WAINVAM-E, a French Innovative startup, is specialized in the development of quantum sensors, based on fluorescent nanodiamonds. Used to measure infinitesimal variations of magnetic fields, these ultra-sensitive sensors have many applications, particularly for diagnostics, by providing accurate, univocal and rapid results, while being easy to use and adapted to biological constraints.
The company, based in Morbihan, started its activity in the summer of 2020. It is already employing nearly 25 people and is still looking for new collaborators ready to invest in this exciting experience with great potential!
A team with diversified and complementary expertise, and varied cultures.
WAINVAM-E was created in April 2020 after the meeting, one year earlier, of Claude BARRAUD and Remi GEIGER.
- Claude BARRAUD, president of WAINVAM-E, is a polytechnician, former president of the company Thalos. He made his career in large international groups such as Schlumberger, Sony, Thomson.
- Remi GEIGER has a PhD in atomic physics and is an expert in quantum sensors and metrology. He worked for several years as a lecturer at Sorbonne University, before taking up his position as General Manager and Director of R&D at WAINVAM-E.
They were soon joined in this entrepreneurial adventure by Michel FERET and Jianguo ZHANG.
- Michel FERET has a PhD in Computer Science and today is the Marketing and Communication Director at WAINVAM-E, after a career in major international telecom and consumer electronics groups, such as Nortel, Sony, Thomson, Sogeti, and Ingenico.
- Jianguo ZHANG has a PhD in electrochemistry and is the former Senior Vice President in charge of patents and licensing at Thomson/Technicolor. He is currently the head of the Intellectual Property Department at WAINVAM-E.
WAINVAM-E is a company where the administrative, IT, marketing and sales teams work daily with the R&D engineers specialized in optical, electronic and biological. Building a bridge between science and industry is a significant vision to the founders, who have been able to transmit it to their employees. Interdisciplinarity between sciences is key as well as between science and business.
The NV center diamond and its quantum properties, core business of WAINVAM-E
Diamond is an organized assembly of carbon atoms, transparent to visible light. However, several natural diamond colors exist, due to impurities or defects in the carbon structure that absorb light. More than 500 colored defects are listed, including the NV center (for Nitrogen – Vacancy) which has unique optical and quantum properties.
An NV center integrates a nitrogen atom (N) replacing a carbon atom, while a neighboring site remains vacant (V). The NV center can thus be represented as an artificial molecule trapped in a solid diamond. Extremely small (a few Angstroms), it is therefore easy to manipulate.
WAINVAM-E‘s activities focus on the quantum properties of NV-center diamonds, and more specifically on those of microdiamonds and nanodiamonds. The latter, whose size varies between 5 and 100 nm, can be used as magnetic field sensors or markers. Nanodiamonds used as sensors, allow to target a specific area, to measure a magnetic field and to deduce the concentration of magnetic species. Nanodiamonds as markers, allow to target a molecule and to detect its presence, qualitatively or quantitatively.
From diagnosis to treatment: a vast potential of applications
Nanodiamonds can be incorporated into biological systems to serve as fluorescent biological probes. They are biocompatible, that means, they do not modify the cellular equilibrium during this internalization. When they are functionalized, i.e. linked to certain chemical or biomolecular functions, they can then target a specific marker for a disease, a particularity to be diagnosed, or a precise area to be treated.
The EVADIA-FND project, for which WAINVAM-E received the Deeptech innovation grant, concerns the development of quantum metrology tools for evaluation and diagnosis based on fluorescent nanodiamonds. The company intends to design and commercialize a range of measuring instruments exploiting the Nitrogen-Vacancy crystalline defect in diamonds: ultra-sensitive, reliable, fast and small-sized instruments, capable of evaluating products or performing non-invasive diagnostics, both in biological systems and outside.
The project, supported by the Competitiveness Cluster, Cosmetic Valley, offers a vast potential for very high added value applications:
- in cosmetics, to measure the antioxidant efficacy of natural or synthetic ingredients or formulas, in an absolute (physical) way, reliable and allowing measurements over long periods of time ;
- in food processing, to quantify the presence of reducing sugars in raw foods or the oxidation of fats present in many prepared products ;
- in cell biology, to accurately detect the concentration of magnetic species such as free radicals, to assess oxidative stress within the cell linked to many cancers and infectious diseases.
In all these fields as well as in the environmental, pharmaceutical and animal health fields, WAINVAM-E develops lateral flow assays (LFA) with functionalized nanodiamonds. They are able to detect and quantify markers of inflammation, cancer, infection, pathogens, toxins, allergens, pesticides… The detection power of these tests is unmatched in terms of accuracy and analysis time. With these tests, WAINVAM-E aims to optimize the detection of widespread and potentially fatal diseases for which current detection tools are not enough efficient.
In the longer term, WAINVAM-E intends to contribute to a real technological revolution, particularly in the field of molecular biology, where nano-metrology tools will make it possible to distinguish and control biological entities according to their physico-chemical properties. Nanosensors and nano-actuators could thus be used to locally treat diseases characterized at the cellular level.
A fundraising planned in 2022 and a team that still growing!
WAINVAM-E is self-financed by its founders to the tune of 1.8 M€ and is also supported by the Banque Populaire Grand Ouest (BPGO) and several individual Business Angels. BPI France has also shown its confidence in WAINVAM-E on several occasions, first by awarding it a French Tech Emergence grant in 2020, then by naming it laureate of the i-Lab 2021 competition and finally, last November, by awarding it a €1.3M grant for Deeptech innovation.
WAINVAM-E is also planning to raise funds by mid-2022 and to recruit new staff, including the following three:
– an experienced technical sales engineer ;
– Apprentice who prepares a master degree in sales, communication and/or marketing, with a scientific background, ideally in biology;
– an engineer in surface chemistry.
S. DENIS – « La gazette du laboratoire » – February 2022