Everyone agrees, it is necessary to invest locally in biotech innovation to face the challenges of tomorrow and not lose sovereignty in the health sector. From the France 2030 Plan to local initiatives like our DIM BioConvS, the State and investors are targeting researchers, and therefore deep tech and its potential for innovation. But what is the view of the researchers? We discuss it with Dr Kelly Aubertin, research engineer at the IVETh platform, and Dr Nathalie Gagey-Eilstein, teacher-researcher in the research unit Unit of Chemical and Biological Technologies for Health, at the University of Paris Cité .
I met them during an initiative of the Ile-de-France Region which aims to match researchers with potential industrial partners, as part of the Paris Region Fellowship Programme.
Chiara: You come here to seek a partnership for your project, how did you come up with the idea?
Kelly Aubertin: My first contact [with innovation, ndr] was during my postdoc in Canada, where I admit that industrial-academic interactions were much more open than in France, at least between 2015 and 2018. My team leader had himself founded a start-up to exploit and translate everything he had developed in the laboratory to the clinic, in particular for cancer diagnostic tools that could be used during surgeries. What is interesting is that when I came back to France I realized that everything had changed since my thesis, there was progress – not at the level of North America, I think, but there is still a lot of progress. When I joined the MSC Med laboratory, there were researchers who were working on the valorisation of their results, there was EverZom who was on site, the ecosystem straddled the two worlds, and it was very enriching to see in the the lab researchers who had already taken the plunge.
Nathalie Gagey-Eilstein: For me, my environment is very far from innovation because I do fundamental research. Whenever there was a possibility of moving towards project maturation and tech transfer, for one reason or another it didn’t work too well. Personally, even on my projects which lend themselves quite well to valorisation, in the end I never managed to really move forward in this direction. Today I am here looking for partners because there is really a need, because I have a project that could really interest the private sector. I’m not necessarily interested in creating a startup, but in a collaboration yes, because the project really lends itself to it.
C: Do you think your lab environment has helped you?
NGE: No, not particularly, my lab is quite fundamental, so ultimately the idea we have of valorization almost stops at the patent.
KA: I come from a pure academic background and when I finished my master’s degree in 2010, there was no training that spoke of technology transfer innovation, it was purely academic. It’s a shame because we often learn on the job and realize, perhaps sometimes belatedly, that we could have promoted our research a little better.
Today, Master programs are beginning to integrate notions of IP, patents, there are also training courses on responses to calls for projects, which is very useful because if you know nothing about it, it is something very abstract.
C: Do you know which departments at your university are dedicated to innovation?
NGE: At the University (Paris Cité, editor’s note) there is the DRIVE, which deals with development, corporate relations, then we have Erganeo and the development services of each supervisory authority. I have contacted them before.
Faced with the increase in investment resources and the interest of the State in the Biotech sector, it is time to remove the obstacles that make it difficult for researchers to take the plunge. Better communication and knowledge of the innovation tools already available would be a good start. And you, do you have any ideas on how to foster innovation? Or do you just want to know more about it? Join us for a day of the DIM BioConvS dedicated to Innovation: Innovation Day. Date and place to be announced soon!