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History of the Laboratory of Therapeutic Applications of Ultrasound


The Laboratory of Therapeutic Applications of Ultrasound, LabTAU, has been created in 1985 and is located at 151 Cours Albert Thomas, Lyon, France. The offices and laboratories space covers an area of 1268 m2 in a building owned by INSERM (The French National Institute for Health and Medical Resarch ) and constructed on a land owned by the City of Lyon. It is located in the Hôpitaux Est district of Lyon, comprising the University Hospital CHU Edouard Herriot (HEH), the regional comprehensive cancer center Léon Bérard (CLB), the “Lyon Est” Pharmacy and Medical Schools (the fusion since 2010 of Laënnec, Lyon Nord and Grange Blanche Medical Schools) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which are all within walking distance. LabTAU is a laboratory originally within INSERM and the University of Lyon. Since 2005 and the creation of the Institute of Experimental Surgery (ICE), LabTAU is also part of the CLB. The CLB provides staff and facilities (500m2) for performing surgical research on large animals.

Back in the 80s, the laboratory focused its research on tissue characterization with electrical tomography. Dominique Cathignol, the director of the laboratory in the late 80s, oriented the research to ultrasound imaging, with a focus on urology, leading to the development of Doppler device for measuring the aortic blood flow (HemosonicTM commercialized by Arrows® International), and the development of one of the very first transrectal ultrasound probe for prostate imaging. Very soon after, the company Technomed was created as a spinoff from the laboratory (1985) and the research in therapeutic ultrasound with the first developments on Extra-corporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy.

Geographical situation of LabTAU (red pin on the left-hand side) inside the “Lyon Est” hospital district with the University Hospital Edouard Herriot (Green), the med schools (Blue), the Cancer Research Center (Purple) and the Neuro and Cardiology Hospital (Yellow)

Under the impulsion of Jean-Yves Chapelon, who directed the laboratory from 2001 to 2015, the laboratory became a pioneer in the field of HIFU. In 1992, the laboratory was the first to propose endorectal HIFU for the treatment of prostate cancers. This work led in 2000 to the commercialization by EDAP-TMS (fusion of EDAP and Technomed) of Ablatherm "Maxis". Thanks to the permanent interaction between the researchers and clinicians of LabTAU and the company EDAP, new and more powerful versions of the device have been created, starting with the integrated imaging device marketed by EDAP-TMS in 2005, and more recently the marketing of the Focal-One device for focal therapy in 2014. In recognition of this pioneering position, LabTAU had the chance to organize the 3rd International Symposium on Therapeutic Ultrasound in 2003.

New applications of HIFU were developed, resulting in the creation of companies such as Theraclion (spin-off of EDAP-TMS) in 2004 for the treatment of thyroids nodules, and EyeTechCare in 2008 for the treatment of glaucoma. LabTAU is now also involved in ultrasound-induced drug delivery, and in collaboration with Pr  Alexandre Carpentier from Hospital of Paris (APHP), the company Carthera was created in 2010. Our joint research has led to the first-in-man clinical trial of blood-brain barrier disruption by pulsed ultrasound.

Clinical and industrial transfers are the main objectives for the research at LabTAU. This industrial valorization is greatly favored by the ISO 9001 certification of research projects involving private companies, that has been obtained and maintained since 2008.

LabTAU performs a research at the interface between engineering sciences and medicine, and thus is part of two doctoral schools of the University of Lyon: Interdisciplinary doctoral school in Science and Health (EDISS) and the doctoral school in Mechanics (MEGA). Similarly, LabTAU benefits from the support of 2 laboratories of excellence, an elite French funding program:  Excellence Laboratory Cancer Development and Targeted Therapies (LabEx DEVweCAN) and Excellence Laboratory of Acoustics (LabEx CeLya), with the aim of promoting Lyon to a global hub in the field of oncology and acoustics, respectively, and to attract new talents. In 2017, LabTAU became the 7th Center of Excellence of the FUS Foundation.

Cyril Lafon, the new director of the laboratory since 2016, will build on this heritage and pursue this tradition of translational research at LabTAU for the benefit of the patients.

To conclude this historical review and emphasize the pioneering position of LabTAU in the community of therapeutic ultrasound, it can be reminded that Dominique Cathignol and Jean-Yves Chapelon received the Fry award from the ISTU in 2009 and 2015 respectively, and that Cyril Lafon received the Frederic Lizzi Early Career award from the ISTU in 2010.

Three generations of director of LabTAU: Jean-Yves Chapelon (2001-2015), Dominique Cathignol (1981-2000) and Cyril Lafon (2016-…)