Enabling pregnancy by preventing the formation of intra-uterine adhesions
Behind this medical innovation lies a clinical observation. Women who have intra-uterine surgery can develop intra-uterine adhesions. These adhesions, also called synechia, can hinder the development of the embryo and increase the risk of miscarriage and extra-uterine pregnancy. With time, they can also lead to pelvic pain and perturb the menstrual cycle.
Up until now there was no proven effective method to prevent this problem. A gel is sometimes applied after the operation to prevent the formation of synechia. But the gel is only effective for 12–24 hours following the surgery, whereas the adhesions can appear up to 6 days after the operation. The gel is thus of limited utility.
With the development of a degradable physical barrier to prevent the formation of intra-uterine adhesions, Womed offers a totally innovative medical device. The device is a film that is placed in the uterus after the operation. Made from a biocompatible polymer, this film has 3 major advantages:
- Self-deploying, it limits the invasive character of the operation. The polymer device self-unfolds to cover the entire uterine cavity.
- Anti-adhesive, it prevents the formation of adhesions.
- Degradable, it self-degrades in the 15 days after having been inserted in the uterus and is evacuated by the cervix; this time is long enough to guarantee its effectiveness.
The genesis of this innovation proposed by Womed involved several years of research in a public laboratory and maturation of the technology in the Occitanie region in southern France.
From a clinical problem to the deployment of an effective gynaecological medical device
It all began with a meeting between Stéphanie Huberlant, today a gynaecological surgeon, and Xavier Garric, a professor at the University of Montpellier. Stéphanie wished to carry out her Ph.D. thesis research in the Artificial Biopolymers group of the Max Mousseron Institute of Biomolecules on a clinical problem she’d seen during her internship in the gynaecology-obstetrics department of the University Hospital Centre of Nîmes. The problem? Intra-uterine adhesions, which can form in the uterus after a surgical intervention.
To solve this problem, a research project is launched in 2013. Stéphanie begins her thesis work on the clinical aspects in parallel with Salomé Leprince, who works on the conception of an appropriate biomaterial.
At the end of 2014, the first results obtained are very satisfactory. An invention disclosure is filed with the University of Montpellier, followed by a patent filing in 2015 by the SATT AxLR (a technology transfer acceleration company). Development continues with the help of AxLR and financing from the University of Montpellier and the University Hospital Centre in Nîmes. The research group looks for industrial partners to develop the device, before finally deciding to create a start-up.
Womed appears on the scene
In this way the start-up Womed is founded in February 2018 in Montpellier. The founders are Gonzague Issenmann (President), medtech entrepreneur, along with Xavier Garric, Stéphanie Huberlant and the SATT AxLR. Just a few weeks later the team is recognised for its innovative device with the iLab Grand Prix, awarded by BPI France and the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI).
The story is not yet finished. September 3rd, Womed officially set-up its headquarters in the IBMM’s Artificial Biopolymers Department at the Pharmacy School of Montpellier. Two engineers and an interne are in the process of being recruited. If all goes well, the medical device should be on the market by 2020.
A story to follow…