Three major stakeholders of the Oncopole form a strategic public-private sector alliance to boost innovation in oncology on the Toulouse campus

A multi-year framework agreement has just been signed by 3 major stakeholders present on the Oncopole campus in Toulouse: the Pierre Fabre Research Institute (IRPF), the Centre de Recherches en Cancérologie de Toulouse (CRCT-Inserm) and the Institut Universitaire du Cancer de Toulouse (IUCT). This agreement seals a strategic public-private sector alliance based on the obligation of producing treatment outcomes. In total, 2,000 people are joining forces and pooling their expertise to offer cancer patients the chance to try out new, personalized alternative treatments.

The IRPF is Pierre Fabre Group’s primary research and development center. It is specialized in oncology and dermatology. The CRCT-Inserm is a mixed research unit run by the Inserm/Université de Toulouse III-Paul Sabatier, housed in one of the Inserm’s buildings at the Oncopole; it brings together 21 research teams, including a Chair in Bioinformatics created in September 2018 with backing from the translational medicine department of the IRPF. The IUCT consists of the Institut Claudius Regaud (anti-cancer institute in Toulouse) and several oncology teams from the CHU university hospital in Toulouse. Each year, the hospital’s 1,400 doctors, nursing staff and other personnel treat 10,000 new patients for several types of blood cancers and solid tumor cancers (particularly skin cancers).

The framework agreement signed by the 4 partners (IRPF, Inserm Transfert for the Inserm CRCT-Inserm, CHU Toulouse, Institut Claudius Regaud) is based on 4 lines of study and will operate according to a collegial governance model:

  • The first line of study focuses on analysis of patients’ clinical and molecular data. In the era of personalized medicine, the challenge is to produce a molecular cartography of patients’ tumors in order to offer them the treatment best suited to their condition. To this end, access to the IUCT’s molecular data is essential and will enable better understanding of the reality of the disease’s complexity and resistance mechanisms, as well as identification of those patients who might benefit from the treatments developed. The data collected by doctors for these purposes, in compliance with the regulations in force (GDPR), will be analyzed by the CRCT research teams and, in the first instance, by the Chair in Bioinformatics, whose work focuses on improving our understanding of the interactions between the immune system and the tumor, based on big data searches, analyses and modeling.
  • The objective of the second line of study is to provide support to certain projects led by the IRPF, through the expert contributions of IUCT clinicians and CRCT scientists.
  • The third line of study focuses on combining the CRCT’s various fields of research expertise and Pierre Fabre’s industrial know-how in order to optimize the transformation of the discovery of a new therapeutic target into a drug candidate.
  • The fourth line of study concerns the organization of annual scientific days bringing together international experts and experts from the IRPF, IUCT and CRCT teams to discuss the most recent progress in cancer research.
  • The Alliance’s governance structure will mainly revolve around a Scientific Committee in charge of selecting and monitoring the progress of the programs set up each year for each of the 4 lines of study. This committee will include two scientific representatives from each of the partners. The directors of the IRPF and the CRCT will be ex-officio members. A representative of the IRPF will be responsible for coordinating the various programs. Finally, a Monitoring Committee, made up of the directors of the institutions concerned, will be set up and tasked with making decisions related to overall management of the Alliance.

Several programs have already been launched by the new Alliance

  • Under the umbrella of the first line of study of the framework agreement, the “Lung Predict” program aims to produce a molecular cartography of lung cancers. The project’s pilot phase is already under way (since February 2019); it aims to put in place processes and methodologies for carrying out multiparametric analysis of patient tumors. A second phase is planned for 2020, with the goal of applying and extending this molecular characterization of tumors to as many of the IUCT’s patients as possible. In the future, similar cartographies may be produced for other types of tumors, such as melanoma, colorectal cancer and breast cancer.
  • Within the scope of the second line of study, work will focus on two projects in the IRPF’s R&D portfolio: an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) currently in phase of I of its clinical trial, and a new immunotherapy at the preclinical development phase. For each project, the challenge is identical: identify the most relevant therapeutic indications and the patient profiles likely to be most responsive to the treatment.
  • Within the third line of study, the Alliance’s objective will be to set up research collaboration combining the specific expertise of each stakeholder. An initial project is being considered, focused on the development of an antibody capable of neutralizing certain immunosuppressive cells (macrophages) that can have cancer-promoting effects.

They testify :

Accelerating the development of innovative therapeutic targets to improve quality of life for cancer patients
Eric Ducournau CEO of the Pierre Fabre Group
“This agreement is of the highest importance for Pierre Fabre First of all, it is perfectly in line with our strategy, which aims to make innovation in the field of oncology one of the Group’s priority areas for development in the coming years. Next, it puts patients at the center of its undertaking, since the ultimate goal of the alliance is to accelerate the development of new therapeutic targets aimed at providing cancer patients with innovative solutions. Finally, as we prepare to celebrate next year the 10-year anniversary of Pierre Fabre’s presence at the Oncopole, this alliance entered into alongside the CRCT-Inserm and the IUCT gives fresh impetus to our pledge to make Toulouse and its region a recognized world leader in cancer research.”

Give meaning to the huge quantity of data collected from patients. 
Gilles Favre Director of the CRCT-Inserm
The alliance aims to bring together the CRCT, which includes 430 researchers with a broad range of expertise, hospital partners and Pierre Fabre laboratories, to develop new therapeutic targets derived from our research and drug candidates at the preclinical development stage, for the benefit of patients. Regarding facilities, we have developed shared technical platforms for in-depth analysis of tumor tissues and blood samples. We are also developing cutting-edge technology that will enable us to study human genome expression at single-cell level. With our Chair in Bioinformatics, made up of experts in data analysis, we are now in a position to give meaning to the huge quantity of data collected from researchers and doctors, using deep learning algorithms and Artificial Intelligence.

Pascale Augé Chair of the Inserm Transfert Supervisory Board 
We are truly proud to have contributed to this ambitious strategic alliance between these major stakeholders in the field of oncology. This is a concrete manifestation of our determination to support world-class teams in their interactions and processes aimed at promoting their projects.
This partnership aims to coordinate the expert skills and know-how available in the fight against cancer, the objective of which is to encourage the emergence of common projects to identify and develop new, better adapted therapeutic treatments in oncology.

Marc PENAUD Chief Executive of the CHU in Toulouse
It is by combining skills, comparing experiences and working together that we make progress. That is the fundamental meaning of this framework agreement, which constitutes another valuable building block in the quest to construct a leading center of innovation in oncology on our Toulouse site.

Julien MAZIERES Pulmonologist-oncologist at the CHU in Toulouse
Lung cancers are the most deadly form of cancer in France and worldwide. Improved understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying their development has recently led to significant breakthroughs. However, such progress sometimes proves insufficient in the long term, and we need to improve our understanding of the drug resistance mechanisms at play with these cancers. The Alliance with Pierre Fabre Laboratory will allow us to study these biological resistance mechanisms more effectively and envisage new therapeutic strategies.

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