High Output

2.2M€ in funding awarded to a biological battery project that could revolutionise a wide variety of medical devices including pacemakers, artificial sphincters, or even insulin pumps.

The UJF’s Implantable Biofuel Cell (IBFC) project, a biological battery that harvests energy from glucose and enzymes or sodium chloride and biomimetic membranes, has been awarded 2.2m€ as part of the Future Investments Funding Project (Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir) established by the French Government. This exciting innovation has huge clinical and commercial potential. The prospect of a battery that uses the body’s limitless supply of fluids as a source of fuel to create energy could open up the potential for the future development of artificial internal organs, thus significantly improving the quality of life of a wide number of patients.

The technology is today capable of producing 6.5 microwatts of power in-vivo for a period of several months, with a power to volume ratio of 0.5 microwatts per microlitre. The inventors intend to use the Government funding to refine the technology, with a view to exploring new methods to produce power from glucose or sodium chloride. This should result in improved fuel cell performance and consequently make it suitable for a broad range of medical devices.

Floralis invested 50K€ at the early stages of the project and used its connections with the Carnot Institute LSI to procure a further 20K€ in funding. This early stage investment, in combination with the 100K€ made available by the University Joseph Fourier played an important part in helping to get the project off the ground at a critical stage in its development. Floralis also accompanied the UJF’s teams in the development of a successful application for funding with the National Agency for Research (ANR) Emergence program, approved by the Minalogic competitivity cluster and played a supporting role in the development of the Future Investments Funding application. Additional early stage funding was also made possible via the CNRS’s Interdisciplinary Energy programme « PR10-1-1 » and the RTRA Nanosciences Foundation provided funding for UJF research to extract energy from biomimetic membranes.

From an operational perspective, Floralis’s Business Managers also played an important part in the project’s development, working on the maturation of the technology.

The IBFC project exploits a very diverse and unusual combination of expertise, present in Grenoble. Two UJF/CNRS Laboratories TIMC-IMAG, (The Laboratory of Techniques for Medical Engineering and Complexity with Prof P Cinquin) and DCM (The Laboratory for Molecular Chemistry with Dr S Cosnier) have been successfully collaborating on these subjects for several years. These laboratories will concentrate on the technological possibilities made possible through biomimetic membranes, carbon nanotubes and enzymes, in order to generate electrical power from oxygen and glucose or sodium chloride. The INPG’s Paper Process laboratory (LGP2) remit covers the design of flexible bioelectrodes made possible by innovative printing technologies and the LETI- DTBS laboratory (CEA) is a specialist in the development of sensors and actuators based on micro/nano technologies in the biology and healthcare domain. Sorin, a private manufacturer of implantable cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators will help ensure that the technology continues to meet the technical and commercial demands of industry as it undergoes further development. STMicroelectronics is also supporting the IBFC project, drawing from its deep expertise in nanoporous silicon and related technologies

The project has received considerable scientific acclaim from a number of journals including PLOSone and Nature Communications, leading to a large amount of on and offline publicity for the project.

The IBFC project is co-ordinated by Professor Donald Martin, who was recruited by the UJF with the support of a “chair of excellence” made available by the Nanosciences Foundation.

Contact : Mathieu Tilquin