Lyon, Nuggets of French Care

By Lara Rinaldi

What if, tomorrow, artificial intelligence helps improve the management of serious illness? The project is led by Manity, a company born out of a meeting between Philip Blasquez and CNRS researcher Paul-Antoine Liberal. The former worked for ten years developing a business for a French subsidiary of a biotechnology company before deciding to become its own boss. “At the time, Paul-Antoine was developing a chip to study the behavior or swallowing migratory movements of penguins,” the entrepreneur explained. Outside of pure basic research, I thought his work might have concrete applications in terms of health. A

Philip Blasquez then joined the Executive Master of the Polytechnic, where he proposed his project during group work. On this occasion he collaborated with Pascal Garcin, an entrepreneur himself, who will be the third co-founder of Manity, created in November 2021. Supported by the X Incubator, the trio has created a tool that is low-level, capable. Analyze data from the brains of both humans and animals. Attached to this small box, thanks to a cable, are placed one or more sensors at the level of the limbs. Through Bluetooth, the machine sends data to an application installed on the smartphone.

Philip Blasquez said: “Usually, a lot of equipment is needed to carry out these studies, especially in a hospital environment. There, the collected data is tested by a platform that we have designed. It provides predictive information and diagnostic support using artificial intelligence.”

If, for the moment, Manity is still in development, the device has already been tested on animals for a partnership established with veterinary clinics. “Ultimately, we want to offer our innovations in hospital and city medicine, so that remote patient monitoring can be improved and the evolution of serious or chronic disease can be predicted,” the entrepreneur points out.

Helping children to take their medicine

For its part, Ludocare seeks to improve the treatment of patients with chronic diseases, founded in 2017 by Alexandra de la Fontaine, Thierry Bassett and Elody Loisel. “We want to help children learn better about medicine, because good habits are learned from an early age,” explains Alexandra de la Fontaine.

For this, the company envisioned a “connected partner”, a small robot that tells the child when and how to treat him. “He guided her through humorous and explanatory videos, the manager explained. Through imitation, he is invited to reproduce the gestures shown on the robot’s touch screen, before being rewarded with various multimedia content that suits his tastes. Programmable by parents, via a mobile application, the tool adapts to dosage and family limitations to establish a routine for medications.

Not yet marketed, the device is now being tested with volunteer families and is currently focusing on respiratory illnesses such as asthma. Ludocare plans to offer its robot, built entirely in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, via subscription. “The goal is to educate the child so that he or she is fully autonomous in taking medication,” Alexandra Fontaine underlines. To anticipate commercialization and, for patients, partial coverage of costs, the company must conduct a clinical study. A long process that requires a financial investment: “We hope to raise funds soon,” the leader said.

A fund to promote investment in digital health

To support these companies that specialize in digital health, Bpifrance has launched “Automatic Patient” in 2018. Today, rich with 100 million euros, the fund has already made it possible to finance nine start-ups, including Novell. Originally from Lyon, the company, now the majority owned by La Post, is the origin of Covidom, a platform that allows remote observation of Covid-19 patients.

“The crisis has accelerated demand, which is why, in July 2021, we welcome new investors to offer tickets on average three to four million euros,” said Chahra Luafi, director of the Autonomous Patient Fund.

With its funding and support, it hopes to reduce health costs. “We are seeing an increase in chronic diseases and an aging population. At the same time, the number of health workers is decreasing. We have no choice: we need to find a solution and I think digital health companies are part of the answer, “said Chahra Luafi.

Same standard: French Care

To support them, Bpifrance has also created its own incubator dedicated to the sector. Ludocare was part of the first campaign backed by the Public Investment Bank. “When it comes to health, the market is more regulated, so the business model can’t be like the classic start-up,” said Alexandra de la Fontaine.

In order to bring all the players together and create coordination, a movement was born: French Care. Like French Tech, it brings together the various stakeholders in the ecosystem: health institutions, mutual insurance companies, patients, large and small companies … ” Its purpose is to bring regional initiatives out of isolation, to cross-reference the perspectives of different actors, and to speak with one voice when working with regulators, whether in the French state or in the European Union. A

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