Metamaterials are composite materials engineered to achieve unique electromagnetic properties. Multiwave Technologies, which has benefited from EU funding, is developing metamaterial technologies with the potential for a positive impact on people’s lives. Its co-founders explain further.

Medicine and industry working together

Multiwave was founded in 2015 and initially focused on software for engineering applications. In a world of extraordinary disruption in medical diagnostics, we believe that no company on its own can create enough breakthroughs to sustainably improve care quality and reduce costs for patients and health systems. For this reason, the foundation of our continuous scientific improvement rests on partnerships with leading research centres and hospitals around the world.

The Institut Fresnel, a laboratory of Aix Marseille University and the French national research service CNRS, is one of our key partners. In 2016, they put together a consortium of leading European metamaterial experts, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) specialists and medical doctors to tackle the hardest problems in next-generation MRI scanning, and the consortium was awarded funding for the FET Open project M-CUBE in 2017. We rolled up our sleeves to disrupt the barriers of ultra-high field MRI technology. Multiwave’s efforts led to the company winning the “Best Young SME” category at the European Commission’s prestigious 2018 Innovation Radar Prize. This was followed by further FET awards through the FET Launchpad facility to bring to market equipment to improve the quality of MRI images, and most recently a novel MRI application to monitor metabolism changes in organ-on-a-chip technology to accelerate drug discovery for the pharmaceutical industry.

A race measured in Tesla

The strength of the magnetic field of an MRI scanner, measured in Tesla, is directly proportionate to the quality of the images it generates. Currently, scanners with a strength of 1.5 Tesla are most commonly used on patients, but Europe and the US are racing to equip their imaging centres with scanners with a strength of 3 Tesla and even 7 Tesla. 7-Tesla scanners are the most powerful type currently available for use in hospitals, and received regulatory approval on both sides of the Atlantic for brain and knee imaging at the end of 2017. In the field of research, France’s CEA Neurospin facility outside Paris is on a par with the University of Minnesota in the US: both have 11.75-Tesla machines. Weighing more than 130 metric tons (compared to 25 metric tons for a 7-Tesla scanner), they are more than three times as heavy as an Airbus A320 aircraft.

As the magnetic field strength of a scanner increases, anomalies appear on scans that make diagnosis difficult, and in some cases, impossible. More work and more sophisticated equipment is needed to ensure that diagnosis is accurate throughout the body part being studied. Multiwave’s early technology harvest focuses on improving image quality, and hence improve patient care and reduce costs to health systems through early detection of diseases and neurological conditions.

Lowering waiting times through technology

Despite a four-fold increase in the number of MRI scanners available in Europe in the past 20 years, the average waiting time for an MRI has remained stable at 30 days. Our technology pipeline, “WearMeMRI” addresses these challenges by reducing the average MRI scan cycle by 20%, thereby increasing patient throughput by on average 3 people a day per scanner. This not only means improved patient care but translates into better economics for hospitals and clinics and by association, a lower burden to health systems.

Bridging the financing gap - why EU funding can make a difference

According to a KPMG study, 2018 saw over $250 billion in venture capital invested globally: of this, $130 billion was invested in the US, and only $24 billion in Europe. The new European Innovation Council (EIC) is committing €3 billion over 2018-2020 to reverse that trend, through its Pathfinder and Accelerator programs.

As we see our MRI portfolio mature, Multiwave is considering spinning out our activities into a new entity, Multiwave Imaging, specifically dedicated to breakthrough MRI technology. We look forward to partnering with the EIC to drive innovation a step further in Europe. Our platform is our ecosystem. With the EIC by our side, we can make that platform a European success.