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Optics11 Life expands US footprint with €5M funding boost

29 Sep 2022

Amsterdam startup has developed fiber-optic instruments for use in drug development and regenerative medicine.

Optics11 Life, a Netherlands-based startup company that has developed fiber-optic technology to measure cell mechanics, has raised €5 million in venture capital that will allow it to expand further into the US market.

Provided by local venture firms Forward.ONE and Value Creation Capital, the funding will also support the launch of new products applying Optics11 Life's instrumentation for large-scale experiments demanding high-throughput screening of in vitro models and biomaterials.

Phase shift
Established in 2011 by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam physics professor Davide Iannuzzi, company CEO Niek Rijnveld, and entrepreneur Hans Brouwer, Optics11 Life previously attracted support from Value Creation Capital in 2016, and opened a US office in 2018.

The firm has launched three product lines that use fiber-optic sensing to measure the mechanical properties of complex, irregular biomaterials such as single cells, tissues, hydrogels, and coatings.

Optics11 Life’s Piuma, Chiaro, and Pavone instruments use fibers to guide an infrared laser through a cavity and onto a cantilever, such that one part of the incident wave is directly reflected back into the fiber, and a second part reflects off the cantilever and then propagates back into the fiber.

That creates a phase shift when the two beams are superimposed. As the cantilever bends due to external stress, the phase shift changes in proportion to the bending of the cantilever.

According to the company, it means that instruments like its “Pavone” can enable life science researchers to probe the structural and functional properties of cells and other biomaterials in “near-physiological” conditions - with cell mechanics now thought to play a critical role in physiology and disease (see video below).

So far, the technology has been used in drug development and regenerative medicine applications, enabling high-throughput screening of the mechanical fingerprints of cells, tissues, and their micro-environment.

“This allows customers to capture a vast range of insights informing new therapeutic approaches that underpin personalized medicine, and for quality control in biomaterials for regenerative therapies,” explains the firm.

Existing customers typically come from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and academic fields, with Optics11 Life's devices deployed in drug development, regenerative medicine, and diagnostic applications.

US expansion
Rijnveld said in response to the new funding round: “Through the support of Forward.ONE and Value Creation Capital, we're readying the next generation of measurement instruments to enable new medical treatments and regenerative medicine breakthroughs.

“Our tools are already helping researchers examine the mechanobiological characteristics of heart disease, the tumor micro-environment, immune function and so much more. I can't wait to see the next wave of insights we help unleash.”

Until now Rijnveld has overseen both Optics11 Life and sister firm Optics11, which is focused on industrial applications of the sensing technology.

But as a result of the new investment, he is set to shift from that split role and focus on Optics11 Life full time. That will include overseeing an expanded presence in the US, with a new office planned for the West Coast, alongside a larger sales team.

Robin van Boxsel, a partner at investor Forward.ONE, commented: “We're firm believers in the power of innovative enabling technology to reshape a market, and create new opportunities and fields. Optics11 Life exemplifies how the right team with the right domain expertise can execute a vision like this, and we're excited to welcome the company to our portfolio.”

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