report

Ronai I., Greslehner G., et al. (2020), Microbiome

Not by structures alone: Can the immune system recognize microbial functions?

Greslehner G. (2020), Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

Microbiome Structure and Function: A New Framework for Interpreting Data.

Greslehner, G.P. (2020), BioEssays.