Interview with Sixte de Fraguier (ECM)
How did you become involved in this project?
Initially I was contacted by An Nguyen Dinh from VERMON, the French ultrasound probe manufacturer in charge of the LUCA optics-ultrasound combined probe. An Nguyen Dinh asked me if ECM would be interested in collaborating with an EU-funded research project on a new approach combining ultrasound imaging and photonics techniques to improve thyroid screening and diagnosis. Since the piezoelectric transducer is a key component of the ultrasound imaging system, it is crucial for our company to have a very close collaboration with the probe designer (VERMON). This is why, over the past 10 years, ECM has developed a strategic business relationship with VERMON, who today represents our major ultrasound probe supplier. VERMON introduced us to Turgut Durduran and after several very interesting technical discussions, it was very clear that this project could perfectly fit both our R&D roadmap and our product market positioning strategy.
What will be your major contribution to the project?
ECM designs, manufactures and sells ultrasound imaging systems for both medical and veterinary applications in more than 100 countries worldwide. Therefore, our company is contributing to the LUCA project with our vast expertise in ultrasound imaging systems, both from a technical and marketing point of view.
Our first task is to develop a specific interface software to integrate our high-end Exapad system together with the optical modalities of the LUCA demonstrator, offering clinicians the ability to drive all functions and retrieve optical measurements results through the ultrasound imaging system user interface.
Integrating the ultrasound imaging functionality within a larger, broader medical system to provide visualization or localization of selected areas of interest, for diagnosis or treatment purposes, is a very interesting market trend for us. Since the conventional medical imaging market is very competitive and controlled by large multinational groups, we believe that we may have a competitive advantage thanks to our small enterprise flexibility to address this B-to-B market. Thus, interfacing our imager into the LUCA demonstrator is in line with several of our R&D goals. This may also lead to very exciting future telemedicine applications.
In addition, due to our expertise in acoustics, we will give support to the multi-modality phantom design and validation and offer our technical support during the LUCA demonstrator clinical evaluation.
As a member of the exploitation committee, together with the other industrial partners, we will develop a strategic plan to address potential innovation protection and to evaluate market acceptance of the LUCA device as a new thyroid diagnostic tool. We will analyse cost constraints and price positioning in order to select the best marketing approach for the future LUCA device.
LUCA is a multidisciplinary project. You have worked in such projects before, thus what kind of learning experiences do you think you can bring to the table for this project and help make it be successful?
I think ECM’s knowledge and experience in introducing medical devices to the market will be of great value to the LUCA project, ensuring that development tasks and the future commercial product design can be performed in compliance with current medical device regulations.
Compared to other projects I have been involved with, I have the feeling that the LUCA project will benefit from the very high level of expertise from all partners in their own field. I think it is essential to efficiently gather clinical needs and environment, academic researchers’ know-how and industrial processes and promote synergies between partners that ensure the project’s success. From this perspective, the LUCA consortium is very efficient and I do appreciate the large spectrum of complementary skills from all partners.
As a developer of mainly of ultrasound devices, how do you foresee the type of impact the project will have for the medical field and thus, society in general?
There is no doubt in my mind that, if the LUCA project can demonstrate better sensitivity and specificity in the field of endocrinology, it will also open the way to new clinical applications of such multi-modal approach, providing us with the opportunity to develop new medical devices and offer better healthcare tools.
Sixte de Fraguier
Sixte de Fraguier obtained an Engineering degree in Physics from the Ecole Supérieure de Physique et Chimie Industrielles (ESPCI) in Paris, France in 1982. After graduating, he worked as a design engineer in the field of X-ray sources for medical applications at Thomson‐ CSF group for 5 years and applied for several patents. He then worked at Thales for 3 years, manufacturing ultrasound probes for sonar and medical applications. He held a position of R&D probe designer and then Product Line manager. From 2001-2005, Sixte joined a Thales start-up company developing an innovative concept of portable medical ultrasound system as an interface to a standard PC. In 2006, he joined ECM, where he currently leads the development of the new ECM line of medical and veterinary products.
Based in Angoulême, France, ECM is a French independent company that designs, manufactures and sells ultrasound imaging systems for medical and veterinary applications. Founded in May 2001 to address veterinarians and breeders’ need for a pregnancy control tool, ECM has developed a range of small portable battery-operated lowprice ultrasound scanners. In 2005, the company decided to enter the medical market and developed a new line of high-end systems, mainly focused on lowprice portable systems, while building up a new distribution network specially dedicated to the medical market. Today ECM has 35 medical and 60 veterinary distributors around the world, which sell approximately 700 products per year that represent a total turnover of 5 M€.