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Never stay too long in a comfort zone

Lunaphore developing next generation cancer tissue analytics

Please introduce yourself and your startup Lunaphore to our readers!

I am Diego G. Dupouy, co-founder and CTO at Lunaphore. I come from a background of Bioengineering and Nanotechnologies. I started to work on Lunaphore’s project during my PhD in the Laboratory of Microsystems at EPFL. At Lunaphore I lead the R&D and Manufacturing teams, composed of 15 employees. Additionally, I am involved in the business development activities of the company, focusing on R&D collaborations with companies and research laboratories.  

Regarding the company, Lunaphore was born 5 years ago in Switzerland as a startup developing next generation cancer tissue analytics. We have developed a new technology called FFeX (Fast Fluidic Exchange) based on microfluidics which aims to perform assays much faster than standard techniques. So far it has demonstrated good results in tests with cancer patient samples and also shown great research potential in automating and speeding up different applications.

How did you get the idea to start Lunaphore?

The idea of creating a startup from this technology came as a result of the PhD developed by Ata Tuna Cifltik, Lunaphore’s founder and CEO. During the collaborative project between the Laboratory of Microsystems of EPFL and the Pathology Department at the University Hospital of Lausanne, it was pointed out that no good microfluidic solutions were available in the market for tissue-based diagnostics. This is how the first microfluidic chips were designed and tested. I started the PhD on the same subject a few years later, being supervised by Ata. I was always driven by my interest to apply science into a startup project and decided to propose myself to join his cause. No too long after that, our co-founder and COO, Déborah Heintze, joined us through EPFL’s Technology Transfer Office internship program. The founding team was then created.

How difficult was the start and what challenges you had to overcome?

As it is often the case with university spin-offs, the greatest challenges at the beginning concerned finding seed funding to hire a team that would allow us to develop the technology and the business. Most medtech projects require many years before substantial revenue can be generated, so finding investors who would share our vision and believe we were the right team was the first big challenge we had to go face. Setting up the business case and proof-of-concept took us almost a year and, from incorporation, we needed another year to close our first financial round.

Who is your target audience?

Our target audiences are distributed in two main fields: The clinical diagnostics field, where we target pathologists and their surrounding team members such as laboratory technicians, laboratory managers, and surgeons; and the Research field, where our audience is wider, targeting many kinds of immuno-oncology researchers.

What is the USP of your startup?

Lunaphore is disrupting the tissue analytics field by fundamentally changing the time requirements of diagnostic assays on tumor sections. Based on FFeX, the highly scalable microfluidic technology we have developed, Lunaphore manufactures cutting-edge lab automation systems that enable 10x to 20x faster tumor diagnostic assays on tissue sections, with higher accuracy, repeatability and high-plexing capability. These features open the door to breakthrough clinical practices with significant clinical added value such as the possibility of carrying our immunohistochemistry tests (a common cancer test) during surgery procedures to guide surgeons decision-making, as well as paving the way in the automation of next generation in situ tissue analytics for cancer research.

Can you describe a typical workday of you?

What I like about my job is that every day is different, so it’s hard to describe a typical day. However, often I have days that are quite occupied by meetings. A day like this one would start at in the office reading the emails, looking at the agenda of the day, and reading the material for the meetings to come. Being in a rather multi-disciplinary position, I have meetings with different teams, mainly to make day-to-day decisions on the direction to take and to be updated on the status of projects. On a lucky day, I manage to clear some hours from my calendar to review contracts with suppliers, strategic partners and potential collaborators.

Where do you see yourself and your startup Lunaphore in five years?

I see Lunaphore expanding geographically, with a larger team and  representatives on different location on the globe. I also see Lunaphore expanding the product portfolio both in research and clinical diagnostics. As for myself, it’s hard to tell exactly what my activities will be, but most probably I will be involved in addressing the needs that arise from the development of new products and applications, either from a purely development perspective or on the business side of things.

What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?

Be naïve and enthusiastic enough to start moving. The path is long and if you think too much, you’ll never get going. You will have the time to fine-tune your aim as you go.

Build a great team. Surround yourself with great people who share your vision and enthusiasm. It will create a virtuous atmosphere to work in and you will never feel alone in difficult times.

Never stay too long in a comfort zone. I believe comfort zones are traps for entrepreneurs. Always look for the new challenge.

More information you will find here

Thank you Diego G. Dupouy for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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