Polymer Technologies for Tissue Repair: Interview with Christophe Bancel, TISSIUM CEO


TISSIUM, a Paris-based medtech firm, has been named a French Tech 120 company for the 2021 program. TISSIUM, previously called Gecko Biomedical, is developing a suite of polymer technologies and associated delivery devices for tissue repair applications. French Tech 120 is a French government driven program designed to support a total of 120 late-stage startups based in France every year.

The program provides financial and practical support for promising companies, and offers an opportunity for companies to network with other start-ups at a similar stage of development. TISSIUM aims to create polymer solutions for tissue healing and repair following surgical procedures. The idea is that these materials can replace conventional invasive techniques to facilitate tissue repair, such as stapling and suturing.

An example of a polymer in development at TISSIUM is a surgical sealant which can be applied to surfaces in the body and then cured in place using blue light. The company is also developing polymers for high resolution 3D printing to produce scaffolds or implants. Medgadget talked with TISSIUM CEO Christophe Bancel in 2017 about the technology. In this latest interview, we caught up with Christophe to see how the company and its technology is progressing.         

Conn Hastings, Medgadget: Congratulations on being named a French Tech 120 company for the 2021 program. Please give us an overview of what this means, for those who aren’t familiar with the program.

Christophe Bancel, TISSIUM: Thank you, it’s a great honor for us to have an opportunity to participate in this program. French Tech 120 is a program designed to support late-stage French startups that have the potential to become global leaders across a variety of technology verticals. A total of 120 companies are chosen to participate each year, and this will be TISSIUM’s second year in the program, which is being driven by the French government. Through this program, companies will have unlimited access to services in support of international development, funding, go-to-market needs and government-related issues—this support can come from government services or participating partner agencies.

The other advantage with this program is the opportunity we have to connect with other startups at a similar stage of growth, and facing similar challenges—we’re of course already acquainted with a lot of our peers but this offers another chance for collaboration and shared experiences.

Medgadget: Please give us an overview of TISSIUM and its mission.

Christophe Bancel: Our mission at TISSIUM is to reinvent body repair and tissue repair following surgical procedures, and really change the thinking about these functions.

Currently, the most common methods being used to promote tissue repair are fundamentally traumatic to tissue that is affected. As an example, surgical sutures using a needle or staples, tacks and screws haven’t seen much innovation over the last decades, so the trauma triggered by the action is nearly the same as it was when the method was invented decades ago, and they were not invented for body repair, but by craftsmen using inert materials.

At TISSIUM, we are seeking to introduce truly atraumatic tissue repair—we want to change the process fundamentally, move it away from mechanical engineering and closer to human biology by designing reconstruction methods that support the body’s own repair patterns.

Medgadget: How do your polymer technologies improve on existing treatment solutions or address unmet needs?

Christophe Bancel: As I mentioned, we are seeking to restore the form and function of damaged tissue by supporting the body’s pattern of repair, so we have developed a unique solution that combines a platform of proprietary, biomorphic, programmable polymers with tailored delivery and activation solutions, specifically designed for each procedure.

None of our devices or application methods require sutures, nails or bolts. Instead, our material is designed to be fixed to or seamlessly integrated into or around a patient’s tissues. And in application, using novel surgical techniques in open surgery, as well as with laparoscopic or eventually robotic approaches, our polymers allow for atraumatic procedures. Additionally, the polymer can be used in high resolution 3D printing for use as a guide or scaffold.

The potential here is immense, it can be applied to a wide range of situations such as repairing nerves to solving phantom limb pain, or atraumatic hernia repair and the market is wide open here.

Medgadget: Are the polymers and associated delivery devices easy for surgeons to use?

Christophe Bancel: Yes, we have created a system that can be incorporated smoothly into a surgeon’s established routine. We have developed a proprietary manufacturing process, and we designed and built our own manufacturing plant. The plant is ISO 13485:2016 certified and it can handle commercial capacity– it’s here that we produce ready-to-use, fully aseptic pre-filled syringes that are leveraged across our portfolio of devices, in association to dedicated devices specific to each procedure into a fully integrated solution. The syringes dispense the polymers and then they are activated and ‘set’ on-demand after a few seconds of exposure to a visible blue light.

Medgadget: Please give us an overview of the applications for your products and the disease states they are useful in treating.

Christophe Bancel: The first markets we will focus on are sutureless peripheral nerve repair, atraumatic hernia repair, and high-pressure cardiovascular sealing – for each of these areas, we have already developed and industrialized products. We will also look to target Ear Nose and Throat applications, digestive surgery, urology, ophthalmology, neurological sealants, esthetics and localized drug delivery.

We have already received a CE marking for our first product, a vascular sealant used alongside sutures in peripheral vascular surgery—this has validated the technology and our process, and it has given us a platform on which to build out our other products.

Medgadget: Which of the technologies is currently available, or nearing availability?

Christophe Bancel: Our goal is to be a commercial stage company by the end of 2022, and to have a partnership with one or two large MedTech players, hence validating both our product platform value and business model. Our next steps will then be to feed our existing verticals, notably through co-developments with our partners, and also launch additional ones fueled by our innovation engine.

Medgadget: How do you see this type of technology evolving in the future?

Christophe Bancel: We always had in mind that if we were successful with a first product, then we would add a second one, then a third one and a fourth one, etc. So, we have designed and built the organization in a way that, if successful, we can scale the power of this technology and expand it relatively swiftly.

And, if we do succeed in our endeavor, we will both re-invent body repair and create a new business space in Medical Devices, closer to the typical biotech platform model. This, we believe, will create unprecedented value for patients, healthcare systems and investors.

Links: TISSIUM homepage and French Tech 120…

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