In 2013 “there was a switch” in France towards embracing start-ups and enterprise as central to economic growth, according to Pascal Cagni, chairman of the board of government agency Business France.
This was also when government-backed movement La French Tech was founded “to make sure that France is one of the best places in the world to start and scale global tech champions’’, in the words of mission director Kat Borlongan.
Within an ecosystem of 10,000 start-ups, med tech is especially strong. The French med tech sector is worth €19bn and has experienced 5% year on year growth, according to industry association MedTech in France. This makes France the second largest medical device market in Europe and the majority of its share comes from French companies.
The country’s med tech ecosystem is supported by governmental initiatives, such as the National E-Health Strategy 2020 and a law calling for the digitisation of medical records in 2016, as well as private sector programmes; French e-Health Tech, for example, works to promote med tech start-ups to the government and across the ecosystem.
This government backing is furthered by significant consumer interest in digital approaches to healthcare; 81% of French people think connected healthcare offers better quality treatment opportunities, according to Odoxa’s 2018 survey.
Below are three innovation start-ups helping to further advance France’s thriving med tech scene, from digital health apps to social media-scouring drug safety tech.
Doctolib: France’s newest unicorn
Benefiting from public enthusiasm towards digital health in France, one example of an innovative French med tech start-up is Doctolib, France’s most recent ‘unicorn’. This means it is valued at over €1bn, which is due to a $170m fundraising round completed in April 2019 led by US Venture capital giant General Atlantic.
Founded in 2013 around the mission of making healthcare more human and more efficient, Doctolib is a digital health app that provides a full suite of services for patients, including finding nearby healthcare professionals, booking appointments online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, having video consultations with medical professions and managing digital prescriptions.
Doctors and healthcare professionals also use the app to improve the efficiency of their work by providing a more seamless experience, helping them to find new patients.
There are approximately 35 million patient visits per month and 80,000 physicians across 1,700 healthcare facilities in France and Germany currently using the platform. However, CTO Philippe Vimard noted during a presentation that this only represents 15% of French doctors and 1% of German ones, and so there is plenty of room for growth.
Doctolib’s cautious attitude towards privacy of data is closely linked with the general French approach; doctors do not know more than they need to about patients. The focus on patient data privacy is something that eh company plans to retain as it continues to grow.
Speaking of growth, Doctolib’s plans for the future include expanding further into the rural areas of France and Germany, as well as to other European countries, which will be supported by a doubling of the team in the next three years.
Revinax: remote surgical and nursing training
VR-based training fir Revinax was founded by neurosurgeon Dr Maxime Ros to resolve global challenges to effective training of medical professional, particularly for surgeons and nurses.
This approach aims to be lower in cost and more efficient than traditional approaches. Highly skilled surgeons wear the device to film their actions while performing surgery. This video can be easily edited through Revinax software to create a VR experience to be used by future trainees to view the procedure from the first person perspective. Studies have shown that first person point-of-view learning training significantly aids learning through imitation.
At an event at Paris’s Libertee Living Lab, CTO Stéphane Saffré noted that one of Revinax’s customers is Medtronic, the world’s largest medical technology company. Other major med tech clients and partners include Boston Scientific and Stryker.
Revinax has been so successful at attracting high profile clients because it allows for continuous training to be provided, which Saffré explains is crucial in an era dominated by medical devices and new technology.
However, the company is also focused on offering its product to more remote and poorer parts of the world where access to healthcare training is particularly lacking. It views a VR headset and associated app as a more scalable solution than traditional training methods.
Kap Code: leveraging social media for drug safety monitoring
Kap Code is an e-health company with three solutions based around big data and a patient-centric approach to healthcare.
At its stall located under Sanofi’s umbrella booth at VivaTech 2019, Paris’ annual start-up event, the company focused on Detec’t, which leverages patients’ use of social media to share their experiences of their disease, their treatment and interaction with the healthcare system.
Social media is a largely under exploited data source; Kap Code claims to rely on 26 million analysed messages, 26 monitored data sources and 12 years of historical data to get a picture of the patient experience of 500 drugs under surveillance.
The system relies on natural language processing to browse forums and social networks to extract information about issues patients are facing when taking certain medications. The product can currently work in both French and English, but Kap Code is working on expanding to German and Spanish.
The ultimate aim of Detec’t is to predict drug safety concerns, allowing companies, which are Kap Code’s main clients, to have up-to-date information about their products and intervene early if necessary. Detec’t was developed in the aftermath of a 2011 drug safety scandal in France regarding diabetes drug Mediator, which prompted both France and the European Union to amend their regulations surrounding drug safety.
Kap Code’s other two solutions focus on helping patients with chronic respiratory disorders to better manage their treatment.
W’asm provides personalised assistance to educate people on how to use their inhalers, as well as video analysis to show them exactly what they are doing incorrectly.
Connect’inh fits directly onto an inhaler to provide detailed information about medication use and local air quality, as well as giving asthmatics access to an active patient community.