The 2011/10/19 at 05:29
Set up in 2005 in Aix-en-Provence, SuperSonic Imagine has developed, in collaboration with the Institut Langevin (Waves and Acoustic Laboratory) of the École Supérieure de Physique et Chimie Industrielles de Paris (ESPCI), ShearWave elastography, a completely new ultrasound technology allowing tissue hardness to be measured. "I've always been interested in medical imaging, particularly acoustic waves as a means for diagnosis," explains Jacques Souquet (photo below), founder and CEO of SuperSonic Imagine. After working for 25 years in the USA, namely as Vice-President of Philips Medical, it was in his homeland that this engineer by training decided to set up a company focusing on elastography. "Whatever is hard in the human body is always suspicious," he comments. While palpation methods have been developed since antiquity, no technology existed for measuring the hardness of tissue.
"With elastography based on shear waves, the diagnosis is independent of the user," points out Jacques Souquet. More reliable than manual palpation, this technique is, like traditional ultrasound technology, completely harmless and represents a "non-invasive method allowing the number of surgical acts to be significantly reduced." "Our main objective has been to reinforce the early diagnosis of breast cancer," explains the CEO. SuperSonic Imagine thus developed a mammary lesion detection system baptised ‘Aixplorer’. In 2008, a survey carried out amongst 1,800 female patients and 22,000 images, based on three successive measurements of the same zone, underlined the reliability of the technology, whoever the operator. In addition, the number of false positive results was cut by half, bearing in mind that “out of the 2 million breast biopsies carried out every year, 80 % result in a negative result”. Next, the company widened its field of application to cancers of the thyroid, prostate and uterus.
SuperSonic Imagine is also setting its sights on detecting other pathologies such as hepatic fibrosis, cirrhosis, muscular and tendon pathologies affecting athletes, as well as vascular pathologies. Furthermore, as well as lesion diagnosis, the technology can also be used to support surgical interventions, to improve the targeting of prostate tumours and to spare healthy cells, for example. Ever since its creation, SuperSonic Imagine has benefited from 3 successive fundraising campaigns: 10 million euros in March 2006, 26 million in October 2008 and 39.4 million in October 2010. Inspiring the confidence of large investors (Auriga Partners, Crédit Agricole Private Equity, NBGI Private Equity, Edmond de Rotschild Investment Partners, Private Equity, Canon, Innobio, Biom, Mérieux Développement, Wellington Partners and IXO Private Equity), the company has succeeded in acquiring a stature allowing it to measure up against the giants in medical imaging.
In 2010, SuperSonic Imagine was able to boast of a turnover of 9.7 million euros, in other words a progression of over 100 % in a single year. In the space of barely six years, the company has undergone spectacular development, commercialising 280 systems worldwide and employing around one hundred graduates from the world’s most prestigious training programmes.fter obtaining, in 2009, EC stamping allowing it to commercialise Aixplorer throughout the European Union, an agreement was settled in September 2009 with the Food and Drug Administration, enabling it to penetrate the North American market. Meanwhile, the doors of the Japanese market opened to the company in April 2010, following the signing of an agreement with the Japanese Ministry of Health. Today, the company is present almost all over the world, and benefits from privileged partnerships such as Hologic, a world leader in women’s health, and Canon, the exclusive distributor of Aixplorer in Japan. On the strength of its promising results, SuperSonic Imagine intends to pursue its development and to broaden the field of its technology’s application, chiefly thanks to upstream research. “We have developed a genuine innovation eco-system,” states Jacques Souquet, high-lighting the close collaborations with the world’s greatest universities.