Last year bNovate celebrated its first decade. We wanted to discover what challenges had to be overcome and what has been achieved in these 10 years of bNovate Technologies history. To this end, we interviewed Douglas Watson, Head of Operations, and Project Manager Jérémy Senouillet, who have both accompanied bNovate’s journey almost from the beginning.
What were the most challenging hurdles you had to overcome in developing the “BactoSense”?
Douglas: We had to solve deep technical problems to build the core technology platform of the BactoSense. We had to develop from scratch a machine that could carry information emitted from a fluorescent molecule attached to DNA inside bacteria to a colourful graphical interface in front of the customer.
Jérémy: I see three main hurdles: First, the BactoSense had to step up from a demonstrator (on the bench) to a real and functional prototype. Then followed the first year(s) of field testing – with all the errors and little details that had to be improved on the run. And finally, we had to confront it with the real world and all the challenges that come with it.
What differentiates the first functional prototype of BactoSense from today’s model on the market – what improvements and optimizations have you been able to implement over the years?
Douglas: What hasn't changed? The first model required constant attention, including full dismantling and deep cleaning to remove contaminations – and it didn't even have a user interface. The current model can run for months with no human intervention, yields perfectly repeatable results, and cleans itself after simply screwing in a special sample and pressing a couple of buttons. Those three features are incredibly hard to achieve when working with biological processes.
Jérémy: Definitely, its robustness. By now, we have identified probably all possible bugs and corrected them. We acquired a deep knowledge of our technology, and we can predict almost everything in advance, like the classical troubleshooting, wear of the materials, etc.
Why is BactoSense a unique solution, and what differentiates it from a standard laboratory Flow Cytometer?
Jérémy: BactoSense of today is a fully automated and ready-to-use instrument that is foolproof and usable by anyone, anytime and anywhere. You can use it manually in the lab, even at home, or online for a multinational company's process control or remotely in a cave, lost in a forest, etc.
In a short time, you can achieve effortlessly high-end analysis & results. Our device is fully autonomous and does not require any calibration steps. While a lab FCM needs maintenance 1 to 2 times per month, BactoSense only needs one 1 to 2 times per year.
One BactoSense specificity is the very easy-to-use interface. How did you manage to make this feature?
Douglas: From day one, we applied design thinking. We concentrated on the main tasks users wanted to execute, tested them early, and iterated with all sorts of prototypes to determine everything from optimal button size to screen flows and layouts. We also hired professional software designers for the visual part. We did a good job because most feature requests are related to auxiliary tasks like exporting data. We have received only positive feedback on our users’ primary job: measuring.
What do you think has been the main secret of BactoSense’s success so far?
Jérémy: Its user-friendliness, compactness and ability to be used in the field, excellent user-friendly interface, easy-to-use cartridge and waste management system, and reliability in the long term (over the years).
What are the next big steps for bNovate – what can the market and your customers expect?
Jérémy: Go one step further with the simplicity of the results given by the device. We need to suppress the analysis's subjectivity and add more intelligence to the BactoSense to analyse its own data. We should give it more freedom regarding decision-making to decrease the last human-based errors. For instance, algorithmic detection of anomalies to build rationales regarding alarms and process control can become an incredibly powerful feature. Suppressing the classical and so-called gating methods would also significantly improve the flow cytometry field.
Finally, developing detection for specific pathogens such as E.coli or Legionella is a huge and highly anticipated challenge for the upcoming year(s).
What are your visions today – where do you see bNovate Technologies in 5 and 10 years?
Jérémy: bNovate is an awesome company, full of extremely talented and motivated people. We are the definition of a multidisciplinary team willing to build the best possible products.
In 10 years, we should become a leader and a world reference for all automated microbiological analyses in drinking water and other related markets. BactoSense, and Aqu@Sense, as well as our future products, should become the gold standard in their specific applications.
Thank you very much, Douglas and Jérémy, for your time and answers. What you’ve achieved so far is impressive, and we look forward to further innovations of bNovate Technologies.