The ERC IDEM project

Biological Identity at the Crossroads

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.


ERC IDEM is one of several research projects by Thomas Pradeu (CNRS) and his interdisciplinary group Conceptual Immunology. The group is part of the ImmunoConcEpT unit (CNRS UMR 5164) located at the University of Bordeaux, France.

The Conceptual Immunology group is also one of the pillars of the Institute for Philosophy in Biology and Medicine (PhilInBioMed), a national and international network of interdisciplinary institutes that promote philosophy in the biological and medical sciences.



IDEM has recieved €1,454,000 in form of a starting grant from the European Research Council (ERC). The project runs from 2015-2020 and is hosted by the CNRS in Bordeaux, France.