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Finnish biology inventors selected as finalists for the European Inventor Award 2024

The husband-and-wife team, Sirpa and Markku Jalkanen, developed a clinical treatment to activate the immune system in fighting cancer cells. They were selected from over 550 candidates as finalists in the ‘SMEs’ category of the European Inventor Award 2024, competing against a French team and a Polish one.

Igniting the immune system to target cancer

Bexmarilimab, the drug developed by this husband-and-wife team, better equips the immune system to fight cancer cells, making it a form of immunotherapy, which is an increasingly important area in cancer treatment. This new treatment aims to overcome resistance to current therapies and improve outcomesOpen link in a new tab. So, when used with standard cancer treatments, Bexmarilimab could enhance their effectiveness and extend the benefits of immunotherapy to more patients with different types of cancer.

Making cancer research a family affair

After meeting just after high school, Sirpa and Markku Jalkanen pursued the same career path, starting in Finland and developing part of their research career in the US. Sirpa, unable to practice clinically in this country, where Markku was pursuing a post doctorate at Stanford, became a leading researcher in lymphocyte migration in the human immune defence system.

Sirpa also serves as the Director of the InFLAMES Flagship, a major collaboration between Turku University and Åbo Akademi University, involving 96 companiesOpen link in a new tab.

Markku pioneered Finnish biotech development while being the first Director of Turku Bioscience Centre within the BioCity community in Turku. Together, they founded Faron Pharmaceuticals in 2007, with their children also having roles in the business and development aspect of the company.

Find more information about the invention’s impact, the technology and the inventors’ stories here.Open link in a new tab

The winners will be announced on 9 July in Malta

The EPO will announce the winners of the different categories during a ceremony livestreamed here from Malta on 9 July 2024. In addition, the EPO will reveal the Popular Prize winner, chosen by online public vote. Voting will remain open until the day of the ceremony.Open link in a new tab

Media contacts

European Patent Office
Luis Berenguer Giménez
Principal Director Communication / EPO spokesperson

EPO press desk
Tel.: +49 89 2399-1833

About the European Inventor Award

The European Inventor Award is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes. Launched by the EPO in 2006, the award honours individuals and teams, who have come up with solutions to some of the biggest challenges of our time. The European Inventor Award jury consists of inventors who are all former finalists. All inventors must have been granted a European patent for their invention.

To judge proposals, the independent panel draws on their wealth of technical, business, and intellectual property expertise. In 2024, the jury is chaired by Wolfgang M. Heckl.

Read more here on the various categories, prizes, selection criteria and livestream ceremony to be held on 9 July in Malta.Open link in a new tab

About the EPO

With 6,300 staff members, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public service institutions in Europe.Open link in a new tab Headquartered in Munich with offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna, the EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. Through the EPO's centralised patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain high-quality patent protection in up to 45 countries, covering a market of some 700 million people. The EPO is also the world's leading authority in patent information and patent searching.

Printable version Latest update 29.05.2024