Health Technologies

Health Technologies

Health Technologies

The CEA is currently a major player in France in the design and integration of innovative technologies in the field of health. This mission is performed by the
Fundamental Research division (DRF) and the Technological Research division (DRT)

More information on the DRF    More information on the DRT

Research carried out at the CEA is helping to develop a “new” medicine for people and public health in general.»

Le projet PASREL


The year the PASREL project will be implemented

The PASREL project

At the interface between various fields covered by the CEA, the PASREL (PAris Saclay REsearch & hospitaL) project aims to integrate technological innovation in a hospital environment. This centre for innovation and research will be built next to the future Paris-Saclay hospital by 2024. Together they will constitute an example of a hospital of the future, operating as close as possible to its environment (population, patients, healthcare staff, research communities and industrial companies).

The CEA has been involved in biological and health research ever since its creation. Its aim today is to capitalise on all the expertise it has developed over the years to contribute to the emergence of the medicine of the future, in close association with clinical research partner organisations. Based on cutting-edge fundamental research, it devises and develops smart medical technologies to provide new generations of therapies and move current medicine towards more predictive, personalised, preventive medicine where the patient plays an essential role in the care pathway.

The CEA’s research in the field of health originated in the study of the impact of ionising radiation on living beings and the use of radioactive elements as tracers to understand biological phenomena. Today these tracers are a valuable tool in the CEA’s fundamental and applied research. They also form the basis of a great deal of work carried out in the health technologies field, which also makes use of knowledge acquired in the wide variety of other fields which the CEA addresses, including biology, chemistry, physics, microelectronics, robotics, computing, software and cybersecurity.

Research carried out at the CEA is helping to develop a “new” approach to medicine, which will incorporate the whole value chain and those associated with it (research, innovation and care) for people and public health in general.

In association with the leading players in the academic, hospital and industrial sectors and in the context of preclinical and clinical research, the CEA is developing technologies, most of which can be used together, to investigate living things and devise innovative strategies for precision medicine (diagnostics, monitoring, prevention and therapy). The multiplicity of the expertise of its teams and its capacity to design and operate open and often unique technology platforms are embodied in the form of several national biology and health infrastructures (INBS) and digital infrastructures (France Life Imaging, France Génomique, IDMIT, NeuraTRIS, N4HCloud), which are either led by the CEA or in which it is a partner. This investment and its ambitious policy to transfer its expertise to industry make the CEA a leading player in the health field.

All the technologies on which the medicine of the future is based require considerable interdisciplinarity between biologists, physicians, physicists, chemists, mathematicians and computer scientists. These technologies are divided into four main areas at the CEA: medical imaging and the development of the associated tools; primary prevention and diagnostic tools; therapeutic innovations and the associated technologies; and large-scale analysis.

Medical imaging and the associated tools

The CEA’s current biomedical imaging strategy focuses on breakthrough innovations and its ability to be a technology integrator. It is in particular involved in ultra-high field MRI and new radiopharmaceuticals, multimodal and multi-scale imaging, signal processing and image analysis, and data processing using artificial intelligence methods. This research combines various CEA teams working in the life sciences field, and also those working in instrumentation (superconducting magnets, gamma and X-ray detection systems, transcranial ultrasound scanning, etc.).

Primary prevention and diagnostic tools

The CEA is actively involved in the design of medical devices.
The main priorities of the research carried out on in vitro diagnostic medical devices are to improve patient/sensor interfaces to ensure high quality measurements (biocompatibility, conformability, resorbability, etc.); to define the biomarkers that have translational relevance; to develop sensors and the associated processing algorithms, as well as rapid point of care diagnostic tests, based on antibody engineering, for example to detect infectious agents or to measure antibiotic resistance. These technologies facilitate access to care and offer useful solutions for minimally invasive or outpatient medicine, patient monitoring and prevention. They also have applications in the fields of sport and well-being.
Another area in which the CEA is involved is that of devices with biological components, organ-on-a-chip devices and organoids, which could act as “biological companions” with three main applications: studying fundamental mechanisms and physiopathological processes, supporting pharmacological screening (to find new drugs) and helping to choose personalised therapies. Organoids also offer the potential, in the long term, of partially or temporarily restoring an impaired physiological function while awaiting an organ transplant (regenerative medicine). A prototype “pancreas-on-a-chip” is currently being developed in Grenoble, in association with the Grenoble-Alpes University hospital.

Therapeutic innovations and associated technologies

The CEA is seeking to develop innovative physical, chemical and biological therapies (gene therapy, gene transfer, stem cells) and is working on issues associated with their delivery. Radiotherapy can therefore be considered to be a precise technique in the treatment of cancer as dose delivery is controlled locally and adjusted to individual sensitivity. Gene and cell therapies have in important role in the therapeutic arsenal of the medicine of the future. They represent a great hope for personalised treatment for patients who have reached a therapeutic impasse.

Large-scale analysis

The CEA is actively involved in three initiatives in the field of digital health solutions:

  • The 2025 French genomic medicine initiative (Plan France Médecine Génomique 2025), which involves setting up twelve diagnostic sequencing platforms. This is supported by a centre of reference (CRefIX), and the creation of a national infrastructure for collecting genomic data across France both for the care pathway and the accelerated development of digital clinical research (CAD, Collecteur Analyseur de Données - data analyser collector).
  • The rollout of an R&D platform for digital technology in health, N4HCloud, accessible to both the academic and private research communities, initially based on data from the image acquisition and processing centre (CATI) and then on other “omics” data (proteomics and metabolomics). N4HCloud was set up at the CEA’s Very Large Computing Centre (TGCC) at Bruyères-le-Châtel and began production in autumn 2020. This platform is designed to be the forerunner of the CAD, whose research arm will also be located at the TGCC.
  • The integration of this data with other data, for example from imaging, or more generally with phenotype data, which reflects the specific features of each individual’s diseases, will drastically reduce diagnostic error and improve the effectiveness of treatments.

Organ-on-a-chip devices: Miniaturised systems, designed using cells fitted with micro-sensors to reproduce the architecture and operation of a human organ, such as the pancreas.
Organoids: “Mini organs” obtained using stem cells or progenitor cells, grown in three dimensions in a hydrogel culture that mimics the extracellular matrix.
Proteomics: Study of all the proteins (proteome) of a cell, an organelle, a tissue, an organ or an organism, at a given moment and under given conditions.
Metabolomics: Study of all the primary metabolites (sugars, amino acids, fatty acids, etc.) present in a cell, an organ or an organism. This is the equivalent of genomics for DNA.
Phenotype: Set of observable characteristics of an organism (anatomical, physiological, molecular or behavioural).


Key events 2020

Detecting viruses using mass spectrometry

Detecting viruses using mass spectrometry

— It will soon be possible to detect viruses that are present in very small concentrations in the air in hospitals, offices, aircraft and other public places, thanks to the optomechanical resonator developed by teams at the Irig and CEA-Leti. PThis device is more sensitive, faster and more versatile than any detection devices available on the market. It detects, in record time, the presence of particles previously barely detectable by mass spectrometry. Its nano-plate is used to work out the mass and nature of a particle on its surface, by the variation of its resonance frequency. Its large surface not only quickly senses the particles present in a sample, but also detects non-spherical particles, which are characteristic of certain viruses (Ebola, rabies, etc.).

Irig: Interdisciplinary Research Institute of Grenoble (CEA/Grenoble-Alpes University)
CEA-Leti: One of the institutes in the Technological Research Division. It focuses on micro and nano-technologies.

Diagnosing Covid-19

Diagnosing Covid‑19

— You can now find out in just a few minutes whether or not you have SARS-CoV-2. The CEA’s start-up Avalun sells connected in vitro point of care medical diagnostic devices. Its latest “lab on a chip”, the LabPad® Evolution for healthcare professionals, is used for SARS-CoV-2 antigen tests on nasopharyngeal samples.
A negative viral antigen result takes twenty minutes, while a positive test result takes just a few minutes for patients with a high viral load. Its sensitivity is close to that of RT-PCR tests, the reference laboratory technique. The LabPad® Evolution automatically reads the results and sends the information to the secure platforms for consolidation of data on the pandemic.

In addition, in late March 2020, together with industrial and hospital partners, the CEA was involved in the production of biological reagents with the aim of developing two Covid‑19 rapid diagnostic tests: a serological test and an antigen detection test for detecting the virus in nasopharyngeal and/or saliva samples. This work was carried out in the context of a partnership with AP-HP (Paris university hospital trust) and the company NG Biotech. The aim is to create a French supply chain for biological reagents (antibodies) used in tests.

RT-PCR: Reverse Transcription - Polymerase Chain Reaction. Gene detection using molecular biology.



— Miniaturised, inexpensive and giving an immediate result, lens free imaging devices will bring medical analysis right to the patient’s bedside. A demonstrator developed by the CEA was presented at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas (United States) in January 2020.
The principle is simple: a near-infrared light emitted by an LED is diffracted by the biological object being analysed and produces a holographic pattern that is captured by a CMOS image sensor. Holographic reconstruction algorithms then recreate the image of the object on a display. Artificial intelligence processing software can then detect, analyse and even classify the biological objects that are observed by tracking metrics of interest. These operations are automated and do not depend on an operator.

LED: Light-Emitting Diode. Device that emits light when an electric current passes through it. It is in particular used in flat screens.
CMOS: Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor. Technology for manufacturing electronic components, which, by extension is also the name of these components.

Physiopathology of COVID and therapies

Physiopathology of COVID and therapies

— In February 2020, using equipment and expertise developed at IDMIT, the CEA initiated an in vivo study on the effects of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a prophylactic treatment for SARS-CoV-2. The study demonstrated the inefficacy of HCQ. Various treatment strategies were tested for prevention, immediately after infection, and on appearance of symptoms after five days, with or without azithromycin, and at varying doses. This preclinical study helped to gain a better understanding of the physiopathological mechanisms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and to obtain accurate information on the biodistribution of the HCQ molecule in the body. This preclinical study was carried out under the aegis of the REACTing multidisciplinary consortium.

IDMIT: Infectious Diseases Models for Innovative Therapies

AAccelerating the transition from preclinical to clinical research
Collaboration agreement

Accelerating the transition from preclinical to clinical research

— With their wealth of respective expertise in the fields of bioinformatics, genomics, artificial intelligence and cutting-edge imaging technologies, Life & Soft and the CEA have come together to develop an unprecedented range of services to meet the needs of personalised care, based on innovative cross-analysis. The aim is to offer analyses that combine imaging data generated by the cutting-edge technologies of the IDMIT department at CEA-Jacob and genomic data produced by Life & Soft. Within this collaboration, Life & Soft is continuing its strategy of establishing fundamental research partnerships with public bodies, and CEA-Jacob is strengthening its links with diagnostics and genomic research in the context of its preclinical and clinical research on human infectious diseases. Signed in 2020 for a period of three years, this collaboration agreement will accelerate the transition from preclinical research to clinical trials, in order to improve the patient care pathway.

IDMIT: Infectious Diseases Models for Innovative Therapies
CEA-Jacob: CEA François-Jacob Institute

Analysing microbiota

Analysing microbiota

— The increasingly easy study of microbial ecosystems, known as microbiota, is offering new prospects for applications, in fields as varied as agriculture and human health, or even the fight against bioterrorism, the detection of emerging pathogens, and the characterisation of their reservoirs. In this context, researchers at CEA-Joliot The increasingly easy study of microbial ecosystems, known as microbiota, is offering new prospects for applications, in fields as varied as agriculture and human health, or even the fight against bioterrorism, the detection of emerging pathogens, and the characterisation of their reservoirs. In this context, researchers at peptides common to all the organisms present in the database and considering that the whole signal obtained by mass spectrometry for a microbiota is in fact a combination of the signatures of all the organisms that make it up.

CEA-Joliot: CEA Frédéric Joliot Institute
Peptide: Set of amino acids (of which there is a very wide variety) that are linked together.