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Our History

Institut Curie was born out of the determination of one woman, Marie Curie, and one important cause: the fight against cancer.

Our History

1909: The University of Paris and Institut Pasteur decided to build the Institut du Radium, a giant laboratory for Marie Curie. It was set up just a few streets away from the “hangar” at the school of industrial chemistry and physics, where Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radioactivity with polonium and radium in 1898.

The goal was to create a laboratory for studying radioactivity and its applications not only in physics and chemistry, but also in biology and medicine. The Institut du Radium had two sections: the Curie laboratory, directed by Marie Curie and entirely devoted to physics and chemistry research, and the Pasteur laboratory, directed by Dr. Claudius Regaud and devoted to studying the biological and medical effects of radioactivity. After receiving a joint Nobel Prize with her husband Pierre in 1903, Marie Curie herself won a second Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. World War I broke out just as the Institut du Radium was completed. At the time, Marie Curie used it to teach nurses about radiology, offering the first courses of their kind. Once the war ended, directors Marie Curie and Claudius Regaud proposed a general development project for their institute that would combine research with therapeutic applications.

The Curie Foundation

Marie Curie’s and Claudius Regaud’s efforts to gain additional resources eventually resulted in the Curie Foundation, which was established in 1920. The following year, it was recognized as a public interest institution. The Foundation’s purpose was to fund the Institut du Radium’s activities and contribute to the development of its therapeutic component.

One of its first accomplishments was the clinic it opened in November 1922 on Rue d’Ulm, just a few steps from the Pantheon. At the clinic, Dr. Regaud and his team developed innovative treatments combining surgery and radiation therapy to treat cancer. The Curie Foundation became a model for cancer centers around the world. At the same time, the Curie laboratory continued to play an important role in physics and chemistry research. In 1934, shortly before Marie Curie’s death, her daughter Irène and son-in-law Frédéric Joliot-Curie discovered artificial radioactivity. In 1935, the discovery was recognized with a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Meanwhile, the influx of patients to the Curie Foundation made it clear that a hospital was urgently needed. Several major donations and a government subsidy made that hospital a reality.

The Institut du Radium and the Curie Foundation merged in 1970 to form Institut Curie, with its three missions of research, teaching, and treating cancer. In 1991, Hôpital Claudius-Regaud opened its doors on Rue d’Ulm. In 1995, the Constant-Burg laboratories were inaugurated to house the cellular biology research cluster. In 2000, a renovation program was launched to expand the hospital on Rue d’Ulm. Five years later, another renovation plan was launched, this time doubling the patient capacity of the protontherapy center in Orsay. On January 1, 2010, Institut Curie merged with the Centre René Huguenin to meet future challenges in cancer research.

Find out more

To learn the entire story of Institut Curie and radiation therapy, visit the Curie Museum located in Marie Curie’s former laboratories. The museum offers a wealth of firsthand information, including archival documents, period equipment, talks, and stories for children.

The Curie Museum is located at 1 Rue Pierre et Marie Curie, in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00 pm.

Curie Museum is closed on August.

» Visit the Curie Museum website

Institut Curie