BiOS Hot Topics: changing of the guard

The photonics community this year marked the retirement of long-time BiOS co-chairs Rox Anderson and James Fujimoto from those roles.

21 February 2019
Karen Thomas

The near-capacity crowd at their ultimate session this week broke into applause as Rox Anderson opened with "This is the largest meeting in the world for biomedical optics, and that's because of you!" He added that the reason BiOS has grown so popular is the diversity of the intellect and specialties that are featured in the symposium, such as those involved in medicine, bioscience, and physics.

James Fujimoto introduced the new BiOS co-chairs, Jennifer Barton of the University of Arizona and Wolfgang Drexler of the University of Vienna. Touching on the impressive backgrounds of each, Fujimoto noted, "we know the conference will be in good hands."

"Rox and I would like to take this opportunity to thank SPIE, program track chairs, conference chairs, and all of you in the com¬munity for the opportunity and the privilege to serve as co-chairs of BiOS all these years," said Fujimoto.

"We'd all like to honor and thank Dr. James Fujimoto and Dr. Rox Anderson who have tirelessly served this community since 2004," said new SPIE CEO Kent Rochford as he presented the pair with awards for their service. "Their combined leadership has contributed significantly to the growth and importance of biomedical optics in the world and the BiOS symposium. Each has brought significant advances to how biomedical optics improve our healthcare."

L-R: Rox Anderson, James Fujimoto, Kent Rochford.
L-R: Rox Anderson, James Fujimoto, Kent Rochford.

Rochford pointed out Fujimoto's achievements as co-developer of optical coherence tomography (OCT), "a ubiquitous technology with many applications." He noted that Fujimoto's prolific career includes 15 patents, nine books, and more than 450 journal articles; and that he has received numerous awards for the development of OCT, including the 2017 Russ Prize from the National Academy of Engineering - considered the Nobel Prize of engineering.

Humanitarian efforts
"An active researcher, Rox Anderson conceived and developed treatments for birthmarks, lesions, and tattoo removal among other innovations," said Rochford, adding that Anderson, "brings the wonderful perspective of having degrees in science as well as in medicine." He noted Anderson's more than 60 national and international patents, and the fact that he has co-authored over 250 scientific books and papers. "We also applaud Dr. Anderson for his humanitarian efforts to help children in the world who are scarred or disfigured in need of this help," Rochford added.

Anita Mahadevan-Jansen of Vanderbilt University paid tribute to the late Warren S. Grundfest, professor of bioengineering and electrical and computer engineering at UCLA. "Grundfest was one of the founding fathers of BiOS, serving as symposium chair from 1998 to 2003," said Mahadevan-Jansen. He was a pioneer in the translation of biomedical and biophotonics technology for improving patient care."

The evening included the presentation of the 2019 Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award to Stephen Boppart of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The award honors Boppart's achievement in computational OCT and its applications to basic and clinical sciences.

The SPIE-Franz Hillenkamp Postdoctoral Fellowship in Problem-Driven Biophotonics and Biomedical Optics was awarded to Jie Hui of the Boston University Photonics Center and Dr. Andreas Wartak of the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Hui's research is focused on a light-based approach to treat MRSA-caused diseases in the clinic. Wartak's research will target an earlier, cheaper, and less invasive diagnosis of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), a poorly understood allergic inflammatory condition of the esophagus.

Samuel Achilefu, Washington University School of Medicine, with Jim Oschmann.
Samuel Achilefu, Washington University School of Medicine, with Jim Oschmann.

The final award presentation of the evening was the 2019 Britton Chance Biomedical Optics Award to Samuel Achilefu of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Presented each year for outstanding lifetime contributions through development of innovative technologies that have facilitated advancements in biology or medicine, the award honors Achilefu's work in optical and molecular imaging that enables cancer care and treatment.

Cancer vision
Following his award presentation, Achilefu gave the evening's first technical presentation, "The Power of Light to See and Treat Cancer," where he described his "Cancer Vision Goggles" - a headset that allows surgeons to visualize cancer in the operating room.

"We have developed a simple fluorescent molecule for imaging solid tumors and a wearable head-mounted device to visualize cancer in the operating room," said Achilefu. "These combined products synergistically improve treatment outcomes. Now that we can visualize cancer in real time, we are using light from within the cancer cells to treat them."

In conclusion, Achilefu acknowledged the many people who worked on the project: "surgeons, clinicians, students, engineers, physicists, chemists, biologists - basically it takes a village to do what we are describing today."

Achilefu also acknowledged his friend and mentor Britton Chance. "Through his inspiration and the les-sons learned from his hard work ethic, we've been able to push our technologies, not only to do the pre-clinical model, but also work with actual patients, and today we're taking our technologies around the world to im¬prove healthcare," he said.

Long-time facilitator, Sergio Fantini of Tufts University, opened the quick-fire Hot Topics presentations, which covered several new developments in biomedical optics, specifically diffuse optical imaging, spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, optoacoustic tomography, multiphoton endoscopy, and OCT.

BRIGHT ideas
Clare Elwell of University College London opened the session with her research using new optical imaging techniques to understand the human brain, including the Gates Foundation-funded BRIGHT (BRain Imaging for Global HealTh) project. She and her team use functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to investigate the impact of malnutrition on infant brain development in The Gambia, and conducting the first brain imaging of infants in Africa.

"We were using NIRS for decades in high-resource areas, unaware of the need for it in a global health project," said Elwell.

Elwell noted how NIRS studies of the developing brain are paving the way for early markers of autism. And following its successful implementation in resource-poor settings, NIRS is now finding application as a brain-imaging tool in global health studies.

Zhiwei Huang discussed the work of his group in the Optical Bioimaging Laboratory at the National University of Singapore with spectroscopic cancer detection. He and his team have developed an integrated Raman endoscopy and wide-field imaging technique for real-time in vivo tissue Raman measurements during clinical endoscopy.

"We developed an endoscope-based autofluorescence imaging and spectroscopy system for in vivo tissue diagnosis and characterization," said Huang. "Preliminary results show that combining spectroscopy with imaging techniques can improve both the diagnostic sensitivity and specificity for discriminating early cancer from normal tissue."

"We've been to the moon, but still haven't been able to see the lymphatics," said Eva Sevick-Muraca of University of Texas Houston in her opening remarks on aging as seen through the lens of translational biomedical optics. There is strong evidence that chronic inflammation contributes to a number of conditions prevalent with aging, including peripheral vascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease, she noted.

Alexander Vahrmeijer of Leiden University Medical Center explained how targeted molecular imaging can facilitate precision surgery. "Optical imaging that exploits invisible near infrared fluorescent light has the potential to improve cancer surgery, minimize the time patients are under anesthesia, and lower health-care costs largely by way of its improved contrast and depth of tissue penetration rela-tive to visible light," said Vahrmeijer.

A version of this article appeared in the 2019 Photonics West Show Daily.

Related SPIE content:

See the BiOS Hot Topics and Neurophotonics talks from SPIE Photonics West.

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