23 May 2023
Startup is developing a device based around metasurface optics that is small enough to enter narrowest airways.
Leadoptik, a Silicon Valley startup company working to develop an optical probe for early-stage diagnosis of lung cancer, says it has raised $5 million in a round of seed funding.
The San Jose firm has garnered support from venture backers including MetaVC Partners, the Sony Innovation Fund, and Dropbox co-founder Arash Ferdowsi, among others.
It is hoped that the new cash will enable Leadoptik to gain US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the technology, which is based around metamaterial optics.
The novel technology means that it is possible to produce an ultra-thin imaging probe much smaller than a conventional bronchoscope, capable of accessing the tiniest airways in the lung.
“By using proprietary optics made from dielectric metasurfaces, Leadoptik has shrunk the optical elements to a size comparable with that of human hair,” claims the firm.
“Due to its unprecedented small size, driven by advanced imaging software, the probe can travel through even the narrowest airways, allowing for real-time imaging and detection of tiny tumors.”
50x imaging improvement
Cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the leading cause of cancer-related deaths globally by far, lung cancer is notoriously difficult to diagnose at an early stage, when it would be more treatable.
“Correctly diagnosing lung cancer in its early stages is almost like flipping a coin,” states Leadoptik in a corporate video introducing the technology, with company co-founder Jiang You adding: “At Leadoptik, we’re developing cutting-edge optical technology for removing this uncertainty.”
By combining novel nanofabrication techniques with optical metamaterials technology, the company believes that its future products will allow surgeons to view objects that are fifty times smaller than what is possible with current imaging systems.
Co-founder and CEO Reza Khorasaninejad, previously a post-doctoral researcher in Federico Capasso’s pioneering metamaterials Harvard laboratory, said: “As a technical CEO, I feel incredibly fortunate to witness how my work on metasurface technology has the potential to enhance people's health."
“This funding is a very encouraging step to get us closer to that goal," he added. "I am thrilled to be part of this exciting journey and grateful for the support of visionary investors who are helping us bring the true benefits of this cutting-edge technology to patients.”
Leadoptik also points out that the tiny form factor of the metasurface probe means it can be integrated with biopsy needles, potentially providing real-time guidance during biopsy procedures.
“This integration is critical for increasing the accuracy of biopsies, which are often performed blindly,” states the company, which is currently looking to hire an optical scientist and an optical system engineer.
Large unmet need
Aside from MetaVC, Sony, and Ferdowsi, Leadoptik has attracted investment from the healthcare and environmental technology venture group SOSV, Silicon Valley’s TSVC, ENEA Capital, and others.
MetaVC, a specialist fund set up to invest in early-stage metamaterials startup companies, is backed by Gates Frontier and the glass optics giant Corning, among others. It recently invested in metalens startup Imagia, which is targeting applications in augmented reality (AR) glasses, and led the Leadoptik seed round.
Leadoptik CEO Khorasaninejad previously worked in the AR field, as co-founder and VP of engineering at displays developer Brelyon.
Conrad Burke, managing partner at MetaVC Partners, commented: “We look for exciting investment opportunities like Leadoptik, where breakthroughs are being made with novel solutions like optical metamaterials.”
Austin Noronha, the managing director for Sony Ventures in the US, added: “We believe that such technology innovation has the potential to transform healthcare, particularly in areas such as cancer diagnostics, where there is a large unmet need for more accurate and timely screening and diagnosis.
“The work that Leadoptik is doing in developing novel imaging technologies to address lung cancer detection is a perfect example of that.”
Corporate video: Shrinking Optics, Expanding Diagnosis
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