pancreatic cancers, a growing epidemic “, rare, but constantly increasing: approximately +10% since the 1980s. Above all, its prognosis, among the darkest in oncology, has hardly improved, unlike that of other tumors. According to forecasts, by 2030 they could even become the second leading cause of cancer death, behind bronchial tumors. In Charente, for example, the detection of patients with tumors has increased by 51% since 2008.
20% of operable cases
With poor prognosis, it is only in small steps that medicine must apprehend patients, in particular for the traditional treatment under the triptych “surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy”, disconcerted by the low rate of remission. “There are only 20% of operable casessays Sébastien Papot. And again, when the disease is detected early enough, often by chance. » Faced with the disease, a patient should hardly survive more than 12 months on average.
Seekyo’s idea: therapeutic vectorization. The concept, which has given rise to a considerable variety of nanotechnological tools, is unknown to the general public. However, it is one of the most innovative in modern medicine. The idea is “Associate drugs with molecular structures capable of transporting the active ingredient they contain to the exact place where it must take action in an organ, tissue or cell”, then specifies Sébastien Papot. At the beginning of September, the scientist, in the middle of a conference of the prestigious European Federation of Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology (1), projects a huge image of a spaceship in the process of firing a tumor, in front of a sealed floor.
New molecules capable of searching, detecting and destroying tumors.
“Well, I was a little too strong, but the idea is thatconcede. It is about creating new anticancer molecules capable of searching for, detecting and destroying tumors without affecting healthy tissue. » Why do these cancers resist chemotherapy? The effectiveness of a drug would depend on the state of compression of the tumor: the more the cancer cells squeeze their neighbors, sick or healthy, the less the chemotherapy works. It’s like getting into a crowded subway car to join someone at the other end of the cabin without touching anyone else. SKY01 then appears as a real head, only active in the presence of the tumor, in contact with it. So we talk about “smart drug”.
“The tendons of war, in this area, are money and timeconcedes Outy Chetboun, president of Seekyo. This is basic research. There, our strength is that after years of testing in mice, the results are more than positive because the toxicity is minimal or even non-existent. The data is even such as to engage in human testing. » A considerable advance in this stage of research that could pave the way, in the long term, to commercialization (box).
Sébastien Papot moderates: “You want a scoop, men are not mice, so we’ll see how patients react first. Research time is not media time. We are aware of the hopes and expectations that this may raise, but nothing has been done. The adventure begins now. »
(1) The professor works at the Institute of Chemistry of Media and Materials of the University of Poitiers (IC2MP).
No money, no research. The rule is immemorial. In the scientific world, we are even witnessing a decline in French prestige: half-staff publications, diminishing financial means, low salaries, fractures between rich and poor, incumbent and precarious laboratories, would even mark the end of the exception of the French model in the global landscape. “Today the competition is fierce, it is out of the question for laboratories to finance a project before the testsconfesses Sébastien Papot. Scientists, like us, go through the creation of new companies and must take all the risks, for better or worse. » On January 20, 2020, his company Seekyo announced a first fundraiser of €800,000. In 2021, 650,000 euros were still raised from business angels (donors) and Bpifrance. While his team is ready to finally test the drug on patient tumors, Sébastien Papot acknowledges having had to raise almost 1.5 million euros to start the study. More than a third would have been found, “knowing that the development and commercialization of the drug, later, amount to one billion euros”. A phase that would only occur in 6 to 10 years.
Originally four chemistry students, including a Charentais…
Seven years ago, Charente libre reported it on its pages: “Four chemistry students from Poitiers have just founded an association. They are looking to raise money to fund research into a new form of chemotherapy. »
2015, Geoffrey Jabs, originally from L’Isle-d’Espagnac, founded the Therapeutic Impact association in October with three other colleagues from the chemistry faculty. He follows the courses of Sébastien Papot, already awarded in 2011 for his work on “Trojan Horses”, selected for the League Against Cancer Charente Prize worth 25,000 euros. Between two confidences, the teacher-researcher at the head of the team evokes a discovery and “the impossibility of going further due to lack of funds” : “A supposed smart molecule that allows starting chemotherapy without side effects by targeting only diseased cells. » The chemistry apprentices, through the association, will travel throughout the region, including Charente, to raise 550,000 euros. CL readers will also participate worth 1,500 euros.
“It’s a human story first and foremost.explains Charles Ciriac, now a doctoral student in molecular microbiology and president of Therapeutic Impact. We are always active in communicating about Sébastien Papot’s research and its progress, even if his company is now moving into the big leagues. The radiation became immense for what was basically a small structure. This is his strength and an example. At a time when French brains and small labs are going abroad to benefit from larger and more easily accessible funding, Seekyo wants to prosper on the ground. The sector is ultra-competitive, especially in cancer research. Seekyo is clearly doing well.”
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