Cellino wins SPIE Startup Challenge with pitch for gene therapy enabled by lasers and nonfabricated materials

IC Touch and Lumedica take second and third in new-product pitch contest at SPIE Photonics West

03 February 2017

SPIE Startup Challenge 2017 winners and judges

SPIE Startup Challenge 2017 winners and judges connect following the final round of competition.


SAN FRANCISCO, California, USA — A pitch by Harvard University spin-off Cellino for technology enabling gene therapies using lasers and nanofabricated substrates was selected as the winner in the 2017 SPIE Startup Challenge finals this week during SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco.

The contest provides $85,000 in cash prizes and other awards, and is supported by Founding Partner Jenoptik and Supporting Sponsors Edmund Optics, Trumpf, Open Photonics, and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

“The breadth and business potential of the finalists was really impressive” said Jay Kumler, President of Jenoptik Optical Systems, LLC, after the final round of pitches on Wednesday afternoon. “All of the finalists should be congratulated on the exciting companies that they have launched.”

SPIE President Glenn Boreman shared his congratulations for all the competitors as well, noting “These entrepreneurs are doing the hard work of bringing these technologies out of the lab so they can benefit the public.”

Marinna Madrid, Chief Scientific Officer, made the pitch for the Harvard team. Cellino has developed laser-activated nanodevices to efficiently and effectively deliver novel gene therapies to cells, to cure viral or genetic diseases such as leukemia and HIV that affect the blood.

Second-place winner Zeev Zalevsky, Bar Ilan University and IC Touch CTO and founder, pitched his company’s device that allows blind or visually impaired people to “see” by translation of visual information captured by a camera to spatial tactile stimulation of the cornea.

Adam Wax, President and Chief Scientist at third-place winner Lumedica, pitched Lumedica's OQ EyeScope, accessible and affordable medical imaging technology.

Other finalists in the competition were:

  • TriLite Technologies GmbH’s RGB Laser Light Module for AR/VR, ultracompact MEMS laser scanner for AR and VR applications; Jörg Reitterer, Vice President of Engineering
  • Fresh Strips, ensuring quality for food; Koen Nickmans, CTO
  • Fastree3D, 3D vision with a LIDAR system on chip; Claude Florin, CEO.

Jenoptik sponsored cash prizes including $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place, and $2,500 for third place. The first-place winner also received $5,000 worth of products from Edmund Optics.

During semi-final competition earlier in the week, Rick Schwerdtfeger, Director of the NSF SBIR/STTR Photonics Division, presented travel awards to Luis Moutinho of the Universidade de Aveiro and NU-RISE, and Madrid and colleague Nabiha Saklayen of Harvard and Cellino.

Moutinho made a pitch in the semi-finals for NU-RISE’s technology for controlling radiological doses for breast and prostate cancer treatment.

Finals judges were:

  • Jason Eichenholz, Open Photonics, Inc.
  • Marc Himel, Jenoptik Optical Systems, LLC
  • Andreas Popp, Trumpf GmbH + Co. KG
  • Jenny Rooke, 5 Prime Ventures
  • Samuel Sadoulet, Edmund Optics, Inc.
  • Homan Yuen, NewGen Capital

About SPIE

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, is an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2016, SPIE provided $4 million in support of education and outreach programs. www.spie.org


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