Success Story | Abionic, the Nespresso of medical diagnostics
26.04.2018 | Camille Andres

This Vaud-based medtech firm, established in 2010, developed blood tests using a revolutionary nanofluid technology that came out of EPFL. Its devices have been successfully tested, and the company is expanding its footprint internationally.

In 2010, Nicolas Durand – fresh out of EPFL with a PhD[C1]  in nanotechnology – created Abionic with Iwan Märki. The firm was set up to further Durand’s doctoral research, which aimed to develop a nanofluid-based system that could speed blood tests. Today Abionic offers a full biomedical screening platform that lets doctors carry out quick, reliable blood tests and deliver faster diagnoses.

Abionic had its sights set on international expansion all the way back in 2012 when it obtained ISO 13485 certification, an important mark of credibility and a requirement to sell medical devices in the European Union[C2] . “We knew from the outset that our devices had to be of impeccable quality, and that we wanted to target markets beyond Switzerland,” says Durand.

In 2012, the firm attracted its first investors with a Series A fundraising round that brought in CHF 3.5 million. Two years later, the first healthcare professionals – mainly doctors – contacted the company to test the technology. “We had to prove that our nanotechnology could perform as promised. So we carried out our first clinical trials, which were successful,” says Durand. That was closely followed by a Series B fundraising round among Swiss and other European entrepreneurs. By then, Abionic’s prototype had become a viable product; in 2016 the firm began demonstrating its devices out in the market. Today the entire production chain is located in Switzerland and based in Lausanne, with the capacity to churn out over one million test devices per year.

"We’re ready to open branch offices but we’ll keep our headquarters in Vaud.

We believe that’s important to help develop the local innovation ecosystem.” – Nicolas Durand, Abionic CEO

What makes your technology innovative?

Medical laboratories were already able to conduct the kind of blood tests that our system performs, but they took several days. However, with our tiny nanofluid sensors – a multiple-patent-protected technology that we’re the only one in the world to offer – the tests can be carried out in just five minutes. Our system is especially well suited to children since it requires just a drop of blood. And for some applications, like diagnosing infections, it’s truly revolutionary and could save millions of lives. For instance, it can be used to diagnose sepsis – previously referred to as septicemia – which kills one person in the world every four seconds. Another big advantage of our system is that it’s extremely easy to use and doesn’t require specialized technicians. It could work for just about any kind of immunological test, including for allergies, and we have already launched iron deficiency tests on the market.

Why did you decide to set up your business in Vaud?

Our company was founded in Lausanne and from the very beginning we knew we wanted to base our business in the canton. In fact, there are two main medtech hubs in Switzerland: Lausanne and Zurich. We spent our first few years at EPFL Innovation Park before moving to Biopôle in Epalinges, which has everything we need to support our growth.

Abionic management's team

What benefits will your firm gain from being a Vaud Scale-Up?

It’s an important message for our positioning. The term “startup” has a negative connotation in the medtech industry because it makes people think that the company’s technology isn’t mature. So being called a “scale-up” helps position us as a mature yet growing firm and makes it easier to find investors in today’s highly competitive environment. It’s also an appropriate description of our firm, as our headcount has doubled every year since it was created.

What are Abionic’s plans for 2018?

We plan to carry out large-scale clinical trials of our sepsis test at 14 sites in Europe, to demonstrate the test’s medical and financial feasibility. We also plan to expand our business internationally.

Abionic has won 22 entrepreneurship competitions and awards since 2010, providing essential funding for the firm to develop its technology.

Key figures

Entrepreneurship awards received: 22

Employees: 40

Total funds raised since 2010: CHF 37 million

Patients tested: >10,000

Office space: 1,750 m2 including 400 m2 of labs

Planned new hires: 4 positions currently open; 40 in the next two years