Whether it’s developing smart materials for safer roads or connected medical instruments to help doctors make the best-informed decisions, CNRS research is at the heart of a number of start-ups. We take a look at three currently in the spotlight: Olikrom, Sensome and Damae Medical.
OliKrom: chameleon pigments that reveal the invisible
Materials that change color based on impact, pressure, or temperature: OliKrom’s intelligent pigments have created a small revolution in their field.
Imagine that you’re driving along a winter road in a downpour, but you’re confident because photoluminescent pigments have optimized road markings, making even black ice visible. Coatings, paints, and inks that adapt to their environment and use color as an indicator—that is the heart of OliKrom’s technological mission, at the intersection of basic research and its industrial applications.
“Our pigments respond to environmental problematics in fields ranging from aeronautics to building coating and food packaging,” explains Jean-François Létard, co-founder and a former senior researcher at the Institut de Chimie de la Matière Condensée de Bordeaux (ICMCB), where the research behind the start-up began.
Létard and his team successfully filed for their first international patent in 2005. In 2013, he completed the HEC challenge + for management and entrepreneurship training, and created OliKrom. After securing fundraising from Starquest Capital and BPI France, OliKrom now has 14 employees, as well as a dedicated industrial site.
The company has been working with Airbus for nearly 6 years (link to the OliKrom-Airbus testimonial), notably on “pigments that can detect impacts on composite materials through pressure variation, thereby quantifying the damage sustained by airplane parts during production or transportation.” OliKrom is also developing coatings that can signal the presence of a gas, solvent, or light. For OliKrom’s chameleon pigments, the adventure has just begun.
Sensome: a miniature sensor that is a valuable tool for stroke treatment
Sensome has developed a technology to help physicians make decisions during the crucial hours after a stroke. The start-up will begin clinical testing soon.
Each year, 1.5 million people in the EU and the US suffer an ischemic stroke. A novel intervention in the ensuing hours can remove the blood clot from the obstructed vessel. The optimal removal tool, however, depends on the type of clot blocking the artery. Hence Sensome, a spin-off from the Laboratoire d’hydrodynamique de l’Ecole polytechnique (LadHyX), proposes an ultra-miniaturized AI-equipped sensor, which placed at the tip of a neurovascular guidewire, can precisely identify the nature of the clot. This smart guidewire, called Clotild™, provides crucial insights for the removal procedure, enabling the interventionalist to adapt the tool to each patient.
Damae Medical working to diagnose skin tumors without a biopsy
The start-up’s rapid and non-invasive technology is now in the pre-industrialization phase.
Diagnosing skin cancer requires a biopsy, which is to say analyzing a patient’s tissue sample with a microscope. Damae Medical, which grew out of research conducted at the Laboratoire Charles-Fabry,2 is aiming to revolutionize this exam. The technology developed by Damae Medical will provide dermatologists with an in vivo imaging modality that produces in-depth images of the tissue similar to histology without the need for skin tissue excision and processing. Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Pr. Arnaud Dubois focused on a single question: how to image biological tissue mass on the cellular scale of a few microns. Such tissue actually acts as a diffusive environment on light, similar to frosted glass, as rays do not propagate in straight lines and quickly lose all “memory” of their origin, thereby blurring images.
Dubois turned to the “Entrepreneur innovation network” of his home institution l’Institut d’Optique Graduate School to create the start-up in 2014. A series of innovation awards—including one from the MIT Technology Review—eventually culminated in clinical proof-of-concept and successful testing directly on patients.