49 year old Muriel Bardor is making her childhood dream come true, or almost. She started out wanting to battle genetic disorders but ended up finding a way to produce antibodies that could treat some forms of cancer using microalgae… Her start-up, Alga Biologics, has already won several awards including the Normandie4Good prize in 2023.

Seeking an alternative to biopharmaceuticals

Muriel Bardor was a biology research professor at the Université de Rouen Normandie and wanted to find another way to make biopharmaceuticals. Treatments that are so expensive nowadays “that only 5% of the global population has access to”, she says.

After eyeing up plants through her microscope, the Normandy researcher began exploring the power of microalgae. After eight years of basic research, in 2018 she was able to prove that Phaeodactylum (already used in the food and cosmetics industries) could produce antibodies to fight off Hepatitis B, HIV and some forms of cancer (breast, lymphoma).

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Le pouvoir de la mer contre le cancer

Microscopic species, mighty powers

The species may be no bigger than 100 micrometres but it has lots of special assets. It’s easy and inexpensive to produce and naturally traps CO2. Muriel Bardor and her team could use it to make decarbonised and sustainable biopharmaceuticals. The researcher took the plunge in 2021 and launched her start-up, Alga Biologics, alongside Catherine Gallot, an industry expert, Hubert Bonnefond, an entrepreneur, and Normandie Valorisation.

Our aim is to provide more patients with better access to treatment as well as sustainably manufacturing biopharmaceuticals.

Muriel Bardor & Catherine Gallot

The team decided to focus their technology roll-out on producing antibodies to treat neuroblastoma: children’s cancers that are rising in number and affecting 24,000 children worldwide every year.

“It’s especially close to my heart because there are still so few innovative treatments for them. The ones that do exist sell for 1 million dollars in the US and 400,000 euros in Europe with limited success…”.

Fundraising to speed up industrialisation and production

Alga Biologics secured funds with the help of the France 2030 program in November 2023. This enabled the start-up to fund an initial 200l photobioreactor to trial mass production… and stay ahead of the game.

Alga Biologics is still based at Université de Rouen Normandie and is looking for new premises.

Its initial antibody production means the deep tech start-up will be able to conduct preclinical trials until 2025. They will then have human trials in 2026 and go to market around 2032… By then, Alga Biologics will have everything it needs to produce new antibodies capable of treating other types of adult cancers and some autoimmune diseases.

It’s a glimmer of hope for the many patients and their families. 

A few months ago, we were the only people in the world using microalgae to produce antibodies. Now there are projects in Germany and Australia that will speed things up. The challenge for us is to continue to blaze a trail."

The Normandy start-up joins the Index French Blue Tech

Alga Biologics has already won a string of awards and is one of the Index French Blue Tech’s best maritime start-ups in France!
Normandy makes a real splash with 4 selected start-ups:

Start-ups fuelled by Normandy's ecosystem

“As a project leader, Normandy provides us with fantastic support. The local ecosystem empowers us with real goodwill,” says Muriel Bardor.
The Normandy researcher received support from the STERNE pathwayNormandie Incubation and Normandie Valorisation (technology transfer platform at Normandie Université) to help her launch Alga Biologics. Université de Rouen Normandie also provided funding and Alga Biologics was its first time investing in a start-up.

The Norman start-up is also assisted by Genopole, a biotechnology business cluster in Ile-de-France.

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