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2012 SPIE Startup Challenge

SPIE and Jenoptik sponsored the 2nd Annual Startup Challenge for photonics technology at Photonics West 2012. This competitive event invited new entrepreneurs to pitch their light-based technology business plan to a team of corporate development experts and venture capitalists. The best pitches were selected to attend a week long entrepreneur boot camp to refine their ideas and make further contacts with experts.

Results - Biophotonics Division:



LaserLeap: Tunneling Drugs through the skin
Dr. Carlos Serpa
Paper: 8207A-17
Laserleap Inc.

Carlos Serpa - 1st Place Biophotonics

Business case: LaserLeap is a proprietary device designed as a non-invasive medical device for topical delivery of drugs with the distinct feature of using affordable, safe and easy to operate lasers. Proof-of-principle of effective permeation of topical analgesics, drugs for skin cancer and proteins in vivo was already accomplished. This technology has the potential to become the basis of ubiquitous devices in medical, dental and cosmetic settings. LaserLeap is a new wave of transdermal drug delivery in medicine and cosmetics, and addresses a fast-growing market estimated at several billion dollars.


Noninvasive diagnosis of bladder dysfunction using near infrared spectroscopy.
Dr. Babak Shadgan
Paper: 8207B-43

Babak Shadgan- 2nd Place Biophotonics

Business case: Advancement of this method and development of the instrument will improve the current practice of evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of patients with lower urinary tract dysfunction which potentially will improve the quality of life of this huge population of urological patients. The health care burden associated with bladder dysfunction is considerable; hence the development of this noninvasive and relatively economic NIRS technology, instrumentation and monitoring diagnostic techniques, for this huge patient population has a potential impact that is novel, significant and with a great business potential.


The Ocular Prognostics MPR: Macular Pigment Measurement Made Easy
T. Scott Rowe

T. Scott Rowe - 3rd Place Biophotonics

Business case: Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the single greatest contributor to non-preventable blindness in the developed world. Macular Pigment Optical Density, and the contributing carotinoids, is now an established biomarker for future AMD in a patient (low MPOD, the greater the chance of developing AMD later in life). Fortunately, MPOD can be changed via dietary changes and supplementation. Ocular Prognostics will enable preventative medicine in AMD by providing the tools to detect this early in life (@ the optometry clinic most likely) and team with supplement companies to provide the optimal preventative solution.


Noninvasive cellular morphometry for melanoma detection: meet "Melanomore!" the robot pathologist
Dr. Daniel Gareau
Paper: 8214-12

Daniel Gareau - 3rd Place Biophotonics

Business case: A (sensitive and specific) commercial diagnostic for melanoma is critically lacking. Dermoscopy and histology leave a gaping hole in the detection chain with dermoscopy being easy and histology being accurate but not vice versa. Recent advances in instrument engineering have enabled the device potential to grow as large as the immense demand, enthusiasm among dermatologists is at a fever pitch, and the time for a new in vivo microscopy startup is now!


Results - Opto-electronics Division:



A Smart, Compact Microscope In the Palm of Your Hand
Samuel Schaefer

Samuel Schaefer - 1st Place Opto-electronics

Business case: : Our microscope is the only system in the world which combines low cost, great image quality, portability and automation. We see a considerable market for this system in educational institutions and third-world countries due to its low-cost and ease of use.


A Novel Point-of-Care Breath Analyzer
Yin Wang
Paper: 8268-86

Yin Wang - 2nd Place Optoelectronics

Business case: We are a company committed to developing trace gas sensors for breath gas analysis based on the state of the art infrared spectroscopic technology. We will provide non-invasive, reliable and accurate measurement of trace gas both in situ and in real time. We will cater to patients, hospitals and research institutes in the United States market.


Low cost integrated light sources in CMOS
Petrus Johannes Venter
Paper: 8267-40

Petrus Venter - 3rd Place Opto-electronics

Business case: Our silicon light sources have a distinct cost advantage since they can be implemented directly in standard CMOS processes, hence taking advantage of the the multi-billion dollar semiconductor technology used for almost all modern digital circuits. This allows for integration of digital logic and other circuits on the same chip as light emitters, without process modification or post-processing. Silicon light sources create an opportunity for radically increasing the functionality of silicon systems with devices that are inexpensive since they can be made in CMOS. This patented light source technology is a platform technology, potentially suited for a range of applications as diverse as high-speed optical data transfer, microdisplays and MOEMS devices.