New French consortium wants to boost number of cancer focused startups

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/metamorworks
© GettyImages/metamorworks

Related tags Oncology Startups France Cancer

OncoSTART sees 12 expert partners join forces to combine networks to promote entrepreneurial innovation to tackle cancer head on.

The initiative includes French organizations active in oncology research and innovation; the idea is that they pool their specific expertise and networks.

The coordinators said the COVID-19 pandemic showed that many biotech companies spun off from academic research have the ability to offer disruptive innovations from vaccines to diagnostic test. “Oncology is a good example of this trend, with recent developments by early-stage businesses in the areas of immunotherapy, CAR-T cells, e-health and artificial intelligence,” ​they added.

The collective is open to projects involving all types of researcher level expertise from postgraduates, early-career researchers, aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs.

In France, cancer is the third largest health expense and represents 10% of public health insurance expenditure, according to data cited by the publication, Etude Institut Viavoice, 2017, with those costs having increased 48% since 2004, mainly due to a rising incidence, as per data included in the February 2020 released report: Etude économique ASTERES.  

Steering committee 

The OncoSTART steering committee currently has 12 members:

  • Cancer research clusters (Canceropoles): CLARA (Lyon Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), Sud (Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur), Grand-Ouest (Brittany, Centre, Pays de la Loire) and Nord-Ouest (Normandy, Hauts de France)
  • The Carnot Institutes specifically targeting cancer: Curie Cancer (linked to Institut Curie), CALYM for lymphomas and OPALE for leukemia and related diseases
  • The Cancer Campus biocluster
  • The Gustave Roussy Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • The MATWIN innovation accelerator 
  • LS LEAD training center (Life Science Leadership School)
  • The Unicancer hospital network

Building bridges 

The consortium will be coordinated by MATWIN, the French accelerator dedicated to oncology innovation; that hub aligns 13 international companies keen to identify early-stage, high-potential projects with therapeutic or diagnostic applications: Amgen, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Exact Sciences, Gilead, GlaxoSmithKline, Nanostring Technologies, Novartis, Pfizer, Pierre Fabre, Roche and Sanofi.

“France offers some real advantages when it comes to cancer research: excellent academic research, a burgeoning network and a high level of activity in innovation, all largely thanks to more than 20 years of substantial public sector support; though it is still difficult to convert these results into practical applications for patients,”​ said Lucia Robert, CEO, MATWIN. 

She told BioPharma-Reporter the collective will help drive entrepreneurial innovation in oncology through a three-axis toolbox offering a continuum of actions to answer the specific needs of each candidate that will include:

  • Sensitizing activities to develop and nurture an entrepreneurial culture in the oncology field, and to increase the number of high-value added start-ups in oncology in all possible areas from prognosis to diagnosis to therapy
  • Training for future entrepreneurs in the oncology field to build awareness of the market needs in each sector, leveraging OncoSTART’s network of experts
  • Accelerating activities to boost the development potential of innovations in the oncology field, accelerating time to market and optimizing the development potential for the benefit of patients and society.

OncoSTART, she added, has a joint steering committee, a shared and synergistic network of experts, and an existing innovation ecosystem of technology transfer offices, incubators, clusters, etc, to draw upon in order to achieve its goals. 

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