SPIE-Franz Hillenkamp Postdoctoral Fellowships Awarded to Dr. Jie Hui and Dr. Andreas Wartak

The awards will support the winners' diagnostic and therapeutic research as well as their efforts to translate their benchtop advancements into clinical successes

10 December 2018


PHOTODYNAMIC DUO: The 2019 SPIE-Franz Hillenkamp awardees, Jie Hui and Andreas Wartak

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA and CARDIFF, UK - SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics has announced Dr. Jie Hui, of the Boston University Photonics Center, and Dr. Andreas Wartak, of the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, as winners of the 2019 SPIE-Franz Hillenkamp Postdoctoral Fellowships in Problem-Driven Biophotonics and Biomedical Optics. The annual awards of $75,000 per Fellowship, support interdisciplinary problem-driven research and provide opportunities for translating new technologies into clinical practice for improving human health. Dr. Hui and Dr. Wartak will receive recognition during the BiOS Hot Topics session at SPIE Photonics West 2019 in San Francisco on 2 February.

Dr. Hui's research is focused on a light-based approach to treat MRSA-caused diseases in the clinic. Working under the supervision of faculty mentor Dr. Ji-Xin Cheng at the Boston University Photonics Center and translational sciences mentor Dr. Tianhong Dai at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Dr. Hui will pursue a therapeutic treatment specifically for MRSA-caused diseases by using a pulsed blue laser to decompose an endogenous membrane-bound pigment, staphyloxanthin, to disrupt the MRSA cell membrane. This work is built on their research that was awarded the SPIE Translational Research Award at Photonics West in 2018. If successful, this project will accelerate the translation of an innovative biophotonic technology to the clinic and have the potential to solve a major public-health issue.

"Receiving this prestigious award from SPIE, I am even more encouraged to dive into the exciting field of biomedical optics," said Dr. Hui. "This Fellowship provides me with an excellent opportunity to develop a novel phototherapeutic approach for bacterial infection, and to foster its clinical translation to benefit human patients. It also allows me to gain the interdisciplinary knowledge and skill set to develop a technology from a fundamental scientific concept into a viable medical device."

Dr. Wartak, working under the supervision of faculty mentor Dr. Guillermo J. Tearney and translational sciences mentor Dr. Gabriela Apiou, will target an earlier, cheaper, and less invasive diagnosis of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), a poorly understood allergic inflammatory condition of the esophagus. If successful, this project will accelerate the translation of an optical coherence tomography-based instrument that will eliminate the need for sedated endoscopic biopsies. It will also provide a highly valuable research tool for the development of newer pharmacologic therapies for EoE.

"Suffering myself from severe food allergies which have forced me to obey stringent dietary restrictions since birth," notes Dr. Wartak, "I feel a personal as well as a professional obligation to address this unmet clinical need in gastroenterology. Being awarded this prestigious Fellowship will enable me to conduct my translational research project that aims to sustainably impact the diagnosis and treatment of EoE, and I feel very fortunate to have such a distinguished organization as SPIE recognize the value of my work. I particularly appreciate the Society's support since it upholds an empowering professional connection: throughout my previous years in biomedical optics research, I have benefitted from multiple opportunities through SPIE, from its Biophotonics Summer School and travel scholarships, to the annual SPIE BiOS conference and the formation of a new SPIE Student Chapter at the Medical University of Vienna. SPIE has been - and continues to be - instrumental in helping me develop a better sense for the photonics community's contemporary needs while assisting me in becoming the researcher I am today."

"These are both very exciting proposals from excellent postdoctoral researchers working in labs recognized for their innovative research that translates into solving medical problems," said Chair of the Hillenkamp Fellowship Committee and SPIE Fellow R. Rox Anderson. "Jie and Andreas' areas of focus will directly impact critical challenges in healthcare and I look forward to seeing the impact of their work."

Honoring the career of medical laser pioneer Franz Hillenkamp, the SPIE-Hillenkamp Fellowship is a partnership with three founding international biomedical laboratories: the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, the Manstein Lab in the Cutaneous Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Medical Laser Center Lübeck. This year, the Boston University Photonics Center joins the partnership as a hosting lab. The endowment is funded through generous donations from the biomedical optics community and the Hillenkamp family, with SPIE contributing matching funds up to $1.5 million.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering, and technology. The Society serves 257,000 constituents from 173 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2018, SPIE provided more than $4 million in community support including scholarships and awards, outreach and advocacy programs, travel grants, public policy, and educational resources. www.spie.org.

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