Situation & problem
Cancer Biomarker research represents a key area of interest for early detection and/or identification and prognosis of cancer so that cancer patients can be treated more effectively. Although many promising biomarkers are discovered, to date only very few of them have made it into the clinic. Researchers often get lost in translation because they lack both the technical expertise and the funding appropriate incentives to move their discoveries forward. As such, there is a high-need to guide entrepreneurial researchers and to pave the way to clinical development meeting cancer patient’s needs. Our goal is to shorten the time from bench to bedside. We want to deliver to the cancer patients.
Solution & approach
Fournier-Majoie Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to recognize and support entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial researchers who are willing to develop solutions to significantly benefit cancer patients. Since 2007, Fournier-Majoie foundation has focused its support on biomarker development.
Non-profit organizations and governmental institutions focus their funding support on basic and applied research. This leaves the whole development and manufacturing phase to industry and/or venture capitalists creating a funding gap between the two types of investors. This gap called the “Valley of death” is leaving researchers most of time with insufficient funding to meet the key milestones needed to generate interest of industry and/or venture capitalists. By providing funds specifically dedicated to early- development of cancer biomarkers Fournier-Majoie foundation uniquely bridges basic research and later development.
On 31 December 2018, the Foundation’s total grants allocations to the projects accounted for € 8.2 million, of which € 7.7 million have already been paid out.
The Fournier-Majoie foundation’s team actively manages its portfolio of projects, using its expertise to share insights, provide assistance and connect awardees with relevant experts when appropriate and also to foster collaboration. By using its technical and business expertise as well as its network, it guides its grant holders and prevents them from making major mistakes.
Societal Impact / Results
Since 2007, the Foundation has supported 12 university research teams and 5 innovative start-up companies in Belgium.
Venture philanthropy approach.
The venture philanthropy model is key for Fournier-Majoie foundation to give both valorization optimization and financial impact. First, Fournier-Majoie foundation activity includes not only funding but also the necessary follow-up and support to achieve results, de-risk its investment and respond to medical needs.
The Fournier-Majoie Foundation uses the approach of venture philanthropy to support medical R&D with the idea that foundation laureates who succeed in generating revenues through discoveries and their development will return a part of their revenues to the foundation to provide funding for new projects.
As other Venture Philanthropic Organisations we maintain a set of widely accepted key characteristics. These are: high engagement, tailored financing, multi-year support, non-financial support, involvement of networks, organizational capacity-building and performance measurement.
Fournier-Majoie foundation encourages candidates to develop tools providing a significant medical advantage over existing approaches. Its activity has therefore an impact in clinical management of cancer. Its goal is to supply the medical community with the tools it needs for the early detection and/or identification and prognosis of cancer so that the cancer patients can be treated more efficiently. The foundation supports also SME’s developing solutions to significantly benefit cancer patients. In March 2014, the Fournier-Majoie Foundation supports EsperityTM, the first multi-lingual, world-wide social network, with a €300.000 grant. This way, both organisations hope to end the social isolation cancer patients often experience.
Exploding research costs and decreasing approval of tests have caused industry and venture capitalists to become increasingly risk-averse which consequently enlarge the gap between research and later development. Ideally positioned between those 2 stages, Fournier-Majoie foundation makes relatively high-risk investments that could significantly move the biomarker field forward and increase the likelihood that professional investors get involved.