Cancer-screening specialist Jérôme Galon receives European Inventor Award 2019 in the “Research” category (2023)

  • European Patent Office (EPO) honours Frenchimmunologist at ceremony in Vienna for his immune-response based diagnostictool that predicts the risk of relapse for cancer patients
  • Galon's invention works by counting immune cells neartumour sites
  • The technology provides clearer, more completeanalysis of a person's cancer, enabling doctors to provide better treatment

Vienna/Munich, 20 June 2019 - The European Patent Office (EPO) today honoured French immunologist Jérôme Galon with the European Inventor Award 2019 in the "Research"category at a ceremony held in Vienna. Galon has developed adiagnostic cancer test based on a patient's immune response that enables doctorsto have a more complete picture of the person's disease, and, as a result,provide more effective, targeted therapies.

Galon's invention, licensed by the French National Institute of Health and MedicalResearch (INSERM) and brought tomarket under the name Immunoscore® by the company he co-founded, counts thenumber of positive immune cells of a patient at the site of their tumour. It isused at clinics around the world to predict the risk of relapse in patientswith colorectal cancer.

"Jérôme Galon's invention has had a major impact in the field ofoncology," said EPO President António Campinos. "It has alreadyprompted the re-examination of cancer classification schemes and couldultimately give rise to new treatments. By launching a start-up andsuccessfully using patents to commercialise his invention, Galon is bringingthe technology to market so that his research efforts can make a differencewhere it counts most - in helping people."

Today's European Inventor Award ceremony at the Wiener Stadthalle was attended by some 600 guests from the fields of intellectualproperty, politics, business, science and academia. The Award is presented annually by the EPO to distinguish outstandinginventors from Europe and around the world who have made an exceptionalcontribution to society, technological progress and economic growth. Thefinalists and winners in five categories (Industry, Research, SMEs, Non-EPOcountries and Lifetime achievement) were selected by an independentinternational jury from a pool of hundreds ofinventors and teams of inventors put forward for this year'saward.

Recognisingthe importance of the immune system

Jérôme Galon has broken new ground in cancer diagnostics by showing theimpact that a patient's immune system has on successfully fighting the disease."When I started working oncancer, the field was mostly focused on tumour cells," theinventor says. "Butas an immunologist it was clear to me that the immune system plays a major roleas well. By knowing how active his or her immune system is, we can predict if acancer patient is at high risk or low risk of recurrence. Thisenables doctors to not only classify cancers more precisely, but also to givepatients the most effective therapies, without over-treating them."

Following many years of intense research, Galon developed an in-vitrodiagnostic tool that quantifies the immune response of cancer patients. CalledImmunoscore, it works by analysing a small tissue sample surgically removed from theprimary tumour of a patient. It monitors the cancer site,counting immune 'cytotoxic' T cells, which destroy cancerous or virally-infected cells.The more of these immune cells are found in tumours, the better the patient'schances of survival. To conduct the test, a specialised scanner takes digital images of the tumour sample on whichthe software counts the number of positive immune cells. An algorithm thencalculates an overall Immunoscore for the patient based on T cellconcentrations. This provides doctors with greater insight into both theseverity of the cancer, and the risk of patients relapsing and dying indifferent stages of treatment.

Galon filed his initialpatent application for Immunoscore in 2005. More patent applications followedfor many other aspects of the invention, and the French researcher is now namedas inventor on 15 European patents. To bring his test to market, Galon co-founded theMarseille-based company HalioDx as a spin-off in 2014 and currently serves as chairman of its scientificadvisory board. "It is veryrewarding to transform basic research into real life," he says. The companycurrently has some 160 employees and licenses Galon's Immunoscore patents from INSERM.

Speaking about patents, theinventor says that the company was supported by venture capital from the startand investors looked hard at how deep and broad their patents were. "Without thepatents I would not have been able to raise the capital needed," Galon says.

Galon, who trained as an immunologist at the PasteurInstitute and the Curie Institute in Paris, received his PhD in immunology fromJussieu University in Paris in 1996. After working as a postdoctoral researcherat the National Institutes of Health in the US, Galon returned to Paris in 2001to run a research group funded by INSERM. Today he is Director of Research atINSERM andhead of theLaboratory of Integrative Cancer Immunology at the Cordeliers Research Center.

Clinicsaround the world now use the Immunoscore scanner with patients with colorectalcancer, where it has shown a 95% likelihood of predicting the overall survivalof people with this form of cancer. The company has also launched a lung cancertest, and the inventor hopes that it can be used on many types of cancer in thefuture. Thanks to Galon'sinvention, doctors can now apply a greater level of accuracy when selecting, dosing,and otherwise tailoring treatments to individual patients.

Media materials for Jérôme Galon

Note to editors: availability of media material on 20June 2019

  • All photo, videoand text material about the European Inventor Award finalists can be downloadedin the EPOmedia centre
  • Print-quality photos from theAward ceremony will be available from 11:30 CET onwards
  • License-free and cost-freeaudio-visual materialof the ceremony and winners in HD and SD quality will be available from15:30 CET
  • The award ceremony will be broadcast live on the EPO website, the EPO's Facebook page and via theEPO's "Innovation TV" Smart TV app; the ceremony will alsosubsequently be available on demand via those channels as well

About the European Inventor Award

The European Inventor Award is one of Europe'smost prestigious innovation prizes. Launched by the EPO in 2006, it honoursindividual inventors and teams of inventors whose pioneering inventions provideanswers to some of the biggest challenges of our times. To qualify for the Award,all proposals have to meet specific criteria, including the requirement thatthe inventor had to have been granted at least one European patent for theirinvention by the EPO. The finalists and winners in five categories are selectedby an independent jury of international authorities in the fields ofbusiness, politics, science, academia and research who examine the proposals interms of their contribution towards scientific and technological progress, society,economic prosperity and job creation in Europe. The winner of the Popular Prize is chosen by the general public from among the 15 finalists byonline voting in the run-up to the ceremony. This year's 15 finalists wereselected from hundreds of proposals put forward by members of the public,national patent offices around Europe, and EPO staff.

About the EPO

With nearly 7 000 staff, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public service institutions inEurope. Headquartered in Munich with offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague andVienna, the EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation onpatents in Europe. Through the EPO's centralised patent granting procedure,inventors are able to obtain high-quality patent protection in up to 44countries, covering a market of some 700 million people. The EPO is also theworld's leading authority in patent information and patent searching.

Media contactsEuropean Patent Office

Jana Mittermaier
Director External Communication

Rainer Osterwalder
Press Spokesperson

EPO Press Desk
Tel. +49 89 2399 1833
Mobile: +49 16 3839 9527

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