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Double Helix Optics wins $1M investment in Luminate competition

05 Jul 2018

Startup offering computational optics for super-resolution imaging set to establish operations in Rochester.

Boulder, Colorado-headquartered Double Helix Optics has won the inaugural "Luminate NY" startup competition, landing a $1 million investment in the process.

Revealed as the winner by New York State governor Andrew Cuomo last week, Double Helix Optics sells add-on optical modules for microscopes that enable nano-scale, or “super-resolution” imaging and sensing.

Critically, the interchangeable phase mask technology developed by the firm extends that super-resolution capability into the third, axial, dimension.

“For any given project, you can select a mask to optimize your depth range, emission wavelength, signal-to-noise ratio, and other factors to meet your requirements,” states the company on its web site.

“Inherent in every phase mask, depth and precision are a trade-off. You may opt for more depth, for example, to image larger volumes more quickly. By giving you options, you can achieve the ideal depth-precision balance every time.”

Rochester focus
Co-founded by entrepreneur Leslie Kimerling and University of Colorado super-resolution optics expert Rafael Piestun, Double Helix was one of ten finalists selected in late 2017 to take part in the Luminate NY accelerator program.

As well as receiving $1 million in funding through the “Finger Lakes Forward” initiative - designed to stimulate economic activity in the upstate New York region once dominated by the likes of Eastman Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, and Xerox - Double Helix will commit to establishing operations in Rochester for at least the next 18 months.

“Strategic investments in OPI [optics, photonics and imaging]-enabled technologies continue to bolster the Finger Lakes region's reputation as the imaging capital of the world,” stated Cuomo. “The innovations and commitments demonstrated through the Luminate NY competition further prove the vast potential of this industry and its ability to support the regional economy for years to come.”

Second place in the Luminate competition, and $500,000 in funding, went to Boston-based Intelon Optics. It is working to commercialize its Brillouin optical scanner system (BOSS), a confocal high-resolution diagnostic platform for identifying intrinsic biomechanical properties of transparent or opaque eye tissues - such as the cornea, sclera or lens.

Second round now open
Rochester-based Positive Science - another firm working on biophotonics technology, in its case head-mounted eye-tracking hardware - won third place and $250,000.

In fourth place, and also winning $250,000, was Think Biosolution. Based in Dublin, Ireland, the company is working to commercialize its “QuasaR” wearable optical devices and software platforms for measuring heart and respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, temperature, movement, and location. Aimed at professional athletes and coaches, the technology is claimed to offer "medical grade" accuracy.

Each of the Luminate NY competition investments were awarded after a panel of optics and photonics industrialists and venture capitalists had scored all ten of the participating companies based on their business pitches.

Attendees at the award ceremony also got to choose their favorite pitch – with the “audience choice” award of $10,000 going to Rochester-based Molecular Glasses. The firm’s organic semiconductors are designed to reduce power consumption in mobile handsets, as well as improve display resolution and offer a lower-cost manufacturing processes.

Luminate NY managing director Sujatha Ramanujan said following the awards: “Luminate NY is at the forefront of promoting entrepreneurial endeavors to further grow the Finger Lakes region's technological and financial ecosystem. The startups today and those that will follow will change how OPI innovations can be applied to solve significant challenges.”

Applications are being accepted for the second round of the competition through September 24. As with the inaugural competition, startup companies earning one of the ten available slots in the next cohort will receive a minimum investment of $100,000, and major investments of up to $1 million.

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