On this February 4, World Cancer Day, heavy figures emerge: each year, this disease causes nearly 10 million deaths, while 18 million new cases are diagnosed worldwide. Not to mention its annual cost, which exceeds 1.160 billion dollars in the United States alone. It is precisely across the Atlantic that the oncologist Patrizia Paterlini-BréchotItalian by birth and French at heart, has installed RareCells.
This biotech company, born in 2011 in the bosom of the University of Paris, Inserm and AP-HP, has developed non-invasive tests for early detection: thanks to its patented technique, the signs cancer can be detected from a blood sample. “Three quarters of the resources allocated to cancer research are invested in therapy. However, it is early detection that allows the greatest advances, ”underlines the oncologist, discreet and elegant from the top of her 68 years. And to recall the effectiveness of prevention by smears, mammograms and other colonoscopies.
Building on a recent $13 million Series A fundraisingthe professor-entrepreneur is accelerating towards the clinical validation of early diagnostic tests in the United States: one dedicated to prostate cancer, another on leukemia, and a third consisting of a multi-cancer diagnosis, which will be marketed in 2024, 2025 and 2027 respectively.
Without concealing “enormous economic stakes”, this graduate of the University of Modena, in Italy, wants to “save the most lives in the world”. “We must not oppose business and medicine, especially since scientists are more motivated than certain industrialists to undertake in this innovative field”, slips this woman, bruised by having been powerless in the face of the deaths of patients. “Patrizia combines a rigorous scientific soul, a lot of humanity and entrepreneurial will”, sums up Vincenzo Vinzi, Managing Director of Essec, who invited her to sit on the International Advisory Board of her business school.
However, nothing predestined this woman of faith, daughter of a biologist and a bank manager, to entrepreneurship. Already as a child, the youngest of two daughters was obsessed with the desire to heal, including her comrades. Growing up, she specialized in hematology and oncology, while remaining a researcher and hospital practitioner.
Activities that she carried out throughout her career, first in Italy, then in France, where she met her husband, Professor Christian Bréchot. Over the years, she has won a host of awards: best medical thesis, scientific excellence prize from the AP-HP… and even a literary prize for her book “Tuer le cancer” published in 2017 (Ed. Stock). But the former director of an Inserm unit prefers to mention the scientific publications relating to her technique, called ISET.
Between Paris and New York
For the time being, the mother of two children is multiplying the round trips between New York, where the head office and the new laboratory of RareCells are located, and Paris, where she lives and intends to maintain the R&D center of her company. The workforce is set to increase from around twenty to around forty people by the end of the year.
Other objectives: series B fundraising in 2022 and validation of its technology, in particular within the framework of a large-scale study carried out with 48,000 patients at Columbia University. A challenge for RareCells, the only non-American team involved in the project.
Not enough to shake the member of TOTT (The Oncology Think Tank), used to “put all her energies, intellectual and physical” in what she believes. His sources of decompression? Jogging, “every morning, before 6 a.m.”, and summers in Italy, where “hearing the Italian language relaxes me”