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Published: 14 January 2014  
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Innovation  |  Health & life sciences


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Developing cutting-edge technologies that save lives

Belgian company Ion Beam Applications is developing and commercialising cutting-edge technologies and pharmaceutical and customised solutions in the field of oncology, used by some 3 000 hospitals worldwide. Its innovative proton therapy solution has been designed from the ground up to meet the needs of patients and clinicians. It is more affordable, easier to install and operate and offers a shorter time to first patient treated.

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Every year 3.2 million Europeans are diagnosed with various forms of cancer. Although great advances continue to be made in research and treatment, the disease remains a serious health concern. The European Union has therefore taken action on various fronts to both save lives and improve cancer survivors’ quality of life.

Backing innovative cancer therapy
One such initiative saw the EIB provide financing to Belgian multi-national Ion Beam Applications (IBA) for its research and development projects in the fields of cancer diagnosis and therapy. Headquartered in Louvain-la-Neuve and employing more than 1 200 people worldwide, IBA has installed systems across Europe and the US and is expanding into emerging markets.

With a EUR 50m loan under the Risk Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF), a joint European Commission-EIB programme for RDI projects, the project matches the EU objective of establishing a competitive knowledge-based economy and the EIB’s priority objective of backing research, development and innovation in Europe.

Supporting effective non-invasive treatments
Conducted between 2010 and 2013, activities comprise research, development, clinical trials and regulatory approvals related to the development of new products and to optimising and further developing existing products and equipment for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

IBA is heavily investing in proton therapy, which is considered by many as one of the most effective forms of non-invasive cancer treatments.

“Proton therapy is increasingly seen as the ultimate radiotherapy for cancer due to its superior dose distribution,” says IBA’s Chief Financial Officer Jean-Marc Bothy. “Higher doses can be delivered to the tumour without increasing the risks of side effects and long-term complications, improving outcomes and quality of life for patients,” he explains.

Unfortunately, up until now, few patients have benefited from this type of treatment due to its high cost and size. However, thanks to the RSFF financing, IBA has gone some way to changing perceptions with its therapy.

Bringing affordable solutions to market
The technology is bringing an affordable solution to the market and making proton therapy more accessible for more hospitals worldwide and therefore more patients.

“Physicians will be in a position to deliver the most effective clinical cancer treatment known as Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy to the benefit of patients. This new proton therapy system is not only simpler to install and operate, it is also more easily financeable,” adds Bothy.

Prototypes have already been developed and, according to Bothy, this cutting-edge technology will be available to hospitals worldwide as early as 2015.

Crucially, this innovation could save many lives in the years to come. In addition, support for such innovative therapies helps to cut healthcare costs and will make sure Europe’s industry keeps its competitive edge in the future.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has joined forces with the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) to support a major investment programme, planned by UCL for the period up to 2005 in order to modernise some of its teaching and research infrastructure and construct student accommodation. The scheduled investments amount to EUR 170m, of which EUR 100m has already been the subject of a decision by the Board of Directors. The EIB finance contract for EUR 80m was officially signed on Monday 16 May 2011 in Louvain-la-Neuve in the presence of Bruno Delvaux, Rector of the UCL, and Dominique Opfergelt, Director General of the UCL.

This collaboration represents a first in the area of education in Belgium’s French-speaking Community, for both the EIB and the UCL.


Project details

  • Project acronym: Ion Beam Applications
  • Participants: Belgium (Coordinator)
  • Project FP7 260043
  • Total costs: €118 000 000
  • EU contribution: €50 000 000
  • Duration: December 2009

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