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Getting new life-saving photonics product ideas to market: help with the challenge

Three aspiring biophotonics entrepreneurs working on potentially life-saving techniques for detecting cancer and malaria have won some expert help in moving their ideas to market.
As winners of a Biophotonics Startup Challenge at SPIE Photonics West in January, the three are being sponsored by Newport Spectra-Physics to attend the Biomedical Engineering Entrepreneurship Academy at the University of California, Davis, next summer.

A cheek-swab test for lung cancer would be "a paradigm shift, in that we don't need to examine the tumor itself to determine the presence of cancer," said Hariharan Subramanian (Northwestern University) of the technique he and colleagues including Hemant Roy (North Shore University Health System) and Vadim Backman (Northwestern) have developed.

Hariharan Subramanian describes for Biophotonics Startup Challenge judges the technology behind a cheek-swab test for lung cancer.
A system based on total internal reflection principles that can pick up signs of early-stage breast tumors at a depth of 3 cm earned Chang Won (Temple University) a place at the entrepreneurship academy. Won said his target market is small clinics in countries where hospitals and clinics are sparsely located.

A portable interferometric microscope that could be integrated into a cell-phone-sized handset would provide a relatively inexpensive tool -- selling for less than $500 -- to test for malaria. Developed by Natan Shaked (Duke University), the microscope is as a compact quantitative phase instrument for label-free cell imaging.

These ideas have much potential to save lives. Early detection is key to survival in all three conditions.

Lung cancer is responsible for approximately 1.4 million deaths worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women (after lung cancer) according to the American Cancer Society, with about 1.3 million diagnoses annually worldwide.

Half of the world's population is at-risk for malaria, with 247 million cases annually, according to the Global Malaria Partnership.

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