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Startup Challenge Results 2016

SPIE hosted and JENOPTIK was the Founding Partner for the 6th Annual Startup Challenge for photonics technology at Photonics West 2016


Winners, judges, and volunteers take the stage with the giant checks. (l-r) Michael Mielke (Trumpf), Bruce Itchkawitz (Knobbe Martens), 2nd place winner Sean Virgile (Diagnostic anSERS), Mark Wippich (Lightwave advisors), Marc Himel (JENOPTIK), 1st place winner Anurag Agrawal (Doublehelix), Jay Kumler (JENOPTIK), 2016 SPIE President Robert Lieberman (Lumetrix, Inc.), 1st place winner Leslie Kimerling (Doublehelix), Jenny Rooke (5 Prime Ventures), Jason Eichenholz (Open Photonics), finalist Peiman Hosseini (Bodle Tech), Sam Sadoulet (Edmund Optics), Peter Whitney (Axsun Technologies), 3rd place winner John Lewandowski (Diease Diagnostics Group), finalist Kyle Miller (Bold Biometrix).   

2016 Winners and Finalists

Click on the images to watch the finalists' pitch videos.

1st place badge

3D nanoscale imaging

Leslie Kimerling

Double Helix, LLC

$10,000 prize + $5,000 in equipment

Leslie Kimerling - Double Helix

Double Helix replaces prediction with evidence at the single molecule level inside the individual cell, enabling seeing biology we would have otherwise missed.

As the need to see inside of cells and subcellular structures becomes increasingly important - whether for research, precision medicine or pharmaceutical drug development - the need to see structures and processes at the molecular level is essential. Key to bringing targeted therapies to market is early verification and validation of the efficacy of the drug therapy mechanism of action. Providing unprecedented imaging detail and accuracy will both reduce the time (average 10-12 years) and cost of drug development (average $1B).

Marijuana Breathalyzer

Sean Virgile

Diagnostic anSERS, Inc, .

$5,000 Prize

Sean Virgile - Diagnostic anSERS

Building a "Marijuana Breathalyzer" to answer the question, "How high is the suspect right now?"

In the course of a traffic stop, police need to establish a chain of probable cause. In a typical DUI case, the officer observes a vehicle swerving or running a red light. That gives them probable cause to pull over the vehicle. Next the officer observes the driver. Smelling alcohol on them gives them probable cause to give them a portable breathalyzer. Now that breathalyzer result is not used in court; it's only used as probable cause to get a blood test. And that blood test is used n court. On the other side, if the officer instead observes the drivers smelling like Cheech and Chong, there is no roadside test for marijuana. For example, when we spoke with the police chief at the University of Maryland, when his officers suspect a driver of driving while high, they give them an alcohol breathalyzer hoping they drank at the same time. The current option is to call in a DRE (Drug Recognition Expert), if they are available. However, DREs are expensive, time-consuming, and frequently challenged in court. There is no roadside test for marijuana intoxication.

Malaria Detection

John Lewandowski

Disease Diagnostic Group

$2,500 Prize

John Lewandowski - Disease Diagnostic Group

What if we told you we could save one million lives every year with just refrigerator magnets and a laser pointer?

Malaria affects half of the world's population, kills one million people annually, and costs African economies $12 billion every year to control. However, when diagnosed before symptoms arise, malaria is a curable disease. Early diagnosis is the leading factor of decreased morbidity as it allows for effective oral medication to be quickly prescribed. Currently, half of the 500 million worldwide infections go undiagnosed and half of those are misdiagnosed. Without simple and accurate diagnostic methods, medication cannot be distributed due to fear of resistance, cost, and potential side effects. Also, when someone is asymptomatic, there is no treatment administered and they are bit thousands of times every night by mosquitos. This can transmit their infection to their entire village, meaning one diagnosis can save lives, treatment, and prevention dollars and can halt the continual spread of the disease.


Bold Biometrix, LLC

Kyle Miller

Bold Biometrix

Kyle Miller - Bold Biometrix LLC

Know Your Numbers. Bold Biometrix, LLC monitoring patches help patients and their physicians understand their true blood pressure by recording trends over a seven day period

Blood pressure, under the current paradigm, is measured using a pneumatic cuff around a patient's arm that compresses the brachial artery. In the case of hypertensive measurements above 140/90 mmHg, the measurements have to be repeated on subsequent visits for confirmation. However, blood pressure varies throughout the day and is highly dependent on the situation, therefore isolated measurements are not comprehensive enough. Further, one in every three patients in clinic have a falsely elevated pressure due to anxiety, a condition known as white coat hypertension. Despite the suspicion and unreliability of these office blood pressure measurements, clinicians are forced to make diagnostic and clinical decisions based on these discrete snapshots. Currently over 12 million people have white coat hypertension and are inappropriately on medications for it. The annual costs for unnecessary treatment reaches $8.9 billion dollars. The physician does have the option to utilize an ambulatory blood pressure monitor to confirm this diagnosis. This monitor functions with a cuff around the bicep that is inflated by a hip-based pump every 15 minutes for 24 hours. This repetitive cuff compression causes significant patient discomfort, is not reproducible in terms of data integrity and causes lifestyle encumbrances that limit compliance. At best the ambulatory blood pressure monitor provides 24 hours of data and only in a very compliant patient, this is still a limited snapshot and is extremely underutilized due to its cumbersome nature. A noninvasive blood pressure monitor that can acquire continuous, uninterrupted measurements over a seven-day period that is comfortable for the patient would provide concrete value for both the patient and the clinician. Our Bold Blood Pressure Monitor disposable patch system would provide prognostic insight into a seven-day blood pressure trend, avoid confounding implications of white coat hypertension, avoid unnecessary treatment and possibly help incentivize patient behavior change (i.e. stress, lifestyle, diet).

Bodle Technologies — Reflective displays for wearables

Peiman Hosseini

Bodle Technologies

Peiman Hosseini - Bodle Technologies

A new breed of ultra-high resolution, colourful and flexible reflective displays for wearables

Wearable, flexible, low power electronics that seamlessly blur the boundary between human and machine are expected to revolutionize society within the next decade. Display technologies capable of interfacing the user with a host of connected devices will be keystone in enabling the next generation of lightweight, complaint, high performance machines. Unfortunately, current display technologies are somehow rigid and inherently power hungry, hindering the explosion of a market that is estimated to become $13b by the year 2020. The introduction of a truly new generation of non-lit, high performance, reflective display could potentially kickstart the entire wearable ecosystem into the mainstream consumer electronics.

Spectral Camera Lens

John Murphy

Stream Technologies, Inc.

John Murphy - Stream Technologies

It's time that camera images move beyond Red Green and Blue. Our ColorFlow spectral Lens lets users see the chemicals in the scene, bringing your 'off the shelf camera' to a whole new level.

Detecting chemicals via spectroscopy is typically done in a lab - or using spectral data from a satellite. We bring cost and real time results to the field, in a hand held, or UAV mounted camera. The problem is decisions are being made with old data or worse yet, no data, because what is needed is real time actionable data in the field. More specifically, we are engaged with agriculture integrators who want real time data on the actual amount of nitrogen in plants in real time, so fertilizer decisions can be made immediately.

The SPIE Startup Challenge received news coverage from numerous sources. Review the complete list on the event Media Page. The press release issued for the finals detailed the event. Check out the complete event program for recognition of all the judges, sponsors, volunteers, and 24 semi-finalists who pitched their products in the first stage of the competition.

Founding Partner


Lead Sponsor

Edmund Optics

Supporting Sponsors

Luminar Technologies