Anaïs Barut is the CEO of DAMAE Medical, a start-up she co-founded in Paris-Saclay that has developed a way to diagnose skin tumors without the need for a biopsy.
– What does your innovation involve?
It allows skin tumors to be diagnosed without the need for an invasive biopsy by projecting a beam of light onto the skin surface to be analyzed. When reflected, the light conveys precise information on the skin’s structure, which is reconstructed using algorithms. As well as avoiding the need to take a sample, this method offers greater precision: the light section has a depth of 1 mm, whereas the in vivo imaging technologies currently used offer only a horizontal projection with a depth limited to 250 micrometers. The diagnosis also has the advantage of being provided in near real-time. The patient does not therefore need to wait to find out the result. In summary, we are transposing the advances in optical imaging to the world of dermatology.
In addition to the greater comfort for the patient, our technological innovation also improves their chances of survival, since the earlier a skin tumor is diagnosed, the greater the patient’s chances of survival.
– Can we talk about a disruptive innovation?
Yes, disruptive at all stages, you might say. Innovations generally just spread over time, from one domain to another: breakthroughs made in the optical domain, for example, will only have repercussions in other domains at a later stage, in turn leading to other innovations which, only then, will find a business model. But our aim is simultaneous optical, dermatological and business model innovation, no more no less. This means that every single one of our employees and partners, both internal and external, must have an entrepreneurial mindset.
– How did you come to create DAMAE Medical?
During my dual diploma from HEC Paris and the Filière Innovation-Entrepreneurs (Innovation-Entrepreneurs curriculum) from the Institut d’Optique Graduate School at the University of Paris-Saclay, I met one of my future associates. Working on entrepreneurial projects, we found that we clearly enjoyed working together and that we worked well together, him dealing more with the technical side of things and me with operational and financial aspects. What’s more, we shared the same values when it came to entrepreneurship. The idea of creating a company therefore came naturally. We wanted to do it as soon as possible, at the end of our studies, or even before! All that remained was to identify the technology we could develop. Looking to develop scientific research, we started searching for a laboratory, choosing the laboratory of the Biophotonics group of the Charles Fabry Laboratory at the Institut d’Optique. That’s where we met the third associate of DAMAE Medical. He showed us his idea for a disruptive technology, the result of his many years of research. A great deal remained to be done to convert it into a genuine innovative product. That was exactly what attracted us: creating everything, from start to finish, from proof-of-concept through to marketing, via clinical trials and industrialization. Not to mention combining the various aspects of an entrepreneurial project: engineering, of course, but also funding, quality, regulations, legal aspects, etc.
Could DAMAE Medical have been created anywhere other than Paris-Saclay?
It’s clear that a start-up like DAMAE Medical could not have been created outside of such a rich ecosystem as the one you find in Paris-Saclay. Even I am a product of Paris-Saclay! I studied engineering, commerce and management there.
What is special about DAMAE Medical is that it is at a crossroads between two different worlds – in this case, the optical and medical worlds – which are just starting to come together. These domains, though, have a strong presence at Paris-Saclay. It’s a veritable health cluster which is particularly conducive to student entrepreneurship, whether that be through its training, its fablabs, its incubators, etc.