Welcome to MedXCell Science's trust capital

The University of Montpellier has officially approved the donation of shares by the Swiss group MedXCell, enabling it to acquire a stake in its Montpellier-based subsidiary MedXCell Science. Founded in 2018 by Laurent Zbinden to capitalize on the work of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Biotherapy, the company aims to make cellular therapies applicable to osteoarthritis accessible to everyone.

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"It's quite rare for a university to acquire a direct stake in a company, and even rarer for this to happen through a donation of shares. I can't think of any other example," explains François Pierrot, vice-president in charge of innovation. Indeed, while public-private partnerships involving the University are not uncommon, they are generally carried out via Satt Axlr, a joint subsidiary of the University and CNRS. MedXCell, for its part, has chosen to forge even closer links with the CHU and UM by literally offering each of them a stake in its Montpellier-based subsidiary MedXCell Science.

The UM Board of Directors voted in favor of the offer. "This company was born here, it's hosted on one of the CHU campuses, but that's not a good enough reason. We host around thirty start-ups, but we don't invest in their capital," points out François Pierrot. We did it because the financial conditions are totally favorable to the University, since it doesn't cost us anything. But also, and above all, because the company's mission is totally in line with the UM's role and values," emphasizes the vice-president.

Cellular therapies for everyone

In 2016, Laurent Zbinden founded MedXCell in Switzerland. A self-taught entrepreneur, he has, in his own words, "the lightest CV of anyone involved in the MedXCell adventure!". But that didn't stop him from setting up his first company at the age of 18, the prelude to a solid entrepreneurial career that he pursued far from the biotech field. When he began to take an interest in this field, "with the intuition that important things could be achieved", Laurent Zbinden spotted the work of Christian Jorgensen, Director of theInstitute of Regenerative Medicine and Biotherapies (UM, CHU and Inserm), a specialist in cellular therapies based on mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) applied to osteoarthritis, and in particular osteoarthritis of the knee.

The two men met in 2015, and the entrepreneur quickly sensed the economic and human potential of this work. "At MedXCell we believe that cell therapies will transform healthcare, and our aim is to produce these therapies on a large scale in order to reduce costs and make them accessible to everyone, not just those who can afford them," explains Laurent Zbinden. The idea of setting up a MedXCell subsidiary in Montpellier, to exploit the work carried out at the IRMB and make it available to patients, was born in the minds of the two men, who were quick to mention it to Thomas Le Ludec, General Director of the Montpellier University Hospital. The hospital and the start-up joined forces in 2018 to found MedXCell Science.

Local presence

Fifteen people are recruited by the company, which joins the Cyborg biotech incubator based on the Gui de Chauliac-Saint-Eloi campus of Montpellier University Hospital. " It was essential for us to be located as close as possible to the IRMB, by creating a separate legal entity with the CHU," explains Lionel Brodard, MedXCell's CFO. The collaboration with François Pierrot and the University of Montpellier quickly became a matter of course, so perfect is our mutual understanding. So much so, that in 2020, MedXCell founded a second company, MedXCell NKar, this time with the aim of "leveraging the research work of another entity within the IRMB working on cellular immunotherapy", explains the CFO. "Laurent Zbinden promises: "We're going to grow in Montpellier, and within the next two years, we'll have around fifty employees on site, where we're also planning to expand.

Consolidation actions

On the scientific side, the work of Christian Jorgensen and his associates, John de Vos and Danièle Noël, continues to raise hopes. " It's still in the clinical phase, so we have to be careful what we say, but mesenchymal stromal cells appear to have a beneficial effect in reducing pain, improving mobility and slowing the progression of osteoarthritis of the knee," enthuses Lionel Brodard.

A bright outlook for the teams at Montpellier, which Laurent Zinden wished to consolidate by opening the doors of his capital to his two trusted partners, via this gift of shares. "It really made sense for the University to be involved, as well as the CHU. There's a real private-public partnership here, and it couldn't be better defined than by this collaboration. This partnership gives us enormous visibility and testifies to the solidity of the science behind MedXCell. It's a real pact of trust to create something that will change the world!"