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18 picked for Startup Challenge semi-final

15 Jan 2015

Fledgling photonics technologies represented include a laser mass spectrometer, sensors for autonomous driving and a remote glucose monitor.

18 aspiring entrepreneurs setting out to change the world and build their careers with new photonics technologies have been selected for the semi-final stage of the 2015 SPIE Startup Challenge.

At next month’s Photonics West conference in San Francisco, they will make their pitches to a panel of business development experts and venture capitalists. Those progressing to the final of the competition, to be held February 11, will be aiming to win a first prize of $10,000 in cash and $5000 in optics products.

A panel of judges for the semi-final round selected the 18 successful pitchers from a total 35 entrants for this year's contest.

Remote biopsies
Among the novel technologies to be presented are a number in the field of biophotonics, which has traditionally fared well in the competition. This year, they include a software tool for remote scanning of patient biopsies to determine normal, at-risk and cancerous tissue.

Developed by Katherine Oliver and colleagues at University College, London, and Beamline Diagnostics, the approach could be used to identify those requiring urgent treatment, as well as informing healthy patients immediately and cutting the need for follow-up appointments. Fewer conventional biopsies would be needed, which ought to mean faster cancer diagnoses and reduced overall cost.

Also in the biophotonics area, Geoff Metcalf from Singapore-based Clearbridge Photonics (also shortlisted for a Prism Award) will present a new Caltech-developed approach to microscopy that promises to “revolutionize” diagnosis of kidney disease and genitourinary (GU) cancers.

Autonomous vehicles
In the hot area of self-driving, or autonomous, vehicles, Lucio Carrara will present Swiss company Fastree3D’s low-cost CMOS sensor systems. The company's idea is to bring the performance of long-range lidar technology to applications in cars and robots.

Another Swiss startup, in the form of University of Bern spinout IONIGHT, will present a new kind of mass spectrometer. Based around a laser, the shoebox-sized kit is said to offer 3D chemical mapping of any solid material.

Previous winners of the SPIE Startup Challenge since its 2011 inception have gone on to enjoy success. Subramanian Hariharan, who won the inaugural contest, has co-founded the cancer screening specialist Nanocytomics and extended the range of applications of the partial-wave spectroscopic microscopy developed at Northwestern University.

Hariharan is also involved with one of this year’s semifinalist companies: set to be represented by Jonathan Gunn at the event, Chicago-based Briteseed is developing a novel technology platform that is said to help surgeons visualize blood vessels in real-time.

Meanwhile 2013 winner Arun Chhabra is chairing the panel session “Startups need more than money” at Photonics West, with Rebellion Photonics co-founder Robert Kester and consultant Linda Smith from Ceres Technology Advisors among those taking part.

Chhabra’s company 8tree, which provides customized and automated optical scanning systems, has recently signed up Airbus as a customer and is engaged in advanced talks with companies in the automotive sector.

Semi-final line-up
The full list of semi-finalists for the 2015 Startup Challenge is as follows:

• Eletha Flores, for the 3D Ring by 3DeWitt, an inexpensive wearable 3D computer mouse and future user authentication device with potential commercial, industrial, medical and military applications.

• Ferdinand Saint Julien-Wallsee, for the TriLite Tech autostereoscopic ("no-glasses”) 3D multi-content laser display for outdoor digital signage, seen as the successor technology of current state-of-the- art LED screens.

• Katherine Oliver, for BeamLine Diagnostics’ software tool for use with a bedside device for scanning patient biopsies to determine whether they are normal, at-risk, or cancerous.

• Jonathan Gunn, for Briteseed, LLC’s technology platform for detection, visualization, and information about blood vessels in real-time, to be integrated into existing minimally invasive surgical tools to fit into the surgeon's existing workflow.

• Geoffrey Metcalf, for Clearbridge Biophotonics’ technology for risk assessment, disease prognosis, and treatment monitoring diagnostics in kidney disease and genitourinary cancers.

• Lucio Carrara, for Fastree3D’s low-cost complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) systems to enable vehicles and machines to recognize and locate fast-moving, 3D objects in real-time, enabling deliberate, intelligent driving assistance or autonomous navigation.

• Anna Pyayt, for Hemolix’s new device for prompt detection of a deadly pregnancy complication, providing enough time to save both the mother and the child.

• Manuel Ryser, for IONIGHT‘s shoebox-size Laser Mass Spectrometer (LMS™) for high-precision measurements of the chemical composition of any solid material.

• Andrew Yanders, for Laser Ablation Tomography (LAT™), a meso-scale volumetric visualization and analysis tool capable of rapidly acquiring structural and compositional data in three dimensions with micron resolution, using laser micro-sectioning and multispectral fluorescent imaging to obtain highly contrasted, colorful stacks of images in opaque specimens.

• Balthasar Fischer, for the Membrane-free Optical Microphone by XARION Laser Acoustics requiring neither a membrane nor any other moving component to convert sound into electrical voltage, but exploiting the fact that sound can change the speed of light.

• Sean Seah, for Optic2Connect’s software providing accurate simulation results through both electrical and optical domains to significantly shorten product time-to-market and reduce development costs of silicon photonics devices.

• Kieren Patel, for Opticent Health’s noninvasive noncontact diagnostic instrument for the early detection of multiple chronic diseases, producing high-quality, affordable, patient-specific 3D printed medical implants.

• Zeev Zalevsky, for OptoCare’s noninvasive, continuous, remote optical glucose monitor to provide real-time information regarding glucose level in the blood stream.

• Leonardo Sileo, for OptogeniX’s devices to deliver light into the brain with new versatility and minimized invasiveness, allowing for uniform large-volume illumination and spatially addressable multi-point light delivery with extremely thin and sharp optical fibers.

• Parsin Haji Reza of the University of Alberta, for a photoacoustic remote sensing (PARS) imaging system for in vivo imaging of microvasculature and blood oxygenation without requiring a bulky ultrasound transducer; suitable for integrating with other optical imaging systems including OCT and fluorescence-based systems.

• Jeffrey Crosby, for Picoyune, a chemical sensing platform company whose plasmonic film can replace a lab-bench worth of equipment with a robust, portable detector.

• Jerome Lapointe of Ecole Polytechnique Montreal, for transparent photonic devices in smartphone screens, fabricated using lasers.

• Francesca Rossi, for Suturing With Light (SWeetLight), a robotic console for laser welding of corneal tissue in keratoplasty, pediatric cataract surgery, and closuring corneal incisions, providing a minimally invasive procedure to support or substitute standard suturing thereby reducing surgical times, improving the healing process, and enabling suturing of thin tissues in inaccessible sites.

Startup Challenge winners are awarded prizes funded by Founding Partner Jenoptik with additional support from Lead Sponsor Hamamatsu, Trumpf, Edmund Optics, Open Photonics, Perkins Coie, and Knobbe Martens.

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