Weezion, the medical technology startup in which BioMérieux is investing 2 million euros

The company Weezion was created in 2020 by François Vandenesch, Jérôme Lemoine and Hervé Brochette to promote 5 years of research work between the Lyon teams of the Institute of Infectious Agents of the Croix-Rousse Hospital, the International Center for Research in Infectious Diseases and the Institute of Analytical Sciences.

The team led by Jérôme Lemoine, head of the bioanalytical laboratory at the Institute of Analytical Sciences, developed a rapid and cost-effective solution for the in vitro diagnosis of bacterial blood infections, based on patented mass spectrometry technology. This solution has interested BioMérieux, which has just entered the capital of Weezion, at the beginning of May, for up to 2 million euros.

Sepsis is a blood infection that affects 50 million people worldwide and needs to be treated very quickly. “There is between 7 and 10% additional mortality for each hour of delay in treatment.“, emphasizes Hervé Brochette, CEO of Weezion.

Current failure rate between 13 and 20%

When you have this type of infection, today you cannot wait for the complete identification of the responsible bacteria, which takes between 3 and 5 hours, or even 24 to 48 hours in the normal routine, to identify its resistance to antibiotics.“, he adds. The treatment given to the patient is a cocktail of broad-spectrum antibiotics, which bets that one of the antibiotics is the right one to treat the bacteria responsible.

If it’s a rarer bacterium, it doesn’t respond, and if it’s an antibiotic-resistant bacterium, it doesn’t respond either. Currently, the failure rate in Europe and North America is between 13 and 20%. In addition to these possible shortcomings, the fact of administering multiple antibiotics in massive doses can be difficult for the patient to bear, and it will take time to recover. And we run the risk of seeing more and more significant resistance develop in bacteria.“, points out the CEO of Weezion.

This antibiotic resistance is of great concern to the World Health Organization (WHO), which believes that we are at risk of developing resistant “superbugs” in the future.

Jérôme Lemoine’s team worked on identifying these bacteria and predicting their sensitivity to antibiotics. “They found a method, based on mass spectrometry analysis, that no longer detects the bacteria, but the peptides that are the building blocks of bacteria. Each peptide chain is specific for bacteriaexplains Hervé Brochette.The second innovation is the use of an algorithm that uses a decision tree to detect peptide-bacteria matches. The more we enrich our database, the faster this algorithm runs”. The method was patented and selected as part of the future investment program in 2019.”This made it possible to fund our research as part of the IdBIORIV university hospital research project.“, emphasizes Hervé Brochette.

Bacteria identification in less than 90 minutes

Technology advantage: allows the identification of bacteria and their resistance to antibiotics in less than 90 minutes. “We can give the patient targeted treatment in an hour and a half and greatly reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance. In addition, the test costs a few tens of euros, where the alternative to this type of diagnosis is a genomic analysis that costs several hundred euros per patient.“, he explains.

Among the consequences of this new tool, Hervé Brochette hopes that “laboratories, which currently only develop broad-spectrum antibiotics, will be able to develop targeted antibiotics to combat antibiotic resistance“.

The BioMérieux laboratory has already shown interest in this innovation. “They had been following our project for several years and offered to participate in our fundraiser in April.“The laboratory thus entered Weezion’s capital in the amount of 2 million euros.”We chose BioMérieux because, in addition to the financial aspect, they are committed to providing us with technical assistance, in particular regulatory, to accelerate the commercialization of the product”, says Hervé Brochette. Delays in obtaining a marketing authorization are in fact long, on the order of one to two years. “BioMérieux knows the infectious diagnosis of bacteria very well. They also bring us a broad view of the market“, thanks the CEO of Weezion.

The next steps for the start-up are to develop the preparation of blood samples before their analysis by the mass spectrometer, using a preparation robot. You will also need to prepare ready-to-use consumables and instrument control and data analysis software. “We also need to develop commercial software that interfaces with the doctor, giving him simple results.“, predicts Hervé Brochette.

Weezion is currently recruiting 5 people to gradually internalize their skills. Preclinical trials started at the Croix-Rousse hospital in Lyon on a few hundred patient samples. A multicenter clinical trial should start in early 2024. The company expects to be able to bring its innovation to market in 2025. The potential market is global, including in countries that still do not use diagnostics, given the low price of the solution. Weezion estimates its turnover at 40 to 60 million euros per year after 3 years of marketing and at 100 million euros per year after 6 to 8 years.