Cell therapy innovation

Four months after its creation, TreeFrog Therapeutics has now signed a license agreement with Aquitaine Science Transfert to industrialize and commercialize a breakthrough technology based on 3D cell culture. Protected by seven patents and originating from the University of Bordeaux, CNRS and Institut d’Optique Graduate School, TreeFrog technology will enable millions of patients suffering from degenerative diseases or awaiting organ transplantation to access the medical cell therapy revolution.

  • 09/04/2019

© SATT Aquitaine © SATT Aquitaine

Awarded the "Grand Prix" at the i-Lab 2018 innovation competition, the TreeFrog Therapeutics startup founded by Maxime Feyeux and Kevin Alessandri of the Digital Photonics and Nanoscience Laboratory (LP2N, laboratory affiliated with the University of Bordeaux, the CNRS and the Institut d’Optique Graduate School) and 4 cofounders (Jean-Luc Treillou, Chairman of the Board of LNC Therapeutics, Laurent Cognet and Pierre Nassoy, CNRS Directors of Research at LP2N, and Erwan Bézart, CNRS Director of Research of the Institute of Neurodegenerative Disease in Bordeaux) has now signed an exclusive license agreement with SATT Aquitaine to industrialize the technology protected by seven patents.

This license agreement maps out the technology transfer by SATT Aquitaine, whose €1.2 M investment - the largest to date - has helped establish the preclinical proof of concept and of mass production.

TreeFrog technology should be used on humans within three to five years in the framework of cell therapies, to treat chronic and degenerative diseases that currently have no treatment, such as Parkinson's, diabetes or age-related macular degeneration.

Equipped with a new production facility based at ENSTBB-Bordeaux INP on the Carreire campus in Bordeaux, the startup can now offer an end-to-end industrial solution. It currently employs nine permanent employees and plans to double its staff next year with a target of around one hundred employees within the next five years.

"After four years of development, supported by the local ecosystem and by SATT Aquitaine in particular with a large investment ticket in development, we have now signed a license agreement that will form the bedrock of our interactions with therapy initiatives and pharmaceutical firms who are the natural clients of TreeFrog technology", points out Maxime Feyeux, co-founder of TreeFrog Therapeutics.

Through a combination of pre-development, via the Initiative of Excellence, and development by Aquitaine Science Transfert, we have reached a milestone. The university clearly has a major part to play in creating startups in cutting-edge fields such as TreeFrog Therapeutics. 

Manuel Tunon de Lara — President of the University of Bordeaux

"The example of TreeFrog is remarkable in that it is meaningful, ambitious and dynamic. The researchers made the bold decision to act in an entrepreneurial way, to bridge the gap between the concept and the products that will be useful for businesses - this is a major leap forward in the healthcare sector", commends Maylis Chusseau, CEO of Aquitaine Science Transfert.

Innovation offered by TreeFrog Therapeutics

TreeFrog's innovation is based on stem cell encapsulation. Protected by a shell, stem cells can grow 3-dimensionally, just like in the human body, and are in optimal preservation conditions. By combining this technology with the bioreactors already used by the pharmaceutical industry, TreeFrog's aim is to overcome the obstacles encountered up to now in terms of cell quantity, quality, and cost. By offering a new industrial production method and guaranteeing cell safety, the aim of TreeFrog technology is to reduce the costs of cell therapies for patients.

Cell therapies consist of grafting cells from the patient themselves or from a donor with a view to replacing diseased cells in an organ or tissue. As such, they help cure diseases caused by a loss of cell function such as heart, liver or kidney failure, diabetes, or even Parkinson's. Mastering stem cell cultivation is crucial for cell therapies, as these cells are used as the raw material for producing the required therapeutic cells.

Looking back on a project with strong potential

The innovative first research findings that led to the creation of TreeFrog were initially obtained with support from the LP2N laboratory - University of Bordeaux, CNRS, Institut d’Optique - within the framework of the CNRS pre-development program and the "UNI" (Implantable Neural Interface) program under the University of Bordeaux Initiative of Excellence (IdEx Bordeaux).

The innovation subsequently received support from Aquitaine Science Transfert within the framework of a development program via €1.2 M of funding in late 2017, helping achieve the preclinical proof of concept and of mass production. Aquitaine Science Transfert also launched large-scale market research to define the best market positions for TreeFrog technology.

The startup was founded in December 2018, with assistance from new partners such as the Unitec technipole, and immediately raised €600,000 in seed funding from Aquiti Gestion, the IRDI Soridec Gestion fund, and the private investor John Samson.