Anaïs Barut
2015, France
Developed an optical imaging process for quick and non-invasive skin cancer detection

Biopsies for diagnosing skin tumors require extracting a tissue sample from the patient, freezing it, cutting it, staining it to analyze it. The diagnosis process may take up to 15 days and can be painful. Anaïs Barut has managed to carry out this process without bodily damage and more quickly.

Her start-up DAMAE Medical, launched in 2014, has created a device that can diagnose skin aqnomalies visually. The apparatus is placed on the skin and generates an image that allows doctors to analyze the patient's tissue and determine if there is a tumor. This way, no extracts are taken, and there is no need to wait 15 days to obtain results, as the test works instantly. Also, “the specialist can save the images and conduct another test months after to see the evolution without the need of a biopsy", Barut explains.

In order to generate the image that will be later studied by doctors, the device uses a technique known as interferometry. This method projects two rays of light onto different surfaces and compares them. “One of the rays is reflected onto the cells and the other on a mirror that serves as a reference", Barut explains. She adds “the two rays recombine to form an image by contrasting what is projected on the skin and what is reflected on the mirror".

Barut compares the method to a sonogram, although she points out that "it has 1000 times its resolution". One of the keys that sets thus device apart from others is that it arranges various optical elements, making possible the projection of a higher quality image. 

The future of medicine

The technique developed by DAMAE Medical has already drawn the attention of the medicine community and has obtained sponsorship from Roche Pharmaceuticals for a mentorship program. About this rapid success, Barut says: “Many specialists have been waiting for this technology. Doctors want to put a stop to unnecessary invasive biopsies".

With this objective, in 2013 Anaïs Barut formed an alliance with entrepreneur David Siret and with medical imaging expert Arnaud Dubois to create DAMAE Medical. Barut has studied a double degree in HEC Paris (France) and in the Institute of Optics of Paris (France) and she has applied the knowledge from both disciplines to launch DAMAE Medical.

François Jouen, Neuroscientist, Director of the Human and Artificial Cognition (CHArt) at EPHE (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes) and judge for MIT Technology Review Innovators under 35 France said “Barut has proposed a very innovative technique  in a very conservative discipline of which she is not an expert, and that's very brave".

The prototype created by Barut and her team is still in its testing phase, although they hope to commercialize it soon. If this device does what it promises, it could make biopsy scarring a thing of the past.