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Luminate NY competition backs photonics SMEs

02 Jul 2019

Ovitz wins top prize to assist with growth and product development.

Luminate, the Rochester-based startup accelerator said to be the largest in the world focused solely on next-generation optics, photonics and imaging, has announced the winners of the 2019 Luminate NY accelerator competition, its second annual round of funding efforts.

"Strategic investments in photonics technologies continue to bolster the Finger Lakes region's reputation as the imaging capital of the world," commented New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. "The innovations and commitments demonstrated through the Luminate NY competition further prove the vast potential of this industry and its ability to move the regional economy forward for years to come."

The top award of $1 million in follow-on funding went to Ovitz, a developer of individualized contact lens technology that may significantly improve vision clarity, contrast, and depth perception.

Ovitz, spun-out from the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, has pursued a two-phase development strategy, according to founder Felix Kim. The first involved a portable ophthalmic diagnostics device christened the EyeProfiler, capable of accurately measuring lower and higher order aberrations in a patient's eye and assessing the corrective prescription necessary.

A handheld instrument based around a Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor, the EyeProfiler is intended to allow assessment of aberrations and anterior surface topography in a low cost device suitable for use in developing or disadvantaged territories.

Ovitz's second phase, and the focus of its current efforts, involves using the device as part of a larger individualized vision-enhancing solution for producing custom contact lens to enhance patients' vision quality.

"Abnormal corneas from conditions like keratoconus, dry eye disease or corneal damage, cause severely impaired vision in ways that are unique for each individual person affected," commented Kim in Ovitz technical literature.

"Diagnosis and correction options available today often do not adequately detect or correct all the visual aberrations necessary to restore vision because solutions are not customized to individual patient needs. We use our state-of-the-art autorefractor device and our own proprietary software algorithms to diagnose individuals with abnormal corneas and provide prescription data for individualized contact lenses."

Boosting local economy

The second-place award of $500,000 went to VPG Medical, developer of HealthKam software technology for mobile devices which detects changes in the skin color of a patient's face as a means to assess heart rate and blood flow. The company recently launched a pilot study into the use of HealthKam as a way to monitor the health of patients recovering after treatment for heart failure.

Lumedica, based in North Carolina, was named third place winner and received $250,000 for its work on low-cost OCT platforms for use in optometry offices.

Fourth place and another $250,000 was awarded to Circle Optics which has developed what is said to be the first parallax-free 360-degree camera, using multiple hexagonal lenses to capture panoramic images without the need to stitch individual images together.

The 2018 competition winner was Double Helix Optics, developer of the Spindle add-on unit designed to bring 3D imaging and tracking capability to 2D microscope platforms through point spread function analysis. In February 2019 the company was named winner in the Diagnostics and Therapeutics category at the 2019 Prism Awards held at SPIE Photonics West.

As required by the award, all winners of the competition will commit to establishing operations in Rochester for at least the next 18 months.

"Luminate NY is advancing technological innovation and lighting the path forward for the Finger Lakes region," said New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "The second round of the competition continues to support businesses and grow the high-tech industry, creating jobs and boosting the Rochester area economy."

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