Higher image quality at lower radiation doses. To help bring the revolutionary new quantum dot technology for X-ray examinations to the market, the spin-off company from Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen received a sizable investment from Carduso Capital and the Finnish venture capital firm Maki.vc. Founder and CEO Artem Shulga discusses the potential of quantum dots, the investment process and the next exciting steps for the high-tech startup.
QDI Systems was founded in 2019 by physicist Dr. Artem Shulga, who received his PhD in quantum dots from the University of Groningen in 2017. Together with his team, consisting of two chemists and a physicist, he threw himself wholeheartedly into quantum dots technology for X-ray research. By 2022, QDI Systems aims to demonstrate that the technology works and can be widely applied in collaboration with industry partners.
The startup from Groningen has developed a technology based on ultra modern nanomaterial: quantum dots. This material converts photons into electronic signals in a highly effective way. When quantum dots are used for X-ray examinations, they are able to create a higher image quality at lower radiation doses. The technology is expected to have a huge impact on procedures like mammogram screening and diagnostics.
So how does it work exactly? “In healthcare, X-ray examinations are done to visualize the inside of the body. X-rays are electromagnetic radiation that penetrate the tissues of the body”, Artem explains. “These examinations are used to record bone fractures, examine the functioning of organs, or detect cancer, in a mammography, among other things. A high dose of X-rays can be harmful to the body.”
"And that’s the dilemma”, Artem continues. “When you use a high dose, the image quality becomes better. But because radiation is also bad for the body, this is a difficult trade-off," says Shulga. "Our quantum dot technology makes it possible to create X-rays and X-ray views of higher image quality, but with a lower dose. It’s better for the patient and better for the diagnosis."
The Groningen investment funds Carduso Capital and RuG Ventures already made an investment in QDI Systems in May 2021. Thanks to this first round of investment, the company was able to set up its first laboratory, strengthen its patents and complete its R&D team.
QDI Systems is also the first initiative worldwide able to demonstrate the added value of quantum dots for X-ray examinations. No easy feat, according to Artem: “It’s a relatively new field, so there’s not a lot of research out there. There are a few publications that concluded that the application of quantum dots is not very viable in X-ray technology. We’ve taken a different approach to make it work, but early on, we struggled to convince new investors. There are not a lot of high tech investors in the Netherlands who specialize in this kind of technology and we didn’t have international contacts. ”
“Niek Huizenga however, introduced me to Ton van ‘t Noordende, who has a very extensive international network of investors”, Artem continues. “He was immediately enthusiastic about our idea and contacted a couple of VCs for us, including Maki from Finland. They specialize in deep tech and have a lot of contacts in the medical field, so together with Carduso Capital, I think we really found the perfect balance of investors with the right expertise in different areas to really help us move forward.”
Maki.vc’s partner Paavo Räisänen is also excited about QDI’s potential and looks forward to working together: “QDI’s solution is a textbook example of a breakthrough technology with multiple benefits - better imaging quality with lower radiation doses while simplifying production process and using less toxic materials. Although the company is still in its early days, it has already generated impressive traction and feedback from large industrial companies, some of which have stated that this is the best new tech they have seen in ten years.”