Team:INSA-UPS France/Entrepreneurship/Testimonies


In order to achieve the most real entrepreneurship approach possible, we first met with some professionals to talk about our idea and get advice to better integrate our system into the cholera market. The people we get in touch with have knowledge in the areas of business development, support for creation of start-ups and about the daily life of villages affected by cholera. We also took into account the feelings of the western population with respect to our project.

Marc Lemonnier

Marc Lemonnier answering to our Tweet to thank him

Who is he?

Marc Lemonnier is the founding CEO of ANTABIO. This start-up, based at Labège (France) is a private biopharmaceutical company developing novel therapies to treat drug-resistant infections by the most critical Gram-negative pathogens.

His advice?

To set up a business from an idea, you must be able to answer the problem of the “man in the street”. It is not easy to implement an advanced technology in the developing world. The device will have to be as user friendly as possible.

The steps to follow to ensure a permanent business are:

  • to have a proof of concept of the system;
  • to be able to test it on V. cholerae by having access to a P2 laboratory;
  • to speak to the scientist community (but not only) around us to collect opinions, advice and recruit people to support us in the project;
  • to meet with preindustrial demonstrators like TWB (Toulouse White Biotechnology) to help us think about the development of our large-scale product for commercialization;
  • do not hesitate to go to support structures for start-up projects such as the "Incubateur Mipy" in Toulouse (France);
  • to learn about the regulatory aspect of the sale of GMMs;
  • to find where people reluctance may come from, why and how to circumvent it;
  • to make a business plan and a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis;
  • to learn about intellectual property: an investor will want the system to be protected by a patent for example;
  • and last but not least, to build a complementary team and keep in mind that one day, the product will arrive in the customers’ hands.

Pierre Monsan and Véronique Paquet

Our team with Pierre Monsan (Founding Director of TWB) and Véronique Paquet (External Relations Director)

Who are they?

Pierre Monsan is the founding CEO of TWB (Toulouse White Biotechnology) and Véronique Paquet is the External Relations Director. This is a preindustrial demonstrator whose goal is to speed up the development of industrial biotechnology by facilitating exchanges between public research and industry. It contributes to the expansion of a bioeconomy based on the use of renewable carbon in the fields of chemistry, materials and energy.

Their advice?

We are proud to have submitted our project to TWB which is an entity helping many companies and research projects in their development. TWB is also one of our biggest sponsors, helping us to get the scientific equipment we needed during the iGEM competition to allow our project to start in the best conditions. They proposed to us to get in touch with business developers, an ethicist and industrials. Then, as part of the development of a start-up for our project, TWB could, for example, provide us with premises and equipment.

Pierre-Alain Hoffmann

Pierre-Alain Hoffmann (Deputy Director of CRITT Bio-Industries) with two members of our team: Leïla and Léo

Who is he?

Pierre-Alain Hoffmann is Deputy Director of CRITT Bio-Industries based in Toulouse. It is a center that connects research to industry in the field of biotechnology processes. They help developing process projects or new products in the field of R&D and assist them all the way from the concept to an industrial scale.

His advice?

His knowledge and skills in creation and development of companies, and in the field of processes, were helpful to consider our scientific concept as a potential commercial offer. Very enthusiastic at our idea detection and treatment of water system, he assured us that the market was reachable. He guided us in the establishment of a business plan worthy of a real start-up and helped us about the points that we had to consolidate in our approach.

Christophe Campéri-Ginestet

Our team with Christophe Campéri-Ginestet at the center (Founding Director of Sunwaterlife)

Who is he?

Christophe Campéri-Ginestet is the founding CEO of Sunwaterlife. Sunwaterlife is a French start-up located in Toulouse, designer of an innovative water purification system, that can be used in particular to purify water contaminated with cholera. With the size of a suitcase and supplied by solar energy, it is an eco-friendly self-sustained solution, able to provide drinking water for schools, clinics, villages or in case of sanitary emergency in developing countries.

His advice?

If we want to make a water detection and treatment device for the populations affected by cholera, it must be as simple as possible (transportable and with low maintenance) so that it is deployable on the ground. It has to resist to high temperatures because it is often high in the affected countries. If our system succeeds in properly filling these points, then it could be competitive with bleach, a widely used solution but which requires frequent maintenance not being stable at high temperatures.

In order to have opinions from people in the field, he put us in touch with UNICEF.

To help us to contain our microorganisms, a partnership with the company has been established. They provide us with their membranes that filter bacteria. As a result, this collaboration with Sunwaterlife, which has a great expertise in the treatment of cholera-contaminated water, gives our system a certain proof of reliability.

Besides, he explained to us that, compared to the solutions that already exist, the very advantageous point of our system is the detection of V. cholerae. Currently, the techniques to detect V. cholerae in water take several days and the samples can not be analyzed in the field: they must be sent to an analysis laboratory.

Sunwaterlife has invested in our project to get our research work on the V. cholerae detection module. They wish to continue this project in the coming year by taking a trainee. This will allow them to keep up the creation of the biological system allowing the detection of V. cholerae, but also to adapt it to the detection of E. coli. By coupling it to its water filtration system, they could have a fast, reliable, sensitive, colored response on the water quality before and after purification.

Logo of the “Jeune Entreprise Innovante” status that we have enabled Sunwaterlife to get through our iGEM project

In addition, we participated to the preparation of the application for the status of "Jeune Entreprise Innovante" (which can be translated as "Young Innovative Company") for Sunwaterlife. This status is very popular among SMEs because, in exchange for an R&D investment of 15% of the tax-deductible expenses for the current year, the company benefits from tax concessions and exemptions from social contributions.

Therefore, this investment and collaboration between our team and Sunwaterlife enabled them to apply to a very interesting status for the start-up.

Claire Salvador

Who is she?

Claire Salvador is the head manager in charge of the NGO Doctors Without Borders Midi-Pyrénées based in Toulouse. Created in 1971, Doctors Without Borders is a humanitarian association that provides medical assistance to populations confronted with of armed conflicts, epidemics, pandemics, natural disasters, etc.

Her advice?

With her experience in the field, Claire Salvador explained that the main problems of cholera are not in villages where the disease is endemic because the population knows perfectly the symptoms and water treatment facilities are increasingly installed. Moreover, countries affected by cholera hide epidemics from tourists to avoid scaring them. Our system should therefore not target the populations accustomed to this disease, nor tourists. However, it would be interesting to adapt it to remote villages, which have a difficult access to the cholera camps and do not necessarily take the time to boil water before using it. The portable and simple aspects of our device are advantages.

Francisco Luquero

Who is he?

Francisco Luquero has a PhD in Infectious disease epidemiology. He has worked on vaccine to prevent cholera. With Epicentre of Doctors Without Borders but also the WHO and UNICEF, Dr Luquero has performed field evaluation of cholera outbreak in Africa. He is also part of the Surveillance OCV Working Groups of the WHO Global Task Force for Cholera Control.

His advice?

Thanks to his field experience he confirmed what we have learned so far on cholera epidemy. Indeed, he told us that current solutions to avoid cholera infection are not adapted to African’s people’s way of life because they are too expensive and time-expensive. Because he is an expert in biology we were able to explain to him our project. He was surprised to hear that european students may care about cholera and told us that using GMMs do not seem problematic to be accepted as long as the water’s color and taste do not change. As a matter of fact this information is pretty important for us as we are planning to use diacetyl which smell like butter. Finally he gave us an important information about our system: people in remote village have different reservoir’s size so our device must be adapted to several liters.

Alama Keita

Who is he?

Alama Keita works with UNICEF and is a cholera specialist. He travels between Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Democratic Republic of Congo to manage the cholera outbreaks. Created in 1946, the UNICEF or United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund is an agency of the United Nations that aims at improving the condition of children worldwide.

His advice?

Creating a solution for remote villages is a great idea. The challenge is to get a system with GMMs accepted by NGOs and villagers. NGOs must prove to their donors that they have total control over the products they use (both on the use and on GMM waste treatment), show their efficiency, show that their costs remain reasonable, etc. Moreover, the treatment capacity of our device must be higher than 1 sachet per 1 liter. Indeed, for a village of 15 families with 7 people each, knowing that each person uses about 15 L of water per day, villagers need 11,025 L of water in a week. The use of 11,025 sachets per week is not suitable, especially with respect to waste management.

The key to success would be to create a system independent of NGOs. Villagers from remote villages should not have to travel to the NGOs camps every day to bring the bags containing GMMs. For example, bleach has the advantage of not leaving waste. To conclude, villagers' information and product accessibility will be essential.



With this survey intended to western population, we wanted to know their opinion about such a system and their expectations if they had to use it. The survey was filled in by 510 persons. Analysis was performed with the help of Sandrine Laguerre using the “R” freeware with packages library (ggplot2) and library (FactoMineR).

What did we learn from it?

The the public is not against the idea of using GMMs to ensure water safety. More than 70% are willing to use this product with more information about it.

Also, it appears that, from an occidental point of view, 1 liter should be the right volume to treat. Most likely, western people refer to the amount of water necessary for a 1 day activity, a hiking trip for example. This number could significantly differ from the requirements of people living in developing countries.

People would also enjoy having a fast and efficient device with drinkable water obtained in less than 15 minutes. They would agree to pay up to 50 euros to get such a device.

Taken together, our data show that western populations could accept our device, therefore so could some members of NGOs. The solution is to be transparent and better communicate on the sciences and technologies behind. People are willing to invest in this system, but only if the speed performances have been optimized.

Results of the Westener population survey we have done (Enlarge)

Conclusion about the testimonies

First of all, we would like to thank all those people we met. These exchanges helped us to identify the approach to follow in order to create a business, the possible partners, and the cholera context in order to develop an application that is as appropriate as possible.

In order to start a business, we first need to have proof of concept, talk to scientific and non-scientific (marketing, ethics, communication, law, etc.) people about it in order to get other feedback and ideas, analyze the market through a business plan and not hesitate to contact actors who are used to assist projects development such as TWB or the CRITT Bio-Industries. We must not hide the negative points of our product but instead provide solutions.

Following discussions with cholera experts, we were advised to target people living in isolated villages. The device we will create must be simple, portable, and as independent as possible from NGOs. Ideally, villagers should manage the system from beginning to end, without assistance.

Thanks to all these feedbacks, we have been able to draw up a scope statement covering all the specific features our system must meet.