The Team Behind the Technology

By January 9, 2020 Blog

PhotoniCare was founded in 2013 out of a shared passion to make a real impact on the health of children. The people that make up PhotoniCare are dedicated, collaborative, and caffeinated, to say the least. Small but mighty, this team has done a lot in a short amount of time, which recently included an FDA clearance on their novel medical device, the TOMi Scope

So who are the people behind the technology? Let’s meet Ryan Shelton, Ryan Nolan, Wei Kang, Heather Howard, and Nate Wetter:

Ryan Shelton PhotoRYAN SHELTON, CEO, CO-FOUNDER
What is your role with PhotoniCare:
I founded PhotoniCare with Ryan Nolan and Steve Boppart and have been serving as its CEO since. My role with the company is to cast vision, recruit people better than myself, and make sure we don’t run out of money. Those are my three main tasks. That said, I also sweep floors, flip burgers, and take out the trash. The variety keeps me interested.

What is your background?
I am a PhD-trained engineer, but have had to sacrifice much of that lab-work to learn how to effectively run a business. I like both sides of it, but I have come to love what I do as CEO. Like many entrepreneurs, I was completely unqualified to be CEO, having come straight from an academic post-doc. I like to think I’m more qualified now. One of my favorite jobs was a guitar tech at Daddio’s Music in Stillwater, OK. I still love music and play guitar often.

What is the most exciting part for you in developing this technology?
We made a pretty significant product pivot a couple of years ago and it carried a fair bit of risk, but resulted in our current product, which I am super pleased with. Making a bet like that and then seeing users at tradeshows praise it so enthusiastically is a great feeling.

What impact do you think TOMi will have on the healthcare community?
I think we’ll start by becoming the gold standard for ear infections, where better decisions early in the disease can drastically impact the downstream treatment and patient outcomes. After that, I’m super excited about some of the other disease indications in our pipeline.

What do you think is the best part about working on the PhotoniCare team?
I love working with people that love what they do. It is culture-defining, and our team loves what they do. It’s easy to get up in the morning when your goal for the day is to move something forward that will change the lives of millions of kids.

 

Ryan Nolan PhotoRYAN NOLAN, VP of CLINICAL OPERATIONS, CO-FOUNDER
What is your role with PhotoniCare:
I’m the VP of Clinical Operations & Co-founder, so I manage all of our clinical trials and publications with our amazing collaborators, as well as lead our reimbursement strategy.

What is your background?
I’m a clinical research professional and bioengineer from Pitt and Cornell, with 8+ years experience leading clinical trials in multiple areas of medicine. In other words, I love taking cool, new technology out of the research lab and developing it for clinical adoption. As one of the founders of PhotoniCare, I started out as a research scientist alongside Ryan Shelton in Professor Stephen Boppart’s lab at UIUC. We co-founded PhotoniCare to bring the promising and exciting technology we developed in the lab to the real world to improve the standard of care at the front lines of medicine, starting by addressing ear infections.

What is the most exciting part for you in developing this technology?
Seeing the devices we built together used to image patients in our collaborating hospitals. We put a lot of time and effort into designing and building these devices and it’s always satisfying to see the TOMi Scope in action, as well as the reactions of not only the clinicians who use TOMi, but also the patients and their parents as they see inside their/their child’s ear for the first time. 

What impact do you think TOMi will have on the healthcare community?
I think the biggest impact will be how the TOMi Scope drastically improves the way ears are examined at the front lines of medicine. Current tools, like the simple otoscope, are outdated and innovation is sorely needed to improve the care delivered.

What do you think is the best part about working on the PhotoniCare team?
I truly enjoy working as part of an agile, small team and the ability to wear multiple hats, so to speak. We face a diverse set of challenges as a medical device startup, and I appreciate the opportunity to work alongside and learn so much from all my colleagues as we work so hard together to bring TOMi to the world!

 

WEI KANG, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
What is your role with PhotoniCare and what is your background:
I’m the Director of Research and Development at PhotoniCare. My background includes a Biomedical Ph.D. and five years at St. Jude Medical (now Abbott) where I had the opportunity to gain extensive knowledge of the integration of medical device companies. That knowledge included research and development, regulatory, quality, manufacturing, marketing, service, and more. 

What is the most exciting part for you in developing this technology?
It’s been exciting for me to be a part of the PhotoniCare team developing this technology because the TOMi Scope will be a tremendously helpful product to our customers – and will fulfill an unmet need. 

What impact do you think TOMi will have on the healthcare community?
TOMi will ultimately reduce medical costs to our society, and set an example of how low cost optical coherence tomography (OCT) can find a market. 

What do you think is the best part about working on the PhotoniCare team?
At PhotoniCare, we approach OCT differently than the mainstream OCT companies. I like that I can spend time learning – and discover new opportunities where we can implement our technology.

 

HEATHER HOWARD, DIRECTOR OF MANUFACTURING
What is your role with PhotoniCare:
I’m the director of manufacturing, so I manage the whole process of building the device and making sure it passes our quality standards. I’ve also been heavily involved in testing the device and preparing our submission to the FDA.

What is your background / work history:
I studied mechanical engineering and worked in medical devices design in Boston before moving out to Champaign and joining PhotoniCare.

What has been the most exciting part for you in developing this technology:
When I tell people about what I’m working on here at PhotoniCare, everyone has their own story about how ear infections have impacted them. Parents of young children are the most enthusiastic, but this really is a problem that touches a lot of people. I love getting to work on a device that can help. I also enjoy the opportunity to get involved with many aspects of the project and learn new things along the way.

What impact do you think this technology will make:
I think the biggest impact will be to give doctors and patients (and patients’ parents) more confidence in their treatment choices by providing a clear image of whether there’s fluid in the ear or not.  

What is your favorite part about working on the PhotoniCare team:
I love working with a group of people who are so dedicated to this project, but are still able to be flexible and have fun together. Team cookouts are also a highlight!

 

NATE WETTER, BIOMEDICAL ENGINEER
What is your role with PhotoniCare and what is your background:
I’m an Engineer with PhotoniCare. My background includes degrees in Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering from the University of Illinois, and a Medical Doctorate from Southern Illinois University. I also have experience with developing novel medical training technology.

What has been the most exciting part for you in developing this technology:
I like that at PhotoniCare I can draw on every part of my varied background experiences to support the team’s efforts in developing our technology.

What impact do you think this technology will make:
We will finally be good at dealing with an affliction that, despite affecting almost everyone, we have not been good at dealing with before now.

What is your favorite part about working on the PhotoniCare team?
More or less – we are all new to this. So I really enjoy that we are all learning together and working together.

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