The C4Diagnostics team in its laboratory at the Parc Scientifique et Technologique de Luminy in Marseille

R&D developments in Provence to fight against coronavirus

Of the health companies that began operating in the region with the backing of Provence Promotion, three have been directly involved in fighting the novel coronavirus. Their virus testing and detecting innovations illustrate the R&D potential in Aix-Marseille-Provence. Scientific entrepreneurs in our region have proven very responsive.

Thanks to them, it should become easier by the day for everyone to resume activities with the assurance they are healthy, reconnect with older family members or see coworkers without fear of contaminating them. The supply of approved unit tests is expanding each day. Moreover, on May 21, 2020, the Ministry of Health published an initial list of 23 serological tests approved by the CNR (France’s national referencing center).

Medtech firm xRapid is actively engaged in the fight against coronavirus

As soon as virus emerged, Jean Viry-Babel, CEO of the London-based firm that transferred its R&D center to Aix-en-Provence in 2016, sought to adapt the start-up’s technology to diagnosing COVID-19. The company leveraged its expertise in artificial intelligence applied to diagnostics to build xRcovid, an app that can read and interpret coronavirus rapid blood tests.

In the throes of the crisis, the start-up made its mobile app available free of charge to health authorities such as the public hospital systems in Greater Marseille and Greater Paris (AP-HM and AP-HP). It will soon be released to the public. It ensures that your test model is reliable and fully secures its interpretation of results so that you can know if you were sick without symptoms and whether you are carrying the virus (if so, medical care would obviously be required).

At Gémenos, GeneStore is manufacturing PCR tests.

The other testing possibility, which should become widespread in private laboratories and even more so in medical facilities, is RT-PCR, a method that uses a DNA sample collected with a swab.

In the region, the biotechnology firm GeneStore(1) just received approval for its SARS-Cov-2 detection kit. Founded at Gémenos by Indian scientist Anubhav Anusha the company announced that it can manufacture one million kits per month in the Provence laboratory.TheseCE-labeled kits are made in France and offered to healthcare professionals at the unit price of €6.50. With a view to the mass testing campaigns to come, it will first be sold in Europe, starting with France, Spain, Germany and Switzerland.

(1) GeneStore France is part of the GeneStore Global Group which operates ISO 13485/ISO 15189 labs at four sites around the world and employees over 50 people. In 2019 Anubhav Anusha bought the ICDD laboratory at Gémenos with help from Provence Promotion.

COVID-19 detection with C4Diagnostics

At the request of the marine firefighter squadron of Marseille and the City of Marseille, last April the start-up C4Diagnoctis(2), an infectious disease specialist, launched a solution to detect the virus’s presence in the environment by creating a new business unit C4Services. Samples are collected by swabbing the surfaces to be tested or using a biocollector, then analyzed at the central laboratory with the gold standard method, RT-PCR.

After developing this solution, C4Diagnostics teamed up with the companies Enalees and Bertin Technologies to design a test administered with a portable device that yields results in just 15 minutes: the BEC-Sars-Cov-2. For now it is marketed for environmental tests (enclosed, remote environments, such as boats) and is being evaluated with a view to approval for medical use.

(2) C4Diagnostics is an innovative company spun off in 2017 from Diamidex, which was founded in 2014 upon the merger of three biotech start-ups: C4Hydro, C4Biocontrol and Click4Tag. The latter was supported by Provence Promotion when it was created by two researchers, Sam Dukan from the CNRS/AMU Marseille and Boris Vauzeilles of the ICSN (Institute for the Chemistry of Natural Substances) and the ICMMO (Institute for Molecular and Materials Chemistry) in Greater Paris.

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