Our first CAMPUS initiative for the Rare Cancer KIC saw the creation of a Rare Cancer Summer School.

Organising efforts between GE Healthcare (Co-ordinator) and Oxford University allowed 29 students from all over European attend a 2-week summer school on innovation in the field of rare Cancers. The first week was held in Budapest, Hungary at GE Healthcare headquarters.  Students became familiar with the societal and market challenges of rare cancers, new technological approaches to addressing these challenges and were informed of the current needs of patients.  Students were encouraged to create an innovative business proposal of a product or service that could be integrated into the market to help alleviate some of the current challenges.  The second week in Oxford saw students develop their first week business proposals further based on innovation by design modelled on that of Stanford.  Business innovation and entrepreneur experts met with the student teams to discuss their ideas and how they could be developed for their final pitching session to experts on the final day of the Summer School.

The aim behind the structure of the program was to translate the business ideas to actual products and start-ups. Therefore, the topics addressed included business funding routes and angels, clinical practice challenges, innovative solution examples, business strategy and economics. A novel and useful addition to this week’s program was the field trips to Oxford University Hospital Cancer Centre and Oxford Gene Technology- a major biotech business. The teams had the opportunity not only to privately discuss their ideas with key-people and senior staff members but also to get feedback and optimize their product to better fit the needs of the end-users. Attending a real rare cancer MDT also gave the students an insight on how diagnosis and decision making in treating rare cancer is done, as well as the throw-backs and inefficiencies.

The outline of the key messages that the teams took into consideration when developing their products, were the following:

  • Although statistics dictate that 20% of cancer diagnoses each year are rare cancers, currently there is an uncovered need in diagnosing and treating on the market.
  • Effective solutions should be built upon four major components: i) education gaps ii) lack of established diagnostic and treatment guidelines iii) bridging expertise iv) patient access and involvement
  • A holistic approach should be used to develop a systems solution to each of these challenges, rather than several separate ones. This would not only be more appealing to investors and customers but also ensure the high standard and interoperability of the services delivered.
  • The success of a product brought to market depends on a multidisciplinary team effort and the feedback from the potential users. Innovation is a risk and the teams should be determined and strong minded while being flexible and keeping an open-mind.
  • Innovation nests in either introducing a new product/service or optimizing an existing one. Although securing funding might be quite competitive, there are several field-specific funding routes available.

According to the students’ assessment of the week, the program was well-structured and informative. They evaluated the whole experience highly and stated that the knowledge they gained drove them to re-think and modify their projects. The teams pitched ten brilliant ideas in front of a panel of scientists and professionals of a diverse background, who approached the problem from a different perspective. The assessment panel had to redistribute the prizes due to the high quality of the presentations and therefore three teams were awarded second place and 1000 euros each and one team was awarded first place and 3000 euros.