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Will France soon have the world's largest cluster dedicated to oncology?

The Paris Saclay Cancer Cluster association hopes to gather together all players involved in oncology on its premises to the south of Paris.

Crédits Photo Gustave Roussy
10 May 2022

The Paris Saclay Cancer Cluster association was officially opened on February 4, in the presence of Oliver Véran, Minister for Solidarity and Health, and Frédérique Vidal, Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation. The association was created under the impetus of private and public players – Sanofi, Gustave Roussy, Inserm, the Institut Polytechnique de Paris and the Université Paris-Saclay. Its aim is to speed up the development of innovations in oncology, in close collaboration with patients. 

All those involved made the same observation: “France has world-renowned expertise in oncology. The Paris region ranks second in the world in terms of scientific publications, but in so far as concerns VC (venture capitalist) funding, we are nowhere to be seen,” Professor Fabrice André, Director of Research of the Institut Gustave Roussy, noted with regret. 

“Our analysis shows that in order for French companies to create value and drugs for oncology patients, we need to gather those involved together in the same place, in an uninterrupted value chain (doctors, mathematicians, physicists, biologists, big pharma, startups, patients, etc.),” said Professor Fabrice André, Director of Research at the Institut Gustave Roussy, cofounder of the Paris Saclay Cancer Cluster.  

According to them, French research is excellent, but is not disruptive enough. To counter this, we need to promote interdisciplinarity and attract talent. The second barrier cited by Professor André is administrative complexity. “It is a nightmare for startups, they have to knock on too many doors and the ecosystem is fragmented. So we suggest combining everything in a one-stop shop and bringing the various players closer together.”

This is the basis of the proposal submitted by the Paris Saclay Cancer Cluster to the French State, in response to the call for BioCluster projects launched by the General Secretariat for investment, “a copy and paste of Kendall Square in Boston, but built around hospitals,” Professor André continued. This call for projects aims to create three biomedical research clusters in France. The association will know at the end of June 2022 if its dossier has been selected. 

Collaborative projects are already under way within the association. For example it buys platforms jointly in order to give added momentum to one-of-a-kind scientific projects, but if it wins the call for projects, its project “could, over the next five years or so, become the largest worldwide cluster dedicated to cancer,” Professor André was pleased to add. 

The Grand Parc campus is currently under construction in Villejuif. 60,000 m2 of buildings will be set aside for biomedical research, to which will be added approximately an additional 40,000 m2. This is where the Paris Saclay Cancer Cluster would like to be located.

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