In Montpellier, a start-up is developing a test to diagnose bipolarity

A blood test that can change a life. At Grabels, north of Montpellier (Herault)the biopharmaceutical company Alcediag, a subsidiary of the French group Alcen, is developing a blood test to diagnose bipolarity.

Dinah Weissmann, co-founder of the company, welcomes us to the Cap Gamma building of the Biopôle Euromédecine. Thirty young researchers and engineers of different nationalities are busy here, particularly in the joint laboratory created with the CNRS. “Thanks to advances in biology and artificial intelligence, we have demonstrated that there are characteristic RNA editing changes in the brains of depressed people. We then identified specific biomarkers in their blood,” explains Dinah Weissmann. In short, does it simplify“when the brain malfunctions, it sends signals through the body, like a diseased kidney or liver would.”

“Save the lives” of the sick

The test called Edit-B, developed “after ten years of hard work”, underlines the neuroscience specialist, aims to help doctors refine their diagnosis in order to determine whether a patient is suffering from classic depression or bipolar disorder.

According to the company, which has already entered into an agreement with a major group of medical laboratories, the test could be carried out in a city laboratory. “Our test will make it possible to compensate for the diagnostic error of patients, which lasts seven years on average, explains Alexandra Prieux, the other co-founder of Alcediag. Until then, it was very difficult for a doctor to diagnose the difference between these two mental illnesses because they look alike. But their support is not at all the same. »

In France, bipolar disorders affect between 1% and 2.5% of the population, i.e. between 650,000 and 1,650,000 people. The life expectancy of patients is reduced by 10 years on average and 20% of untreated bipolar patients die by suicide. “By reducing the diagnostic time to just a few days, we can save their lives”, she assures.

According to a study published in May in the journal Translational Psychiatry, carried out on a cohort of 600 patients from the Montpellier University Hospital, the specificity of the test (its ability to exclude non-sick people) is 80% and its sensitivity (its ability to detect actually sick people) is 90%. A validation study, which included its first patient in July, is to involve 436 patients from four expert centers in Barcelona, ​​Copenhagen and Paris. It should last two years.

“One day detect all mental illnesses”

If other laboratories, in particular Americans, are working on similar tests for the differential diagnosis of bipolar disorder, Alcediag claims to be the first company in the world to have carried out all the stages of development of the test necessary for its marketing.

The test will be marketed in early 2023 in Italy and Switzerland, and then only in France, at a price not yet communicated. Discussions with the health authorities with a view to its possible reimbursement by Social Security are underway.

“Bringing biology into psychiatry is a revolution, says Dinah Weissmann. This brings mental illness back into the mainstream of medicine. » And this is just the beginning, according to Alexandra Prieux: “In psychiatry, everything remains to be done. We are also interested in schizophrenia, postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress. One day, for sure, we will be able to detect all mental illnesses and treat them, because they are illnesses like any other. »

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In Montpellier, a start-up is developing a test to diagnose bipolarity


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