Making Bladder Cancer Cells Glow earns French Biotech €1.5M

vitadx bladder Cancer diagnostics cnrs

VitaDX (France), is developing a non-invasive medical device for early detection of bladder cancer, based on a syndicate of French academic research. This simple urine sample analysis has attracted over €1.5M in preparation for clinical trials and a global market launch.

vitadx_bladder_cancer_diagnostics_cnrsThe technology operated by VitaDX is the result of a research collaboration between the Institute of Molecular Sciences of Orsay (ISMO) which is a CNRS at the University of South Paris, and the Kremlin-Bicêtre Hospital (also in Paris).

VitaDX has also received financial support from the French tech transfer office SATT Paris-Saclay for its development, which enabled the establishment of a partnership with the French Aerospace Lab.

Conventional diagnostic tests for bladder cancer use cell microscopy from urine sample using a Papanicolaou stain – a technique which lacks sensitivity for early cancers (an average of just 20% sensitivity). This is because the cell’s morphology is not yet altered for a proper diagnosis to be possible.


So, VitaDX focused on the photo-physical properties of the different components contained within the Papanicolaou stain through engineers at the French Aerospace Lab (ONERA). They were in charge of developing an image processing algorithm for digital cell slides.

As a result, the researchers were able to show that a specific protocol for the staining process allowed the distinction of healthy bladder cells from cancerous ones based on their difference in fluorescence; In cancer cells, a halo of fluorescence surrounds the cellular membrane compared to healthy cells.

(Left) Typical carcinoma cell staining from a bladder using Light Microscopy and Papanicolaou stain (Source: doi 10.1186/1742-6413-2-18). Right: Flourescence of carcinoma cells using the VitaDX’s test with the ONERA algorithm and research stain protocol (Source: VitaDX)

This research has led to a patent co-owned by ISMO, the Kremlin-Bicêtre, CNRS and the University of South Paris, who have granted VitaDX an exclusive world license. The fundraising, mainly raised from private investors, will also go towards the funding of a clinical trial, which will start in the following months.

This technology is also applicable to other types of cancer, to include lung, cervical, thyroid and brain cancers – all of which require cytology (cell screening) for diagnosis.

It’s interesting to see the results of such a large industry-academia collaboration, and an encouraging example of diagnostic technology which could potentially work for other cancers too…


More on Bladder Cancer Cytology, Symptoms and Medical Diagnosis

Feature Image Credit: VitaDX


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