Start-it-up with GENOA INSTRUMENTS
By Sylvia Mondinelli
Start it up - GENOA INSTRUMENTS
The device Marco and Simonluca envision to develop and engineer is PRISM, a super-resolution optical microscope that uses an innovative technique developed by Marco during his PhD in IIT. The new super-resolution technique at the base of PRISM is called “Image-Scanning-Microscopy” and relies on collecting light with a novel sensor matrix. The information collected each pixel of the sensor is then processed in order to obtain the super-resolution information through an algorithm called “Pixel – Reassignment”.
PRISM is therefore the captivating acronym that comes from the technique names: Pixel Reassignment Image Scanning Microscopy.
“Marco started working at this technique during his PhD. He then kept developing and improving the instrument and, after about one year, I joined the project”, says Simonluca about the origins of their venture.
What these two young researchers had in common was the feeling that pure research was not enough in order to fulfill their desire to create something new, which could have had a direct technological impact in their field. They knew they wanted to learn more about applied research and the industrial world, so the natural outcome was to think of a way to bring this new technique to the market and begin a new adventure.
“Image Scanning Microscopy has already gathered strong attention within the scientific community, representing a hot topic in all major microscopy conferences”, says Simonluca enthusiastically.
“State of the art Confocal Microscopy techniques currently use a single-element sensor. These detectors, fabricated using commercially available silicon technology, are extremely performant, being for instance much more sensitive than the standard camera sensors from smartphones, just to be clear.
Within our work, we engineered a completely new sensor, in which an array of detectors is used to collect light from the sample with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution at the same time.’’
As Marco and Simonluca decided to further develop their startup idea, they found good help in the IIT Technology Transfer Office and the Patent Office.
“We decided to call our startup “Genoa Instruments”. Even though this name might recall a simple reference and tribute to our city, we actually got our inspiration from a famous case of success: oxford instruments. Within the 70s, this company was indeed capable of revolutionizing the optical microscopy world and market by creating the confocal microscope.
Which is the market share you are targeting?
“Our main goal is to spread super-resolution microscopy to all labs. We will start by selling our instruments to researchers and labs and then try to extend our market to the biotech and life science fields.” – which is a pretty ambitious goal for a team this young. Nowadays, a super-resolution optical microscope can cost up to a million euros. This, in turn, means that small labs do not likely have any.
“Anyway we would like to start from research labs, even if the broader view would be to then shift our attention to biotech and pharma companies, and so on. Moreover, our idea is to offer a very affordable product, having a lower price than what is available today.
Clearly we do not want to compete with 1 million € products by major companies which have massive evolution, engineering and development on their side. Being a start-up, our aim is to provide an affordable device offering cutting-edge technology in terms of resolution. Our idea is to bring to the market an innovative super-resolution microscope. A stand-alone instrument that can potentially be portable and work on any lab bench. By doing so, any lab needing a super resolution microscope, could get one. While we recognize how challenging this is, spreading super-resolution to all labs currently represents the main mission for Genoa Instruments.”
The team is composed by two young researchers Marco Castello and Simonluca Piazza, and by Alberto Diaspro, Giuseppe Vicidomini and Paolo Bianchini, three internationally renowned scientists and senior advisors.
“Alberto, Giuseppe and Paolo really help us a lot, thanks to their deep knowledge of the microscopy field. They know every single technique and device, every single microscope available on the market and their support is priceless”.
“We currently have a prototype, we now need to make it marketable within a reasonable time. We will need to do some engineering work as well as to accomplish and ultimate the design of various parts of the instrument before being able to launch it.
We are currently looking for potential investors and, at the same time we are also looking for motivated and talented people to join our team.”
So far, they have started looking within their research group but at the same time they highly encourage spontaneous applications.
- Since January 2019, Genoa Instruments is officially a spinoff project of IIT
- The team recently won a call for Innovative Startups by Fondazione Golinelli. As a result, Genoa Instruments will benefit of an acceleration and incubation program, which could facilitate the development of the startup.
“Even though PRISM is still a prototype, the technology we are developing is becoming a hot topic also among the microscopy companies. The advantage of our approach is that it allows for both spatial and temporal super-resolution, which is usually only possible by using two different instruments.” Simonluca explains.
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