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Research: Patrick Couvreur, Barbara Stella, Véronique Rosilio, Luigi Cattel

Winners of the European Inventor Award 2013 in the category Research

Patrick Couvreur

Nano-medicines: tiny capsules, enormously effective against cancer



Patrick Couvreur, Barbara Stella, Véronique Rosilio, Luigi Cattel


Coated inside minuscule capsules, anti-cancer drugs can be transported straight to diseased cells in the human body, where they take action without harming healthy tissue along the way.

Patent number

EP 1761551 B1


France, Italy

Research institution

Université Paris-Sud & Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique


Medical technology, nanotechnology

The invention in a nutshell

Medicine Prior to the invention of nano-capsules for targeted drug delivery, doctors treating cancer patients with chemotherapy were walking a fine line between cure and poison. Next to stopping the multiplication of cancer cells, the aggressive chemotherapy drugs also damaged healthy tissue.

Packaging the drugs inside minuscule capsules – 70 times smaller than red blood cells and shielded by a biodegradable coating – allows for safe passage through the bloodstream until they reach their intended location. This approach minimises the damage to healthy tissue and allows for higher dosages while offering up to ten times the treatment efficiency of chemotherapy.

Societal benefit

Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide, and the World Health Organization estimates its toll to rise to 13.1 million in 2030. Currently in Stage III clinical trials, Patrick Couvreur’s nano-medicines open up an entire category of new treatments to battle the cancer pandemic.

Economic benefit

Since its founding in 1997, Couvreur’s company BioAlliance Pharma has raised €20.8 ($27.0) million from financial and strategic investors. Nano-capsules for anti-cancer drug delivery are an emerging category on the world oncology market, estimated $72 billion in 2007 with an annual growth rate exceeding other therapeutic areas.

Learn more about this invention

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