New French consortium wants to increase the number of cancer-focused startups

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

Coordinators said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that many university-researched biotechnology companies have the capacity to deliver disruptive innovations ranging from vaccines to diagnostic tests. “Oncology is a good example of this trend, with recent developments in start-ups in 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 graduates, early-career researchers, aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs, and OncoSTART’s transversal approach provides access to a continuum activities aimed at raising awareness, providing training and entrepreneurial projects in the field, said the authors of the project.

They said the initiative will function as a toolkit, enabling personalized responses that meet the specific needs of each project owner. It also capitalizes on the link between a number of existing support programs.

The OncoSTART program includes three areas of intervention aimed at encouraging and stimulating the creation of businesses targeted against cancer:


Educational sessions addressing business creation concepts applicable to oncology for candidate entrepreneurs


Training sessions for motivated entrepreneurs to support them in their business creation journey in close collaboration with ecosystem players


Support entrepreneurs in structuring their project, taking into account industrial development issues specific to oncology, and developing their network of contacts: industrial partners, institutions, investors, etc.

steering Committee

The OncoSTART steering committee currently has 12 members:

  • Cancer research centers (Canceropoles): CLARA (Lyon Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), South (Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur), Grand-Ouest (Brittany, Center, Pays de la Loire) and North-West (Normandy, Hauts de France))
  • 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
  • Complete Gustave Roussy 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 innovation in oncology; this hub aligns 13 international companies eager to identify high potential and early stage 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 real advantages in cancer research: excellent academic research, a growing network and a high level of activity in innovation, all thanks in large part to more than 20 years of support important to the public sector; although it is still difficult to convert these results into practical applications for patients, ”Said Lucia Robert, CEO of MATWIN. “OncoSTART provides the opportunity to build bridges between stakeholders, creating a more effective oncology innovation ecosystem for all, starting with project owners and developers, and over time extending this to patients.

In France, cancer is the third largest health expenditure and represents 10% of public health insurance expenditure, according to data cited by the publication Etude Institut Viavoice, 2017, these costs having increased by 48% since 2004, mainly in due to an increasing incidence, according to data included in the report published in February 2020: Economic study ASTERES.

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