Mickael Tanter and Mathias Fink named finalists for the European Inventor Award 2021
The European Patent Office rewards each year inventors who have made an outstanding innovation benefiting the society. Mickael Tanter and Mathias Fink have been nominated finalists in the “Research” category for the European Inventor Award 2021 for the invention of Shear Wave Elastography, a technique which ultimately proved efficient for the non-invasive diagnosis of breast cancer and liver disease while sparing patients the pain of biopsies.
The idea for Shear Wave Elastography (SWE) emerged at the Wave and Acoustics Laboratory of ESPCI Paris – PSL in 1996. At the time, Mickael Tanter was completing a PhD under Mathias Fink’s supervision. Together with fellow PhD candidates Stefan Catheline, Laurent Sandrin and Jeremy Bercoff, they developed a method to measure the elasticity of biological tissue by creating tiny vibrations (i.e. shear waves) in the tissue, and tracking the propagation of this vibration to determine the tissue stiffness. This biomechanical parameter provides a valuable information to clinicians, as stiffness variations reveal structural changes in the tissue and can therefore act as biomarkers of pathologies. The key achievement for performing SWE was the construction of the very first ultrafast ultrasound scanner, capable of imaging the human body at ten thousands of frames per second, and therefore tracking shear waves in the body as in a super slow-motion movie.
Watch a video interview of Mickael Tanter and Mathias Fink here.
In 2005, Mickael Tanter and Mathias Fink founded the company SuperSonic Imagine together with six other co-founders including Jeremy Bercoff. In 2006, the start-up raised its first round of investment and used this to create ten prototypes that were placed in breast cancer treatment hospitals for initial testing. Their prototype SWE platform proved to be highly successful – it decreased unnecessary breast cancer biopsies by more than half. SuperSonic Imagine brought SWE technology on the market in 2009. With approval for clinical use in Europe in 2008 and the USA in 2009, the device has since been picked up around the world: in 2017, an international multi-centre study on 1 134 patients confirmed the benefits of SWE in diagnosing liver fibrosis, a condition underestimated in 10-30% of cases. To date, SuperSonic Imagine’s SWE technology has been shown to improve the clinical management of conditions ranging from thyroid to prostate cancer, as well as gynaecological and paediatric conditions.
Mathias Fink and Mickael Tanter hold 42 and 13 European patents, respectively, including the patents EP2561380, EP2342582, EP1866667, EP1546757, EP1998680 and EP1531734 for which they have been nominated for the European Inventor Award 2021.