Dutch quantum dot startup bags €5M to improve X-ray imaging

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Deep tech startup QDI Systems has secured €5mn in Series A funding to further boost its ambitious mission: revolutionising X-ray imaging and mammography screening using quantum dots technology.

Quantum dots are microscopic semiconductor nanoparticles that convert photons into electronic signals. Although first discovered in the 1980s, quantum dots have only recently been used in the electronics and biomedical industry.

QDI Systems claims to be the first to apply the technology to medical imaging such as X-rays and mammography screening.

Founded in 2019 in Groningen, the startup was born as a spinoff of the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials at the University of Groningen by physicist and PhD Artem Shulga. The team consists of seven people, most of whom hold a PhD in chemistry or nanoscience.

Specifically, QDI Systems uses quantum dots to develop imaging devices, with a special focus on X-rays. In collaboration with Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), it also created the first quantum dots-based CMOS imaging chip for X-rays.

According to the company, its technology leads to safer, faster, and more precise X-ray imaging. “Quantum dots are 10 times more sensitive than current industrial state-of-the-art material applied in mammography imagers — amorphous selenium,” Artem Shulga, the startup’s founder and CEO and founder tells TNW.

Artem Shulga QDI Systems

He explains that the higher X-ray contrast that quantum dots enable can help decrease the radiation dose for a patient, which is a concern in mammography. “We are targeting to halve the dose required per imaging exam, while keeping image quality equal or better compared to what current X-ray detectors allow,” Shulga adds.

Beyond X-ray imaging, the startup is also developing tech that uses shortwave infrared (SWIR), aiming to open up new markets. That’s because SWIR presents potential for both industrial applications (such as image sensors for sorting processes) as well as consumer applications (like facial recognition for mobile phones).

“The applications where we see the strongest market demand for our technology are those which require high resolution images,” Shulga says. These include mammography diagnostics and screening as well as dental applications.

Nevertheless, the company is equally focused on the medtech sector and other industries as well.

“We understand that medical application is quite demanding in terms of quality control and regulations, which might take extra time to accomplish before we see our technology installed in hospitals,” Shulga adds. “Therefore, we look at other applications, such as industrial inspection, where we anticipate a shorter way to put the product in the market.”

With the fresh capital, QDI Systems will further scale up quantum dots technology for the medical sector and new markets. It also plans to double its team size.

The funding round was led by the Investment and Development Agency for the Northern Netherlands (NOM) and was backed by the company’s previous investors Carduso Capital, RuG Ventures, and Maki.vc. The total investment also includes an innovation loan of €1.97mn from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).

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