Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women today and yet is still not very well-known. Why is this?
Endometriosis is a condition which affects women of child-bearing age. It is caused by tissue similar to the endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus, developing outside the uterus and causing lesions, adhesions and cysts in colonized organs (ovaries, bladder, colon and intestine). These lesions and cysts are extremely painful and very debilitating, particularly during menstruation. 40% of women affected by this condition also suffer from serious fertility problems. To date, there is no definitive treatment and only an early diagnosis will allow the impact of this evolutive disease to be limited. And yet today, it is estimated that endometriosis is only diagnosed between 7 and 9 years after the first symptoms appear.
40% of women affected suffer from infertility
Why is this diagnosis so late?
The disease is still not very well-known to the general public and health professionals. The symptoms of endometriosis (stomach pains, infertility) are common to many conditions. There are no simple tests to detect this disease which can take many forms. Medical imaging can detect an abnormality, but only surgery can confirm that it really is endometriosis.
And so Endodiag is working on this diagnosis phase...
Yes. About 10 years ago, while I was talking to friends who had been affected by the disease, I understood just how difficult their lives were, both physically and psychologically, because of misdiagnosis and also because family and colleagues did not understand. I then met my future partners, health professionals leading research on understanding the disease. We set up Endodiag together, convinced that faster and more accurate diagnosis of the disease could change patients' lives.
What stage are you at in your research?
After a long exploratory research phase based on rare preliminary work carried out by scientists, followed by the analysis of samples from patients from all over the world, we were able to work on different hypotheses and develop new lines of diagnosis based on blood biomarkers in particular. In 2018, we launched a worldwide clinical trial to validate these hypotheses on a large scale. The Covid-19 crisis will delay us a little as clinical tests that do not concern serious conditions have been paused everywhere in the world. In any case, we now have enough data to start the industrialization and regulatory approval of the tests this year, with the aim of putting them on the market at the end of 2021.
The international dimension is a factor that should be taken into account as soon as possible
With hindsight, what are the main points to be aware of when undertaking a project like this one?
In a project as complicated and as long as this one, the combination of skills and ability to bring them into the venture at the right time is a key factor. This is also valid for our financial partners. The international dimension is also a factor that should be taken into account as early as possible, by setting up clinical and scientific collaborations.
What the partner says
Karine Lignel, CEO at Crédit Mutuel Innovation
Women suffering from endometriosis can be seriously debilitated in their private and working lives as well as in their plans for motherhood. Allowing them to know very quickly whether or not they are affected by this condition, without having to have an operation, and thus to follow treatment as early as possible, is a fundamental issue for us. As concerns both the founders and the staff, the Endodiag team has brought together specialist and complementary skills, meaning they can work on fast, non-invasive diagnosis and thus relieve the pain and concerns of the women affected. Our work alongside them is in line with our desire to accelerate and support innovations that can have a real impact on the society in which we live.
Endodiag in brief:
Endodiag was set up 10 years ago by 4 partners with complementary expertise. : Cécile Réal, a biomedical engineer and entrepreneur, Jean Bouquet de Jolinière, a surgeon in gynecology and obstretrics, Jean Gogusev, a cytologist and pathologist, and Patrick Henri, a business developer specialized in biotechnology.
With the support of private investors, including Crédit Mutuel Innovation, the start-up also received the help from the public authorities. The importance of its research work on new methods of diagnosing endometriosis allowed it to receive substantial funding in 2017 from the European Commission (H2020-SME Instrument).