Success Story: Multiwave Technologies focuses on designing ultra-high field (UHF) MRI antennas
The company Multiwave Technologies did not choose to open its R&D subsidiary in Marseille by chance. Close collaboration with the Fresnel Institute on Magnetic Resonance Imaging and the decision by the CRMBM (“Center for Biological and Medical Magnetic Resonance” Aix-Marseille Université-CNRS) at La Timone to acquire a seven-Tesla MRI scanner, the second machine of its kind in France, prompted the Swiss firm to open up shop in the region.
Founded in August 2016 in Marseille, Multiwave Innovation is part of Multiwave Technologies SA, a Geneva-based company that specializes in metamaterial technology2.
The work of Multiwave Innovation, which uses software specially designed by Multiwave Technologies, focuses on designing ultra-high field (UHF) MRI antennas with the goal of establishing itself in a market that is still untapped in France. “This is a sector with high potential. We are the first manufacturers of MRI antennas in France and naturally the first makers of UHF MRI antennas,” explains Panos Antonakakis, co-founder of Multiwave Technologies and President of the young subsidiary Multiwave Innovation. “We have an exclusive license for a patent filed by CEA-Neurospin and the Fresnel Institute and we also signed a co-maturation contract with the Southeast SATT and the Fresnel Institute. The UHF antennas on the market today are not up to regulatory requirements. But thanks to our metamaterial expertise, we would like to introduce a prototype for a clinical antenna that can comply with current MRI legislation and meet patients’ needs for early tumor detection,” notes Panos Antonakakis.
Multiwave Innovation intends to shift the lines. “We are striving to optimize the resolution of images from the future seven-Tesla MRI machines (UHF) by correcting the non-homogeneity of the radio frequency (RF) signal and carefully adjusting the specific energy absorption rate (SAR),” says Elodie Georget, antenna engineer and the first employee of Multiwave Innovation.
Coming soon: a team of 10 engineers
The Multiwave Innovation team plans to grow quickly from two to ten engineers by the end of 2017. “The fact that Marseille has a UHF MRI research laboratory is a major advantage in attracting new candidates,” said Elodie Georget.
“France has two seven-Tesla MRI scanners: one in Saclay outside Paris and one in Marseille. We had the choice of working in either of those cities,” recounts Panos Antonakakis, noting that it did not take him long to pick between Paris and Marseille. “I appreciate the quality of life. The warmth of the people in this port city reminds me of Athens, my hometown,” the 38-year old executive admits.
A prototype in 2018 and opportunities for diversification
Multiwave Innovation plans to complete a prototype in 2018. The company will start by marketing pre-clinical antennas with projected sales of €500,000 by the end of the 2017 fiscal year. To do this, it will work closely with the CRNBM (“Center for Biological and Medical Magnetic Resonance”) at La Timone, one of the only places in the world that has developed protocols for the MRI exploration of different atomic nuclei.
Multiwave Innovation receives funding from the FIMP, the innovation fund for the Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolitan area, and has submitted an application to benefit from the BpiFrance Regional Partnership for Innovation. The company is also counting on support from Provence Promotion with hiring procedures and the practical arrangements associated with relocating engineers in the area.
Multiwave Innovation is involved with the M-Cube European program coordinated by Aix-Marseille Université and is once again betting on scientific collaboration to go beyond the limits of current clinical imaging. This project to develop a UHF MRI antenna suitable for the whole body is backed by a European Union four-year subsidy totaling €3.9 million as part of the Horizon 2020 program.
For the Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolitan region, the expertise of Multiwave Innovation is a boon to advancing medical imaging research. Other applications involving metamaterials could emerge in the medium-term. Provence Promotion is encouraging the exploration of new pathways in the fields of energy, chemicals and aeronautics.
Photo: Panos Antonakakis, co-founder of Multiwave Technologies and President of Multiwave Innovation, and Elodie Georget, Antenna Engineer at Multiwave Innovation.