Institut Curie celebrates the centenary of Marie Curie’s trip to the United States

Catherine Goupillon
10/28/2021
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In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Marie Curie’s voyage to the United States in 1921, Institut Curie is paying tribute to this historic event by embarking on a “following in Marie Curie’s footsteps” trip on November 8 and 9, 2021.
Voyage Marie Curie aux Etats-Unis, 1921

A century after her triumphant tour across the Atlantic, Institut Curie delves back into the story of a donation that forever changed the course of scientific history and had a lasting impact on Marie Curie’s research. Institut Curie is also seizing the centenary celebrations as an opportunity to announce plans to establish France’s first Chemical Biology  center.

A gram of radium gifted by the women of America

In an exceptional interview conducted in 1920, American journalist Marie Mattingly Meloney asked Marie Curie “If you had the whole world to choose from, what would you take?”. The latter responded: “I would wish for a gram of radium to facilitate my research”. This radioactive chemical element she discovered with Pierre Curie in 1898 contains therapeutic benefits essential to fighting cancer. Marie Mattingly Meloney was a feminist icon at a time when women had just been granted the right to vote. Fascinated by the scientist, she set up a fundraiser to raise $100,000 from American women to allow Marie Curie to buy her gram of radium.

As part of the fundraising campaign, Marie Meloney invited Marie Curie on an honorary trip to the United States. After a week-long crossing, the scientist arrived at New York on May 11 1921, and embarked on a triumphant adventure that would take close to six and a half weeks. During her time in America, Marie Curie visited the country’s most famous universities, such as Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, giving conferences, accepting honorary doctorates, and touring research laboratories. On May 20, 1921, Marie Curie was invited to the White House, where American President Warren Harding gifted her a gram of radium. The Fondation Curie was set up at the same time.

A “following in Marie Curie’s footsteps” commemorative trip to take place on November 8 and 9, 2021

This trip shines a light on the unbreakable bond that binds Marie Curie and the United States, and in particular the friendship between the scientist and journalist Marie Meloney.

A century on, in a tribute to the generosity of American women, an event will take place on the morning of Monday November 8, 2021 at the French embassy in Washington D.C., featuring an unprecedented and historic meeting between the descendants of the two families: Marc Joliot and Yves Langevin, Marie Curie’s great-grandsons, will travel from France to meet Sean Meloney, Marie Mattingly Meloney’s great-great-granddaughter.

That afternoon, a scientific conference will take place on the fight against cancer and how chemical biology can be put to use in treating cancer.

Finally, a gala dinner will be held on November 9, 2021 at New York’s Harvard Club, overseen by Mrs Schwarzman and Dr. Susan Blumenthal, and attended by a number of high-profile guests.

At the cutting edge of innovation: France’s very first Chemical Biology center to be set up at Institut Curie

Institut Curie is also seizing the centenary celebrations as an opportunity to announce plans to establish France’s first Chemical Biology center. Resolutely inter-disciplinary with high valuation potential, this unique center aims to develop new diagnostics tools and ground-breaking therapeutic approaches in the field of oncology.

Understanding the underlying mechanisms in tumor growth, identifying new vulnerabilities in cancerous cells, and discovering small biologically-active molecules to develop drug candidates specifically: these are the three core aims behind this budding project spearheaded at Institut Curie by two researchers, Fatima Mechta-Grigoriou, Inserm research director at Institut Curie, and Raphaël Rodriguez, CNRS research director at Institut Curie.

Celebrating 100 years of the Fondation Curie

Fondation Curie was founded in May 1921, thanks to the financial support of Dr. Henri de Rothschild. Its aim was to foster an idea born of the fruitful collaboration between Marie Curie, an exceptional researcher in every regard, and a visionary doctor, Dr. Claudius Regaud. The foundation was established exactly one hundred years ago. The story of Institut Curie unfolds across a century of scientific genius supported by the generosity of donors. “To this day, this private philanthropy lies at the heart of what we are. Donations, along with government funding, are the reason we are able to remain both innovative and independent. Institut Curie’s fight against cancer, which is characterized by a three-pronged TREATMENT-EDUCATION-RESEARCH approach, draws on the same model. Celebrating our centenary is both an opportunity to remind ourselves of our commitment to the values of our illustrious founders, and to ensure their legacy lives on in concrete terms, both now and in the future,” explains Prof. Thierry Philip, Chairman of Institut Curie’s Executive Board.

While major breakthroughs have been made, numerous significant challenges lie ahead, including prevention, screening, early diagnosis, tumor characterization, personalized and precise treatment, targeted therapies, innovation, and artificial intelligence.

Institut Curie, France’s leading cancer center, combines an internationally-renowned research center with a cutting-edge hospital group, treating all types of cancer, including the rarest. Founded in 1909 by Marie Curie, Institut Curie’s three sites (Paris, Saint-Cloud and Orsay) are home to over 3,700 researchers, doctors, and healthcare professionals working on its three missions: treatment, research and teaching. As a foundation that has enjoyed public utility status since 1921, Institut Curie is authorized to accept donations and bequests, and thanks to the support of its donors, is able to accelerate discoveries and improve patient treatment and quality of life. Find out more at curie.fr

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Jean-Wilfried Kemajou                                    Catherine Goupillon                  Elsa Champion

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Press release (in French)