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Start-up spotlight: Michelson Diagnostics

14 Nov 2007

In vivo OCT developed by a UK company allows non-invasive detection and mapping of tumors.

What is Michelson Diagnostics' (MDT) core technology?
"Our core technology is optical coherence tomography (OCT), a depth-resolved sub-surface imaging technique based around non-ionizing mid-infrared sources," co-founder and applications director Gordon McKenzie told optics.org.

OCT is established in ophthalmology applications, but in more turbid tissues the goal of an "optical biopsy" has been more elusive. The challenges to in vivo OCT include the need to acquire an image in less than 100 ms to avoid blurring and achieving good enough signal to noise ratio to give maximum contrast. High image resolution and system stability in a turn-key product are also crucial.

"Our system is unique, thanks to an optical design that allows us to use high-speed Fourier domain OCT while not sacrificing lateral resolution, which is the normal trade-off for increased performance," explained Mckenzie. "The result is a fast scan with a resolution better than 10µm in all three axes, which can be used to detect and map tumors non-invasively."

What products does MDT sell?
"We currently sell the EX1301 OCT microscope that allows high-resolution non-invasive cross-sections of tissue samples in either 2D or 3D. The images are presented in real-time for manual examination, or an automated stage can sample tissues systematically."

What application areas does MDT target?
The EX1301 is targeted at scientific and clinical researchers, and at customers who are investigating the clinical potential of OCT in cancer diagnosis and treatment. "At the moment we're getting particular interest from clinicians working in gastrointestinal cancer, oral cancer, cervical and gynecological cancer, as well as from pathologists who see benefits in optimizing their workstreams," said McKenzie.

What were the origins of the company?
"The five founders of MDL were all employees of Sira, the optoelectronics design and development house based in London. We were planning to spin-out of Sira to pursue OCT as a clinical imaging tool, and negotiations were underway when Sira was forced into administration. The founders decided that they still believed in the potential of OCT to save lives, and we put our money where our mouth was. We founded MDL, and acquired the intellectual property and other assets from the administrators."

What are your future plans?
"By Q3 2008 we will have a hand held, in vivo product on the scientific market. This will allow researchers to move from examining ex vivo samples to examination of the patient directly, and opens up the possibility of research into conditions that currently are too early-stage or uncertain in their progression to be the subject of an invasive study."

Quick facts
Funding: Initially the company was funded by the five founders. Two small private funding rounds raised a total of £240k, with a £10k prize and a £140k grant for R&D from the London Development Agency topping this up. "More recently we have announced a £325k grant from the UK Technology Strategy Board, and in October we announced the closure of a £600k early stage investment from London Seed Capital, Catapult Venture Managers and the London Business Angel Network," said McKenzie.

Location: MDL's main offices and labs are in Grays Farm, London. Applications and marketing activities are based in Lichfield.

Employees: ten people in total, five full-time founders and five part-time staff.

11A Grays Farm Production Village
Grays Farm Rd
Orpington
Kent
BR5 3BD

Telephone: +44 (0) 208 308 1695
Email: gordon.mckenzie@md-ltd.co.uk
Web: www.michelsondiagnostics.com

To contact Gordon McKenzie, applications director:
Telephone: +44 (0) 121 288 8530

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