Ultrasound research has a rich legacy at the leading French engineering school ESPCI Paris, the birthplace of Iconeus. Radium, polonium, actinium, lutecium and many objects from our everyday lives such as the neon tube, the black box, the quartz watch, wireless technology and self-healing rubber were first discovered or created at ESPCI (an abbreviation of the full French name École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris), located in the historical Latin quarter of Paris, a world-renowned center of higher education and research since the 13th century. It's here that the first demonstration of the reverse piezoelectric effect, at the base of modern ultrasound technology, was conducted in 1881 by Pierre Curie, who later became an ESPCI professor and Nobel Prize winner. His doctoral student, Paul Langevin, also later an ESPCI professor, discovered, together with his co-workers the first practical application for piezoelectric devices in sonar, developed during World War I to detect enemy submarines.
Humbly following this path, functional ultrasound (fUS) imaging using ultra-high sensitivity Doppler imaging, based on plane wave acquisitions, was pioneered by Mickael Tanter, now head of the Physics for Medicine lab (ESPCI Paris / INSERM / CNRS). With his co-workers he proposed that very high frame-rate imaging would radically improve Doppler imaging sensitivity and this led to a breakthrough in the form of a novel neuro-functional imaging modality (Nature Methods, 2011). Since then, continuous innovation, benchmarked with a series of key INSERM patents on fUS technology (now exclusively licensed to Iconeus) and an Advanced ERC Grant (www.fultrasound.eu), leveraged the technology from the physics bench to neuroscience research centers and ultimately to hospitals and clinics. The team has built an extensive network of collaboration with neuroscientists and clinicians, resulting in dozens of publications in top-tier journals including Nature, Nature Methods and Science Translational Medicine.
In 2014, the team of Prof. Tanter published a seminal paper with the team of Dr. Zsolt Lenkei, from the Neurobiology Laboratory of ESPCI Paris, demonstrating the capacity of fUS to image functional connectivity in rat brains, in a minimally invasive way (Osmanski et al. Nature Communications, 2014). Realizing, together with their collegues Dr. Mathieu Pernot and Dr. Thomas Deffieux, the enormous potential of fUS imaging for neuroscience and the need for a high-end, plug-and-play fUS solution, they founded Iconeus in 2016, inviting the health-industry specialist Ludovic Lecointre, now CEO, and the Tanter Lab alumnus Dr. Bruno Osmanski, now CTO, to be co-founders. Together with the Iconeus team, they implement the mission of Iconeus – to facilitate access to advanced fUS technology for research teams all around the world.