Nurea, the birth of a biomedical modelling startup
Set up by Florian Bernard, a former PhD student on the Memphis project team, the Nurea startup is rewriting all the rules. Between the worlds of research and industry, as well as the fields of aeronautics and aerospace, and medicine, this is the tale of a scientific and entrepreneurial adventure.
It all began with a business idea…
During his thesis on atmospheric re-entry, co-supervised by Politecnico di Torino, Florian Bernard joined Inria’s Bordeaux - Sud-Ouest Research Centre and its Memphis project team, a joint team with the University of Bordeaux that specialises in numerical simulation. Very quickly, an idea popped up: to set up his own startup based on his research work. “I wanted to enter business because I wanted to create my own career, to build something starting from almost nothing,” he explains.
This initiative soon met with a favourable response from Angelo Iollo, the leader of the Memphis project team.
Personally, it goes without saying that research in mathematics must not be separate from real life. This type of initiative forms part of the DNA of my scientific approach.
he says. He therefore gave Florian permission to seek initial funding to develop the project further.
At the heart of a supportive ecosystem
At Inria, Florian also spoke to Cédric Quinot, Technology Transfer and Partnerships Officer at the Technology Transfer, Innovation and Partnerships department, whose role involves supporting project leaders during the long and complex process of setting up a business. “We are often the first point of contact for researchers who want to launch a business. We help them ask themselves the right questions to better shape their idea and clearly specify their expectations,” explains Cédric.
He guided the researcher towards various resources for acquiring the theoretical, then practical, basics of entrepreneurship. Florian completed training courses such as Horizon Start-up , IT Barcamp and Digital Start-Up, Inria's recent coaching tool created in partnership with emlyon business school, and even Blue Mirrorwith TheFamily. He also benefited from support from Inria Hub, which helped finance the process to bring the project to technical maturity and confirm its viability, followed by IRA (the Aquitaine regional incubator) and Bordeaux Technowest.
In search of reality
For Cédric Quinot, such a journey is not always straightforward. “It is above all a human adventure. In this respect, it depends on the will of the person setting up their business and their capacity to face up to reality.” This was a crucial step for Florian Bernard, who, as he was formalising his project, realised that industry was not taking as great an interest in the project as he had hoped, despite its manifest scientific qualities. “I had to bring about a paradigm shift in order to develop my project based on real need rather than research work,” he recalls.
This reorientation became possible during the MediSpace event, organised in December 2016 by Bordeaux Technowest. According to its director, François Baffou: “With this meeting, the only one of its kind, we enable two worlds – that of aeronautics and aerospace, and that of medicine – to meet, as we firmly believe that this can help new technology transfers emerge.” This conviction paid off for Florian, as the event was where he crossed the path of AnatomikModeling, an implant designer. He immediately grasped the possible crossovers with his sector.
“This meeting was a real turning point for the project,” confirms Florian. “After that, I worked closely with a vascular surgeon to establish the precise aims of Nurea.”
An unprecedented solution in medicine
Florian and the associate who had joined him on the adventure, Romain Leguay, then refined the solution and identified a need. When monitoring an aneurysm, cardiovascular surgeons currently only have access to limited data, exclusively from scanner analysis. The numerical simulation proposed by Nurea allows them to take into account a large amount of supplementary information, in an automated way, thereby offering a much more precise decision-making tool. There are further potential fields for innovation too:
Initially, we are offering software for managing patient groups during pre- and post-operation monitoring, within an automated workflow. This has never before been available to surgeons. But we want to go further – eventually, our aim is to apply this numerical simulation to the personalisation of cardiovascular implants,
Nurea is in the starting-blocks, but the collaborative dynamic is far from over. Angelo Iollo will continue to provide support, becoming an associate and scientific advisor, while the advances made by the startup and the Memphis team will feed into the work of both parties. Cédric Quinot, meanwhile, will continue to assist with all the aspects of formalising operations. In parallel, Florian and Romain have set up their offices within a Technowest incubator, La Source , in the centre of Bordeaux. “The strength of our model lies in linking incubators and business centres to support the development of selected startups continuously over a period of five or six years. When the project is sufficiently mature, we also make financial tools available through seed funding, allowing initial capital to be raised rapidly,” concludes François Baffou. So really, the adventure has only just begun...