A niche startup that automates the screening and sorting of miniature biological entities used in life science and drug development research. Particularly, their technology specializes in sorting zebrafish eggs.

The IMD MBA offers a unique opportunity to work with a start-up that has been specially selected by the school. Startups enter a competition to be selected for participation and the top 20 are paired with groups of MBA participants. The startups range from bio/medtech to luxury goods and each group assists their assigned company with a unique problem. Over three months we get a glimpse of the life and the inner workings of an early stage startup.

Zoom selfie with the founders of our startup project

Our project introduces us to the novel celebrity of biological research: Zebrafish. The eggs of this small fish promise big discoveries in genetic studies, drug development research and toxicology. Their reproduction rate, similarity with human genetic structure and transparency of its embryos make this little fish a hero of these research areas. Yet there is one problem: manual sorting of its embryos by humans is tedious, time consuming and error prone.

Bionomous steps up on to the stage and provides a solution; a combination of biology and tech to bring automation. They have developed an elegant device enabling the automated screening and sorting of zebrafish eggs. A simple, sleek, and user-friendly machine (image left below), able to fulfil a tedious task that is still done manually in R&D laboratories across the world. The accuracy of the machine is significantly better than the current manual sorting. It also decreases the time scientists need to invest in sorting their eggs for trials by over 65%! A machine learning algorithm enables the device to learn and become even more accurate than it already is. Additionally, the device captures useful data for further analysis, such as the pictures of the embryos sorted managed by an easy-to-use interface (image right below). All this makes possible the standardization of embryo selection, vital for later reliable experiments.

It has been amazing to witness the passion that the founders, Frank and Ana have for their innovative device. Looking into what this startup offers, we all thought “We can’t believe nobody ever thought of this!” Obviously, many companies would be interested in purchasing this revolutionary device. The question is: how do we get on their radar? And this is the main focus of our project.

Our team does not have prior background on the zebrafish industry, so we are all stepping out of our comfort zones with this project. The first few weeks have been about research, discovering the business model and identifying impact areas where our team can make a contribution. We are looking forward to bringing a tangible contribution that moves the needle for Bionomous.  

Canay, Carla, Georges, and Luigi

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