In 2021, tuberculosis has increased: for the first time in 10 years, the number of deaths has risen, according to the World Health Organization’s global report. It talks about the health crisis, but also the difficult access to screening centers in Sub-Saharan African countries in particular. According to WHO estimates, 4.1 million people worldwide suffer from tuberculosis but have not been diagnosed. To facilitate access to tests and therefore be protected, the company EpiLAB has developed a portable rapid screening kit since 2020. In March 2021, the start-up raised 1 million euros including bpifrance, CIC and business angels.
“Today, to diagnose tuberculosis, we often use microscopy or PCR. It requires infrastructure and qualified personnel: two things that are seriously lacking in developing countries,” he explained. Clement Dubois, co-founder of EpiLAB. The group of 10 people has thus designed a kit that frees itself from these barriers, which is sold for 5 euros and the result is delivered within 2 hours.
Scientific and strategic partners
The diagnosis is based on a so -called enzymatic reaction: enough of the respiratory sample to make a detection strip and an electrochemical chip that responds, indicating or not the presence of mycobacteria responsible for tuberculosis. This process was patented by two researchers from the University of Burgundy: Murielle Rochelet and Elodie Barbier, is now fully associated with the project. Scientific support on which the two founders relied, powered by the intervention of the SATT network (companies accelerating technology transfer) that supports the advancement of public scientific research in companies.
Incubated by Ecole polytechnique (Yvelines), EpiLAB conducts tests there on non-dangerous pathogens, but cooperates with the center for the fight against tuberculosis at Bichat hospital coming, very regularly, to make tests on more harmful pathogens. sample. In addition to scientific and logistical support, there is also strategic support: “We are advised by experts from the Mérieux Foundation and people who have worked for the largest organizations such as WHO or Action contre la Faim. They have very good work ethic. understanding of public and private partnerships that allow them to get help or finance. They are advisors on important topics »emphasizes Maurice Lubetzkico-founder.
One million Euros
Although well supported, there is still a long way to go before the test can be deployed on a large scale. All product layers are now working, but the technical adjustments are not over yet. Fundraising of one million euros should be made possible to expedite this process, especially thanks to the recruitment of R&D personnel. ”The kit should be available in the field by 2023, but the regulatory path could slower.The challenge of this million is to finalize our product to start WHO procedures, to be allowed to sell everywhere.added Maurice Lubetzki.
At the same time, the clients ’question is particularly complex:“ Our clients are governments, NGOs or networks of private clinics, but the payer is potentially the global fund or private foundation like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. underlined Clément Dubois.Already in contact with health authorities in Togo and Benin, the first tests should be deployed in West Africa within a few years.
With this first million, EpiLAB is considering its next funding. The start-up estimates the industrialization of the kit at 5 million euros: an amount it expects to raise in the second fundraiser, scheduled for the first half of 2023. The two founders aim for profitability for 2027 and ultimately desired mimic their model and face screening for other diseases.
March 24: World Tuberculosis Day
Exactly 140 years ago, German physician Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacillus responsible for tuberculosis. Today, this disease affects 9.9 million people worldwide, and was responsible for 1.5 million deaths by 2020. It is the second deadliest infectious disease in the world, behind Covid-19.