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Improving cervical cancer detection with Sapiens Biosciences

Provide cutting-edge technology for medical practice and bring patients on the path to recovery are the two objectives of Sapiens Biosciences, the e-pathology start-up created by Louis-Oscar Morel and Nathan Vinçon. She is currently leading the UMMON project, a specialised software in the cervical cancer detection with automatic analysis of tumor markers.

The beginning of Sapiens Biosciences: An atypical course of study

Fondateurs Sapiens Bioscience

Nathan Vinçon (left) - Louis-Oscar Morel (right) |  Co-founders of Sapiens Biosciences

To understand how the start-up was created, it is important to go back to the course of study of the founders Louis-Oscar Morel and Nathan Vinçon. The duo meets at the Lyon-Est medical school in 2016 where they begin studying. They wish to follow a medicine-science course to combine clinical activity and research. At the end of the second year of their medical studies, Louis-Oscar joins school at the INSERM – Liliane Bettencourt while Nathan goes to the Ecole Normale Supérieure at Lyon.

During their first year at INSERM in 2018, Louis-Oscar Morel is a research intern at the Lyon Cancer Research Center during which he studies breast cancer. He does a second internship at the Ludwig Cancer Research at Lausanne in onco-immunology  where he explores the micro-environment of tumours in melanoma. Passionate about onco-immunology but willing to learn computer and statistics as well, he decides to do a second M1 in Bioinformatics at the University of Paris-Saclay in 2019 and in September 2020 starts his M2 in Data Science at the Ecole Polytechnique.


Creation of Sapiens Biosciences

Sapiens Biosciences was founded in April 2019 after more than a year and a half of the development of the project. Why the desire to become an entrepreneur when the founders already have a long and complex course of study?

During my internship at the Lyon Cancer Research Centre, I analyses the tumor markers about breast cancer. “ explains Louis-Oscar. It made me very interested and I discussed it with pathologists. They told me that they face problems with reading the tumor markers in the detection of cervical cancer. Indeed, there are hundreds of thousands of cells on a smear and it is easy to miss a few abnormal ones. The biopsy is always necessary to confirm the diagnosis. This gave me the idea to standardise the analysis of tumor markers to avoid missing potentially cancerous cells.

For carrying out this project, Louis-Oscar contacts Nathan who has better knowledge of computers and artificial intelligence. Sapiens Biosciences combines medicine, molecular biology, mathematics and computers to create cutting-edge solutions for patients.


Strong territorial roots

Based at Mâcon, Sapiens Biosciences joined the DECA-BFC incubator between Dijon and Besançon in October 2019. DECA-BFC is a public incubator that allows financing of local projets. They thus obtained finance from the Mâcon Beaujolais agglomeration for concretising their projects while becoming more integrated in the local ecosystem.

More recently, Sapiens Biosciences received the Deep Tech qualification from the BPI Bourgogne Franche Comité that helps them reap benefits from the French Tech Emergence grant with the aim to launch a viable prototype in the healthcare market soon.

One could think that such an innovative project could only be developed in Paris, yet the Bourgogne Franche Comté , the Mâcon Beaujolais agglomeration and the Dijon metropolis are doing their best to promote local talent with their important financial means for supporting projects of tomorrow, especially through the creation of a health technopole.

For example, the BF Care is a network that brings together the healthcare products and services industries based in the region and allows start-ups to find serious and credible partners for supporting their project, such as the CGFL, the centre for fight against cancer at Dijon or CASIS, the cardiac imaging company, that offers Sapiens Biosciences their experience in the world of medical devices.


What is UMMON?

UMMON is a software for automatic analysis of tumour markers developed by Sapiens Biosciences. Thanks to artificial intelligence and deep learning, the software monitors each cell to provide reliable results to pathologists within a few minutes. This solution of automatic analysis of tumour markers is to be commercialised in 2021 at French and international pathologies.

How does the automation of markers work?

Without automation, pathologists observe the cells and see if they are normal. It is possible to scan the cells and visualise them on a computer. Given the large number of cells, a pathologist spends around 30 minutes per patient.

UMMON is a software for automatic analysis of markers. It therefore does the same work as a technician by highlighting the cells that the algorithm finds suspicious thereby allowing the pathologist to diagnose within a minute. The identification of abnormal cells with artificial intelligence is based on several criteria : size and morphology of the nucleus and cytoplasm, ratio of the size between the nucleus and the cell …

For example, if the nucleus is much bigger than the overall size of the cell, it is a sign of anomaly and UMMON will therefore identify it” explains Louis-Oscar Morel.

Thereon, the abnormal cells are categorised as most and least cancerous so that the patient can be diagnosed. The objective of this solution is to facilitate the work of pathologist by providing him analysis rapidly and in a clearer manner with a low rate of error.


Rapid detection of cervical cancer

Why does Sapiens Biosciences focus on cervical cancer?

The answer is simple.  “It was a direct need of pathologists that faced difficulty in analysing markers.”, says Louis-Oscar. Moreover, cervical cancer can be detected easily and is a type of cancer that can be avoided. The number of deaths that take place worldwide annually are as high as 300 000 because of this disease especially in developing countries. The automation of analysis of cells allows the increase in number of screenings and hence in decreasing the deaths.

Presently, Louis-Oscar Morel and Nathan Vinçon are working on new mathematical approaches for identifying innovative markers in pathology. Their objective is to increase screenings by improving the analytical capacity of the doctors. Indeed, the analysis of markers normally used by pathologists is interesting, the true potential of artificial intelligence lies in the discovery of new markers, effective and based on patient prognosis. Ultimately, we would like to deploy UMMON on the analysis of other pathologies but especially also on personalised treatment of patients.”, adds Louis-Oscar.

In the coming years, Sapiens Biosciences could become a major innovation structure for patient care. The fundraising planned for April 2021 will allow the start-up to recruit new profiles for growing the company and its potential while the co-founders pursue their medical/science studies and the development of UMMON.