Plus de points de suture internes, le pari d’une start-up française

No more internal stitches, the bet of a French start-up

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Surgery without internal stitches, with the key to a better recovery for patients: this is the ultimate goal of this revolutionary product.

It is in Roncq, in the north of France, that the company’s production site has recently been established. In the quality control laboratory, technicians check the process at regular intervals. For the demonstration, the viscous polymer-based gel is deposited on paper: a short blue filament which, photo-activated, will “solidify” in less than thirty seconds.

You have to imagine the same effect in the human body, to allow for example severed nerves to regenerate and reconnect, without having to resort to sutures: the gel will act like a glue, before resorbing naturally in several months. The objective is to use this polymer to repair tissues, while limiting potential trauma related to surgery.

Tissium started in 2013, under the name of Gecko Biomedical, when Christophe Bancel, its leader and co-founder, became aware of the work of researchers from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, in pediatric cardiac surgery. A starting point that the engineer by training, brother of the founder of biotech Moderna, wanted to extend to more therapeutic areas.

This new material is currently being developed in three applications: the repair of peripheral nerves, the treatment of ventral hernias to fix the reinforcement implant, in place of the screws currently used, and that of suture leaks in cardio- vascular.

The era of polymers

“For a doctor, this allows for faster and more consistent results. We see a faster recovery in animals, this remains to be confirmed in humans, ”explains Christophe Bancel.

But who says new material says new processes. Everything had to be done, recalls the manager. “We have to build everything. “In particular a filtration and purification machine, which had to be adapted from an existing machine, an assembly of tanks and reactors which occupies one of the laboratories on the ground floor of the factory.

A liter of polymer is produced there in several hours, which represents nearly 2,000 syringes. The machine, which uses supercritical CO2 under high pressure – which allows the gel to pass through a state where it is neither liquid, nor solid, nor vaporous – cost the trifle of a million euros.

After years of research and several fundraisers, including 50 million euros last year, Tissium will launch several clinical studies on humans this year, in the United States, France and Australia.

The company is not alone in taking a keen interest in the use of polymers in medicine. Because these materials have interesting qualities for health.

“A polymer is in fact just a series of molecules (monomers) assembled together by chemical bonds”, explains Sophie Guillaume, director of research at the Institute of Chemical Sciences in Rennes. While some are found in nature, such as starch or proteins, others are synthetic, developed by man. “Whether for the release of active ingredients, the reconstruction of tissues, for prostheses, for diagnostics, there are many applications for polymers in the medical field, as long as they are biocompatible”, underlines Ms. Guillaume.

“With this technology, I think that a non-nerve surgeon could have results as good as a specialist,” said Dr. Dominic Power, a surgeon specializing in peripheral nerve repair, who tests the products of Tissium. “This would reduce the time of operation, reduce costs for hospitals and risks for patients,” says the Briton, also a lecturer at the University of Birmingham. If all goes well, Tissium surgical adhesives could be marketed in the United States at the end of 2023, hopes Christophe Bancel.

Marie-Morgane LE MOEL/AFP

Surgery without internal stitches, with the key to a better recovery for patients: this is the ultimate goal of this revolutionary product. It is in Roncq, in the north of France, that the company’s production site has recently been established. In the quality control laboratory, technicians check the process at regular intervals….


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