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SPIE Startup Challenge 2016 semi-finalists announced

Contestants will hone pitching skills to gain backing for new photonics products

11 January 2016

SPIE Startup Challenge 2015 contestant and judges

Semi-finalists who will vye for cash prizes and other awards have been named for the 2016 SPIE Startup Challenge; above, judges in the 2015 event hear a finalist's pitch.


BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA, and CARDIFF, UK -- Semi-finalists seeking support for their new photonics-based product proposals have been selected to pitch their ideas to business development experts and venture capitalists, in the 2016 SPIE Startup Challenge next month in San Francisco, California. The contest is held annually at SPIE Photonics West, sponsored by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

A panel of judges will select six finalists after hearing semi-finalist pitches on 16 February. In the final round on 17 February, judges will announce their picks for the top three pitches. The final round is open to the public with free registration.

Cash prizes, including $10,000 for the first prize, $5,000 for second prize, and $2,500 for third are funded by Founding Partner Jenoptik. Additional support for the training program and the competition comes from Lead Sponsors Axsun Technologies and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Supporting Sponsors Edmund Optics, Trumpf, Open Photonics, and Knobbe Martens. Edmund Optics also will award the first-place winner $5,000 in products.

Semi-finalists' products have applications from monitoring blood pressure and harvesting neural stem cells to detecting marijuana on the breath and enabling the Industrial Internet and the Internet of Things:

  • 3D nanoscale imaging, Leslie Kimerling, Double Helix LLC
  • Manufacturing silicon nanowire arrays, Fatima Toor, Advanced Silicon Group, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, University of Iowa
  • Blood pressure monitoring patches, Kyle Miller, Northwestern University Center for Device Development/ Bold Biometrix, LLC
  • Circulating tumor cell diagnostics, Eric Strohm, Echofos Medical
  • Converting movement into electrical power, Timothy Jones, ColorSpritz
  • Marijuana breathalyzer, Sean Virgile, Diagnostic anSERS, Inc.
  • Diagnosing disease with refrigerator magnets and a laser pointer, John Lewandowski, Disease Diagnostic Group
  • Analysis of rare biological cells and particles, Michael Cumbo, Eta Diagnostics, Inc.
  • Extended depth-of-focus contact lens, Juan Rodriguez, UbiFocal
  • Smart clothing that measures biological parameters, Zeev Zalevsky, FabriXense
  • GUAKS wearable virtual reality headset, Carmen Lastres, Limbak
  • Holographic module for microscopes, Paolo Pozzi, Holobe s.r.l.
  • Enabling high-volume manufacturing of next-generation integrated circuit chips, Supriya Jaiswal, Astrileux Corporation
  • Enabling Industry 4.0/IoT/Industrial Internet, Darren Engle, Multicore Photonics, Inc.
  • Optoacoustic patient monitoring, Graham Randall, Noninvasix
  • Patented neural stem cell harvest, N. P. Lui, OPER Technology Limited
  • Cameras the size of grains of sands, Renee Carder, PixelEXX Systems, Inc.
  • Reflective displays for wearables, Peiman Hosseini, Bodle Technologies
  • Low-cost optical diagnostic tool, Sanna Gaspard, Rubitection
  • Electroactive-polymer-driven displays for sunlight-readable, large-area digital signage, Roger Diebold, Solchroma Technologies, Inc.
  • Spectral lens to see chemicals in the scene, John Murphy, Stream Technologies, Inc.
  • Marking and remote ID of multiple objects in real time, Dan Yanson, TheWhollySee
  • Smartphone app to visualize blood flow, assess body metrics, Shourjya Sanyal, Think Biosolution
  • Fast, highly sensitive intraoperative margin assessment during lumpectomy, Pu Wang, Vibronix, Inc.
  • Wearable vital sign monitor, Jyh-Chern Chen, Taiwan Biophotonic Corporation.

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 nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. In 2015, SPIE provided more than $5.2 million in support of education and outreach programs.

Note: semi-finalist descriptions were edited on 20 January 2016.


Amy Nelson
Public Relations Manager
+1 360 685 5478

All photos © SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, except where noted.