The scientific world is in constant demand for innovative precision instruments. Faced with international competition, researchers are more than ever on the lookout for devices providing productivity gains, that are user friendly, plug and play, and affordable. SENSORICA OVN encompasses the technological know how, the resources and the market knowledge in the scientific instruments sector to meet the needs of researchers and educators in terms of advanced equipment.
The Mosquito Scientific Instrument System, is a technological marvel blending ease of use, measurement accuracy and robustness, unmatched by other suppliers. It is based on a miniature ultra-precise force sensors, the Mosquito. In Phase l, the Scientific Instrument System will be used by researchers in biology and physiology for tactile sensing of single living cells, to determine if they are healthy or to determine the effects of experimental treatments. The Scientific Instrument System is used in research on muscles, on cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive diseases, as well as in studies on cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases. It is presently tested at Montreal Heart Institute.
In parallel, we are also designing the Mosquito Educational System, a lower-cost version of the scientific instrument designed for educational purposes.
In Phase ll we'll approach the biotech and pharma market, which exhibit similar needs as in the biology and physiology research segment.
In Phase lll, SENSORICA affiliates will focus on applications in the industrial and medical device markets, where the current detection technologies are limited by their sensitivity and their reliability. Our fiber-optic technology is adaptable and offers a great path for miniaturization and increased precision. For example, we anticipate that it will give the sense of touch to robots to enable them to perform meticulous assembling tasks and assisted surgery. We are also working on sensing applications for large structures, to monitor their position and state of bending.
The scientific instruments market (more particularly instruments used in physiology), is of 1.3G$ / year globally, large enough to develop our value network’s capabilities with financing requirements not exceeding 100 K$ (see our revenue page). Providing for a 2013 turnover of 225K$ and above 80% net margin, we use this market as a springboard, giving our young network a solid foundation to propel it to new heights.
The educational market - need some data here
Costs and funding from Sept 2012 to Aug 2013 (live figure)
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The project is about the design, production and distribution of highly accurate displacement/force sensors, based on an innovative optical technology that we developed for scientific, educational, industrial, and medical applications.
Our detectors help scientists to measure the mechanical properties (ability to change shape, to generate a force, response to mechanical cues/stimulation, etc..) of individual (biological) cells and tissue for scientific studies, to infer diseases or to develop innovative medical treatments (for heart and respiratory diseases, as well as for diabetes and several types of cancers). The first product using our technology, the Mosquito, is currently a working prototype that is already in use at Montreal Heart Institute.
Our detectors also have a great potential in the industry by replacing the current detection technologies thanks to their robustness and their miniature size. Our detectors do not interfere with electromagnetic radiation, therefore they can be used in the medical field in conjunction with medical imaging, unlike the electronic detectors.
The human body consists of more than 100 000 billion cells. These are its building blocks and act as micro-factories to provide everything necessary to make possible all biological functions (movements, thoughts, digestion, etc.). The cells are organized into groups: the organs (heart, stomach, lungs, brain ...) and tissue (skin, muscles). Most cells have the ability to change their shape, or to expand or to contract. For example, heart cells contract rhythmically every second or so, causing the heart to beat, which makes the blood flow. Skeletal muscle cells (those muscles that attach to bones) also contract, and are involved in our body movements.
Cellular contraction is a very important function of muscle cells. Aging, certain diseases, bacteria or viruses can impair this function. To fight against diseases and infections, researchers need to measure cellular contraction .
The Mosquito Scientific Instrument System is scientific grade instrument used in physiological and medical studies to probe dynamic mechanical properties of biological systems, from organs to sub-cellular structures. Three types of transducers can be included with this system.
The system is also provided with all necessary components for sample manipulation, a container for physiological media in which experiments are performed, a visualization system, and software for data acquisition, visualization, conditioning, analysis and management.
The system is based on the Mosquito displacement/force sensor.
The Mosquito I is made up of two main parts:
Optical fiber sensitive to bending
In order to measure the force developed during the contraction of an individual muscle cell it is sufficient to fix the tip of the Mosquito (which is an optical fiber!) on this cell using a special glue. This is a trivial operation for a biologist used to such manipulations. See the video bellow.
As the fiber contracts, the sensitive optical fiber bends, changing the properties of the light that travels through it.
The Mosquito detects these changes and correlated them to the tip displacement of the optical fiber and into force.
Watch the Mosquito in action, measuring a small bundle of a dozen of muscle cells
The Mosquito integrates with other laboratory instruments
Here we present how the Mosquito is integrated with other laboratory instruments for applications in muscle physiology. The detector part of the Mosquito is fixed on an adjustable stand (see photo of the 3D model). The muscle sample is placed within a bath filled with physiological medium. The cells are attached to the sensitive optical fiber. Whenever the cells contract, being stimulated on purpose or otherwise, the Mosquito senses the displacement and displays it on the computer screen. The Mosquito comes with software that helps to easily record and process the experimental data. An inspection microscope can also be installed to manipulate the muscle sample and to observe the experiment. All the equipment around the Mosquito is off the shelf equipment that is commonly used in biology labs.
photo from Montreal Heart Institute
The Mosquito is based on optical technology, which makes it more robust and more user friendly than other existing technologies, like the ones based on piezoelectric transducers (see example from Aurora Scientific) or its AFM-like counterparts. For the user, this translates into productivity gains. The Mosquito is 100 times more sensitive than piezo-based sensors, while being insensitive to electromagnetic interference, such as those generated during medical imaging. Moreover, the Mosquito comes in a smaller format compared to other devices. This makes it adaptable to the experience rather than adapting the experience to the device.
The Mosquito is bound for a continuous improvement, based on user’s input and on newly available technologies.
We already have in mind the following versions of the Mosquito
The measurement of cell contraction for the scientific and medical research, for the development of pharmaceutical treatments against diseases that involve a change in shape and size of cells, that is to say cardiovascular diseases, muscular diseases, diabetes and cancer.
The study of cellular response to mechanical cues, by inducing precise force/pressure profiles. This is relevant to cancer research, osteoporosis, effects of zero gravity on astronauts, etc.
Force detectors are also widely used in various industrial applications. For example, in the car industry they are used to control the triggering of airbags, to monitor tire pressure while driving or to verify the proper operation of the engine valves. They have also invaded consumers electronics, since they are found in cell phones and joysticks to detect the pressure applied to the keys.
Initially designed for scientific research, the technology behind the Mosquito will be made suitable for many other applications. New markets will be addressed as early as 2015 (Phases III and IV). In this section we present an overview of intended applications.
The detection technology on which the Mosquito was built has several advantages for making tactile sensors for industrial use. The robots that assemble cars, for example, acquire information about their environment using cameras and motion detectors in order to manipulate delicate parts or for security. These robots rarely have the sense of touch and providing them with it is difficult, because sensors must be small, fast, accurate and shock-resistant. Our detector has these qualities. We anticipate that our technology will address important needs in the industry of manufacturing, in robotics or automation.
Example: the smallest force detector from Honeywell, a leader in the design of force sensors for the manufacturing industry, is about 1 cm square. Our force transducer can be smaller than a millimeter and can bring important benefits for industries that are looking for ever smaller sensors.
Our projects related to these applications:
Other industrial applications considered
Pressure sensor and flow sensors for liquids and corrosive gases as the glass fiber is highly resistant to corrosive products. Our detector could be used in contact with hazardous chemicals (suggestion of Jean-Marc Bigras, Plant Manager in the pulp and paper).
Intelligent surgical instrument, or force sensitive scalpels or clamps that give feedback to surgeons in real time about the pressure applied to sensitive tissue. This allows less invasive and more accurate interventions. Force sensors for surgical robots.
We are aware of our technical capabilities, but we also acknowledge our lack of expertise.
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SENSORICA offers an excellent product, one that is more robust, handy, easy to use (plug and play), having fewer moving parts and fewer parameters to adjust. Moreover, the Mosquito optical detector doesn’t interfere with electromagnetic radiation and can function under medical imaging. Furthermore, the Mosquito Scientific Instrument produces a higher quality information compared to other similar products, and it saves 50% of the time required for experimentation. This translates into increased productivity for researchers and their students.
The Mosquito hardware is open, which allows greater freedom for customization. It is also a modular product, which makes it adaptable for a diverse field of applications and updatable with new features. The Mosquito runs on open source software, which is maintained by Tactus, members of SENSORICA as well as other users. The open source nature of the Mosquito nurtures a dynamic community around it, which provides more value to the customer. Users can rapidly find answers to their problems and can support each others.
The design and manufacturing process are transparent, which makes the Mosquito an ethical and sustainable product, because it is always under the scrutiny of its users.
SENSORICA ecosystem contains highly skilled engineers and scientists, which allows it to offer high-end instrumentation, very well-suited for scientific research.
Industry Analysis: scientific laboratory equipment
Note: this analysis was performed according to our market knowledge (internal data - most of us have experience in laboratory research), based on data found mainly in external databases like Orbis, Market Share Reporter, Gale (Highbeam Business) and from the annual reports of different companies cited in the text.
This is the first market sector we will address with the Mosquito Scientific System, because of our collective knowledge and know how and because of our reach, through our professional network. The Mosquito displacement/force sensor was actually designed for this segment, to be integrated withing the Mosquito Scientific System.
The companies operating in this industry develop, manufacture and sell precision scientific instruments, used mainly in academic research laboratories, hospitals, pharmaceutical and manufacturing plants of high technology products. This industry is international.
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The scientific instruments sector has generated worldwide revenues of over $ 30 billion in 2010, from which about one third is in the United States. This sector includes close to 8000 companies but is dominated by a handful of very large innovative companies. Only 16 companies out of 8000 (around 0.2%) had a turnover of over 1 billion USD, the top five of these companies alone accounts for one third of the market, and the 60 largest companies weigh more than 80% of the total value of this industry.
This industry is fragmented, competitive, under high pressure for innovation and a high standard for entry. It is also characterized by high margins, allowing a multitude of small and medium businesses to prosper by being highly specialized (niche markets).
In developed countries, it is expected that the growth of this market does not exceed GDP growth (an increase from 2% to 3%) for 2011-2014. The growth of this market is very well correlated with public and private spending on R&D, and generally follows the GDP in developed countries. However, the prospects of investment in R&D in Asian countries (mainly China but also Korea) are much more attractive, where growth budgets for R&D will be 15 to 20% per annum in the next 5 years. In total, the growth of asian R&D spending could lead the growth of the world market by 5 to 6% per annum in the coming years.
Key success factors
Factors affecting demand
Trends and market developments
SENSORICA is first positioning itself for the scientific research in physiology, which includes medical research in research labs and in hospitals (clinical diagnosis). This is the segment in which SENSORICA affiliates have a strong expertise and a large social capital (reach through our social network). The Mosquito displacement/force sensor is already meeting the needs in this segment.
Targeted customers in this segments are researchers, professors and medical researchers. They work in universities, research institutes and university hospitals.
Some of us have been buyers, working in academic research labs. We know the purchasing behavior of researchers. They often want the best quality and better services at any cost, buying peace of mind. They are therefore very committed to the reputation of a brand and tend to remain loyal. The high switching costs also encourage them to be loyal. They are also heavily influenced by leaders of opinion (that is to say, the most renowned researchers in their field) and can even switch brands to buy the same equipment as they use.
They are primarily motivated by productivity gains offered by our Mosquito, which will accelerate their research in order to publish more, and thus to increase their chances of being funded. They are also concerned by the versatility offered by the Mosquito, which allows them to push their experiments further than with other available devices (measuring a broader spectrum of contraction force, from a single cell to a small piece or tissue).
Labs in physiology in the entire world and market sizes for
scientirfic instruments used in physiologie et biophysics
In Canada, the number of university research labs in biology (biology and biomedical research) is estimated at 10,250, from a total of 25,000 research labs. Of these 10,250 laboratories, 5% are physiology labs, which gives about 500 labs across the country. These 500 laboratories are our Canadian market segment, plus a portion of 10,250 biology labs that perform physiological experiments. Only 1% of 10,250 labs represents 100 additional potential customers, bringing the total to about 600 Canadian labs.
Globally, the number of physiology laboratories is estimated at 15,000.
The Canadian public research budget in physiology and biophysics was estimated at $380 million in 2010. We can safely estimate that 10% of this budget is spent on purchases of lab equipment, which is is $38M. This represents the size of the Canadian market in physiology research. In all, and given the part of Canadian research in the world (3% in 2010), the world market segment for research instruments in physiology is estimated at $ 1.3 billion.
Method "of market share" by expecting hardware renewal every 5 years, and assuming that 1% of the 5600 North American laboratories who renew their equipment buy a Mosquito, we expect to sell 10 Mosquitos I ($ 15K) and 3 Mosquito II ($ 25K) in North America, until December 2013. These sales will generate a turnover of $ 225K in 2013.
$ 225K en 2013
Another method of calculation: no advertising and simply by word-of-mouth, we already have two clients/testers. Three other parties are interested as soon as the first two customers, who are testers, have demonstrated the qualities of the Mosquito. The goal to sell in total 13 units in 2013 seems realistic.
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The Mosquito has attracted the attention of Professor Sabah Hussain as early as April 2011. Collaborating with Dilson Rassier’s lab, where Ivan and Tiberius worked, he had heard about the invention of the Mosquito. Dr. Sabah Hussain is a physician and researcher at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. He is active in research on cardiovascular diseases and intensive care related to these diseases. Dr. Hussain already works with conventional instruments used in research in physiology. He is always looking for superior performances and he seems very eager to test the Mosquito, which he thinks would make an excellent alternative.
We arranged with Dr. Hussain to buy a Mosquito at cost price, parts and labor needed for manufacturing, as well as for the installation and training. Although the immediate financial benefit is minimal in this operation, SENSORICA obtains a series of other advantages:
Dr Hussain has already wrote a letter of support for Tactus Scientific Inc.
This project needs to be revived!!
Professor Philippe Comtois of Montreal Heart Institute, in collaboration with a medical team from the same institute, is looking for a device to test the stiffness of cardiac arrest patients with vascular brain injury (stroke), in order to develop a diagnostic method of stroke prevention. We are collaborating with Dr Comptois and already obtained a grant from NSERC (25,000$) to purchase Mosquito parts and to test it for 6 months. The tests will show to the scientific community that the Mosquito is useful for diagnosing heart disease.
Dr. Anne-Marie Lauzon from Meakins-Christie Laboratories, McGill University, has manifested interest for the Mosquito. She is now waiting for the Mosquito to be validated by the scientific community before she commits to buy one. This validation will be performed by our customers/testers/partners. The first positive results obtained by Dr Hussain and Dr Comtois will be available during the summer of 2012.
Recently Ivan Pavlov had established a connection with Urals State Medical Academy, Professor Felix Blyakhman, Ph.D, head of Biomedical Physics and Engineering Department.
We are just starting to explore this market. Our product, which is mostly designed for applications in physiology, can be easily and rapidly customized for the biotech and pharma segments.
This section is underdeveloped, taking into consideration the fact that our energy goes in developing the first market, Phase I.
Main sources of information used: discussions with the network and the following databases:
The most common causes of death in the world are, in order of importance, cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. These diseases are also the subject of the biggest spending on pharmaceutical research. They have a significant impact on the integrity of biological tissues and the Mosquito is particularly suitable for the development of drugs that will combat them. We anticipate that the Mosquito will meet important needs in the segment of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology research.
The market for pharmaceutical and biotechnology R&D is the largest R&D market in the world, with a volume of 110$ billion in 2008. In the United States, in 2010, this sector included about 1700 companies that spent just over 17$ billion in R&D.
In Canada, although R&D spending in this industry has diminished after 2007, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry ranks second (after the information technology) in terms of R&D activity, with expenditures that totaled 200$ million dollars in 2009. Ontario and Quebec are the two provinces most active in research with 47% and 43% of spending by private companies. The sector employs more than 2,000 researchers in Canada in almost 300 companies. Over half of these companies are located in Quebec and over 30 in the Montreal area. The majority of these companies are active in research for cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.
Table : key numbers in the pharma/biotech sector
70 000 $ extra en 2014
The North American sector for pharma/biotech research comprises over 2000 companies. As a first approximation, we estimate that over 60% of these companies are potential customers of SENSORICA (and its members), since they are active in research for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
Assuming a hardware renewal every 5 years, and assuming that 1% of the 2000 North American labs who renew their equipment buy a Mosquito, we can predict the sale of four devices per year in 2014. These sales will be shared between the Mosquito I (15,000$) and the Mosquito II (20,000$), which will generate a contribution to turnover of 70,000$ in 2014.
Similarly to what was predicted in the academic market, slow growth of investment in R&D is expected in developed countries (growth around GDP growth, i.e. 2-3%). Also, more sustained growth is expected in emerging markets, including Brazil and China.
Characteristics of the direct competition
In scientific instrumentation market, the main competitors are entrenched and deliver reliable products that have long been recognized by researchers. However, they are also perceived by customers as little innovative and over charging for their products. Moreover, these companies are poorly connected with the medical market, which is lucrative but requires special approvals.
We are just starting to explore this market segment. Recently we have straighten our relations with a few local (Quebec, Canada) players in robotics, who guide us to redesign our sensors to better suite the needs in this industry. It seems that our force is in micromanipulation, pick and place applications of very small and fragile objects (see project page).
The manufacturing industry, is in need of automation and therefore in need of sensing technology for displacement, force, pressures, in need of small, fast and accurate sensors. By offering a robust, fast and accurate force sensor, we anticipates that we’ll be able to meet important needs in these industries.
The robotics and automation industry is a global industry with a size of 9G$. It is also a fragmented industry, with more than 200 manufacturers with international presence. The biggest players are FANUC (Japan, 5.7G$ income), KUKA (Germany, 1.3G€ in revenues), ABB (Sweden and Switzerland, 32G$ of income but only 8% in robotics) and Yaskawa Motoman (Japan, 3.9G$ with 30% in robotics).
The main buyers of robots are in Asia, where there are more than half of robots purchased in 2008 (mainly in Japan, Korea and China). Next is Europe with 31% of purchases (Germany, Italy, France mainly) and North America, with 15%.
This industry is divided in 3 principal segments:
It is expected that this industry will experience an annual growth of over 15% in four years, thanks to the booming market for domestic robots and attractive growth segment of professional robots.
Key success factors to become a part (sensor/transducer) supplier
We anticipate that our technology will meet important needs for the robotics industry. Kinova, a Montréal-based manufacturer of robotic arms, expressed a keen interest in its technology, to give the sense of touch to their robotic devices. We are aware that the road is long before we can penetrate this market. We intend to continue to meet with different players in this industrial sector.
Quebec, Canada has several high-performance robotic companies and most international companies are also present here. Louis Renaud, from NRC, offered to put us in contact with some of these companies in robotics.
The following table summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of some industrial sensors compared to ours (“+” means advantage and “-” indicates absence of a given characteristic or a weakness).
SENSORICA already has the means to succeed in the markets we target in Phase I and II. It is expected that these markets generate a quick return. We'll leverage our success in Phases I and II in Phases III and IV.
SENSORICA is growing a marketing team. Since January 2013 we are actively searching for affiliates with skills in marketing and sales. Three new members have joined us and are now focusing on these two activities. Contact Tony (market study and marketing), Soufiane (marketing, sales and project management) and Vince (online marketing).
Budget for sales and marketing
We are building our labonline network at Centre des Technologies de la Santé (CTS): 5795 Avenue De Gaspé, Montreal (Québec) H2S 2X3. Open page. Near Rosemont metro. Rental of premises 200 pi.ca for $470 per month.
In 2014 we are planning to double our space, and rent will go to $940.