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A Breeding Ground for French Startups

Taking place from the 6th to the 9th of October in Grenoble's AlpExpo exhibition centre, SEMICON Europa not only packed in an impressive number of presentations and forums, ranging from semiconductor processing and packaging to plastic electronics, MEMS manufacturing, and test issues, the exhibition also hosted a buoyant “Innovation Village” where French startups pitched their ideas and showcased their product concepts.

What follows are our favorite picks.

Founded two years ago, Feeligreen was certainly the most market-ready of them, with several products already lined up. What’s more, at the time of writing, Feeligreen was expecting to close a funding round of €1 million (US$1.25 million) with undisclosed venture capitalists and an industrial partner.

Based in Grasse on the Riviera, a town still considered today as the world's capital of perfume, Feeligreen is set to revolutionize both the pharmaceutical and the cosmetic industries with an electronically controlled patch designed to actively diffuse drugs through the skin, in an ionized form.

Known as active iontophoresis, this administration method uses a direct electrical current to cause ions of a soluble substance to move across the surface of the skin and diffuse into the underlying epidermis and dermis. Measuring about 20x20 mm and only a couple of millimeters thin, the compact electronic module driving the iontophoresis sits on top of a flexible printed electronics plaster with the right electrodes in place, doubling as the drug gel carrier.

This transdermic drug delivery platform speeds up drug diffusion by a factor of 4 to 10, claims Feeligreen CEO Dr. Christoph Bianchi. “For example, in the case of Lidocaine, which is commonly used as a local anaesthetic before vaccination, it only takes a few minutes for the drug to be fully delivered, instead of an hour," Bianchi told us while flexing some wearable prototypes.

“Our main customers are the pharmaceutical companies, which are already formulating numerous drugs for use in patches. We would sell them the flexible printed layout and the reusable active electronic unit to speed up the drug absorption,” Bianchi explained.

“Our drug delivery platform is so effective that in the case of vaccines, it could be used in place of needles, much more cost-effective and safer as you reduce the risks of infection. It is just a matter of finding the right drug formulation, ionto-optimized with the right conductivity.”

Other medical or cosmetic use cases for such a patch include treatments for bedsore prevention, wound healing, anti-wrinkle drugs, or full-fledged Botox treatments as patches instead of the injections currently requiring the intervention of a doctor.

Because the flexible part of the patch can take any shape and could be designed to wrap around large body areas, Bianchi thinks this wearable active patch could yield many innovative uses, including in sportswear to alleviate tendinitis or designed as “shapewear” for cellulitis treatment and thinning.

The electronic unit is built around an ARM Cortex-M0 core. It continuously monitors the local skin temperature and skin resistivity as well as other biometrics in order to securely dispense the right amount of current for optimum drug delivery.

“Monitoring the temperature is useful to detect any possible allergy reaction”, says Bianchi, while a Bluetooth LE radio link allows doctors to check all these physiological parameters.

For quality control, Bianchi says the electronic unit and the flexible patches are all made in France, sourced from partners no farther than 30 km away.

Biocompatible materials are used for the flexible patches, and Feeligreen will develop custom electrode designs for different drug formulations or dispensing areas. For now, the company is hoping to manufacture and ship its product for cosmetic and non-medical applications, but in the long term, Feeligreen could license its technology to OEMs in the medical sector.