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Imaging Platform PhotoniCare Wins Top Prize at SPIE Startup Challenge at Photonics West

Published on February 9, 2018 on 

The PhotoniCare ClearView [OtoSight Middle Ear Scope] imaging platform, presented by PhotoniCare CEO Ryan Shelton, enables doctors to see through eardrum tissue and won a combined first prize of $15,000 at SPIE Photonics West

PhotoniCare CEO Ryan Shelton successfully pitching his way to winning SPIE’s 2018 Startup Challenge at Photonics West. Photo credit: SPIE

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA and CARDIFF, UK – A technology company that uses optical coherence tomography as a non-invasive method of diagnosing ear infections won the top award at the 8th annual SPIE Startup Challenge at Photonics West on Wednesday, 31 January.

The PhotoniCare ClearView imaging platform [OtoSight Middle Ear Scope], presented by PhotoniCare CEO Ryan Shelton, enables doctors to see through eardrum tissue and won a combined first prize of $15,000. Clearview [OtoSight Middle Ear Scope] enables 5-20 micron resolution and does not require water or gel as a coupling medium like ultrasound. This view into the middle ear enables physicians to visualize and characterize effusions, biofilms, cholesteatomas, and retraction pockets through the intact eardrum. The device can also quantify the turbidity, or purulence, of the fluid–a parameter that is linked to need for antibiotics, but very difficult to assess by looking at the eardrum surface.

“SPIE does great things for the Photonics industry,” says Shelton whose personal experience with his child’s struggle with ear infections led him to explore the opportunities for innovation in diagnostics. “They have gone above and beyond to support our industry from the time I was in early grad school (conference travel grants, student chapter funding) through my post-doc (early career support, professional development), and even now, in my professional career. The team at PhotoniCare would like to thank SPIE and all of the sponsors of this event. It’s a true pleasure and honor to receive the award. I look forward to giving back in whatever way I can in the future. In the meantime, let me know if you’d like to see what’s inside your middle ear….”

Shelton was one of six finalists vying for more than $85,000 in cash, prizes and in-kind industry support provided by event sponsors; the finalists pitched their new photonics businesses to a panel of expert judges in the hopes of winning the top prize of $10,000 in cash, plus $5,000 in equipment. All six finalists, selected from a group of 24 semi-finalists, receive training and marketing packages to support their venture.

In a fast-paced event that reflects industry expectations, the participants were scored on pitch delivery, competitive advantage, quality of the financial case, and trajectory of the company. The second and third place winners were as follows:

  • Chris Castel pitched CareWear Firefly, a wearable therapeutic light patch which uses printed LEDs and CFQD film to treat pain and accelerate recovery from soft-tissue injury, won the 2nd prize of $5,000.
  • Cather Simpson pitched Orbis: Point of Cow Diagnostics, which will allow dairy farmers to innovate by providing key data about cow health and bovine milk, won the 3rd prize of $2,500

Other exciting new technologies and commercialization plans presented during the finals: Vitrum3D, pitched by Dorothea Helmer, a company which creates specialty resins for 3D printing of transparent fused silica glass; C. Light, pitched by Christy Sheehy, a neuro-deficit eye-screening and therapy guidance tool; and Smart Baby Car Seat, pitched by Chukwunonso Arinze, a car seat equipped with optic sensors that serves as an “Internet of Baby Things.”

Sheehy, alongside semi-finalist Anshuman Das, who pitched a business that converts smartphones into high-tech food and beverage analytics labs – “our mission is to create a billion labs all around the world!” – each received an SPIE Early Stage Entrepreneurship Travel Grant that covered their travel to Photonics West, as well as full access to the conference.

The SPIE Startup Challenge is supported by Founding Partner Jenoptik, Lead Sponsor Edmund Optics, and Supporting Sponsors Trumpf, Luminar, and the Luminate Accelerator. Jenoptik sponsors cash prizes including $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place, and $2,500 for third place. The first-place winner will also receive $5,000 worth of products from Edmund Optics. Judging panels are drawn from the photonics and related technologies industries. This year’s panel of judges included venture capitalist and business development experts:

  •          Jason Eichenholz, Luminar Technologies
  •          Marc Himel, JENOPTIK Inc.
  •          Andreas Popp, Trumpf GmbH
  •          Sujatha Ramanujan, High Tech Rochester, Luminate
  •          Jenny Rooke, Genoa Ventures
  •          Samuel Sadoulet, Edmund Optics
  •          DariusSankey, Innovation Acceleration Capital
  •          Homan Yuen, NewGen Capital

Since its 2011 inception, the goal of the SPIE Startup Challenge is to help new entrepreneurs refine their business case, analyze markets and develop a network of connections to help drive their new venture. Winners and finalists also receive media promotions, and additional training opportunities as well as industry support.

About SPIE

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 2017, SPIE provided more than $4 million in support of education and outreach programs.

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