Rapid and fully automated screening, sorting and dispensing of small biological entities
Bionomous is the world’s first provider of AI-powered solutions for screening, sorting and dispensing of small biological entities. It combines innovative micro-engineering design and artificial intelligence to automatically inspect and sort miniature biological entities. The technology was originally developed to handle the eggs of zebrafish (Danio rerio), but it can handle any round entity ranging from 0.6 to 1.5 mm. It has been used to sort xenopus oocytes and embryos, killifish eggs, and even seeds.
The idea of the EggSorted started in 2017 when Frank Bonnet, CEO of Bionomous, was working on a European project together with zebrafish researchers. He noticed that the manual sorting of zebrafish embryos was taking the valuable time of researchers and that it was a tiring and, thus, error-prone task.
Ana Hernando joined the project in 2019, and in November of that same year, Frank and Ana decided to found Bionomous, as a company to provide automatic solutions for the sorting of zebrafish eggs and similar entities.
How would you explain your solution in three sentences to a professional colleague in a chemical company?
The EggSorter is a device that provides rapid and fully automated screening, sorting and dispensing of small biological entities (0.5 – 2mm) for standardising and accelerating research. It individualises the entities and places them in front of a camera. Using AI, it classifies the entities and sorts them in different containers based on that classification. The EggSorted was originally designed for zebrafish eggs and works now for many different entities: fish eggs, frog eggs and plant seeds.
What problem motivated you to start the company?
The idea originated within the framework of a European project in which we collaborated with biologists who worked with zebrafish - a fish model widely used to study genetics, cancer and toxicology, among others. We identified the difficulties the researchers were facing when manipulating zebrafish embryos. These entities are extremely small (around 1 mm) and the whole processing was done manually under a microscope and using a pipette. When we understood that this was not an isolated case and that the use of zebrafish as a model was growing rapidly, we decided to develop a technology that could contribute to increase research efficiency in life science when using this model.
How do you convince a chemical company to set up a pilot project with you?
Nowadays, the process of screening, sorting and dispensing entities is currently done by hand by trained technicians able to recognise specific features in the entities. Thus, with the EggSorter researchers quickly realise its advantages. As an example, for toxicity screening following the OECD guidelines 236 - Fish Embryo Acute Toxicity Test - the EggSorter will release 80% of the preparation time of the embryos, will increase the efficiency 40%, and will standardise the process with >95% accuracy. Moreover,the EggSorter AI powered app provides total control of the device and access to reports and data in an intuitive way to use and set up. It takes less than 10 minutes to have the device running and, after the process, all the pictures are saved and tracked to their position in the output containers, together with their classification, giving all the control of the process to the researcher. For pilots projects, we also provide custom solutions for the detection of new features in the entities, or for the handling of new entities, as we have done for killifish eggs, xenopus eggs, and plant seeds.
Who are your current customer (groups) and who do you want your potential customers to be?
Our main customers are laboratories using these entities (e.g. zebrafish embryo) for research and/or toxicity testing. This includes laboratories in academic institutions, as well as laboratories in private companies. There has been in the past years an increase in CROs and pharma companies using these models to replace and reduce the number of mammals used. We have done our first sales in the academic sector and we want to jump now towards the private sector, with CROs and pharmas implementing our technology to reduce their costs and standardise their processes. We are also looking for distributors of our technology in Germany, Europe, and the rest of the world.
Where do you see yourself in 3 years and how can 5-HT support you?
We are working now on increasing our sales, and establishing distributorship agreements. As well as expanding our product lines. We expect in 3 years to have the EggSorter as a standard for zebrafish eggs, as well as to have expanded to new opportunities. Such opportunities regard fish farms, horticulture and agriculture, and cell tissue beads.
We are very happy to be part of 5-HT as thanks to their network we can reach important stakeholders in our current market, as well as in future markets
Are you also looking for cooperation partners - e.g., to expand your service offerings or work on pilot projects?
Yes, we are always looking for cooperation partners to expand our product capabilities, as well as our product lines. Currently, we are developing several new products for which we are looking for early adopters. Besides, we look to expand the application of our technology, being one of the opportunities the handling of cell tissue beads. We have done very promising first trials in house, and we are looking for collaborations to explore the potential of our technology in this field. Besides, we look for distributors of our current technology, in Europe and also the rest of the world.
Your EggSorter is already a very advanced combination of automation machinery, biological sample handling and AI-driven data analysis. What will the future of the product look like, and do you have additional products in the pipeline as well?
Last 1st of December, we launched to the market the certified version of the EggSorter. This new version includes many new features and the feedback given by the current users of our technology. It has a robust and modular design that adapts to every project. The EggSorter will have soon an extremely easy workflow to implement in the device new classification algorithms design by the user. Thanks to a new app for the labelling and training of the algorithms in an intuitive and fast way. With regards to new product lines, we are developing, in collaboration with the CSEM, in Switzerland, the LarvaeSorter, a device to handle zebrafish larvae (‘LarvaeSorter’). And we have in mind to develop a device with 10 times more throughput than our current technology, so that we can target the markets of aquaculture and plant seeds.
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