NEWS | August 8, 2011

Center for Biophotonics wins grant to develop "Ecosystem for Biophotonics Innovation"


The Center for Biophotonics Science and Technology (CBST) has received a $1 million, two-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop an “Ecosystem for Biophotonics Innovation” and to accelerate commercialization of biomedical technologies developed by CBST researchers. The grant will be matched with third-party investments from CBST partners.

Harris Lewin © UC Regents
Harris Lewin

CBST, headquartered on UC Davis’ Sacramento campus, is a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center that uses the science of light to advance development of new tools and technologies for life sciences, diagnosis and treatment of disease. CBST researchers have collaborated on new technologies with UC Davis faculty from both the Sacramento and Davis campuses in pediatric oncology, pathology, infectious disease, neurosciences, hematology and oncology and stem cells, among other areas.

“This grant is a major step for translational research activities and corporate partnerships at UC Davis,” said Harris Lewin, UC Davis vice chancellor for research.

The ecosystem will be nurtured by an educational and business alliance between CBST, the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance (SARTA) and its MedStart initiative, third-party investors, a pediatric cancer foundation and a national laboratory. The goal is to foster the commercialization of innovative bioinstrumentation and medical technology while educating students and postdoctoral researchers in entrepreneurship, product design and development.

“We are very excited to develop the Ecosystem for Biophotonics Innovation (EBI) program as a unique alliance of committed partners,” said CBST Director Dennis Matthews, principal investigator of the grant. “This program will enable faster translation of research-based technologies into start-ups or existing firms, leading to new jobs and economic growth, while also providing hands-on training and learning opportunities in entrepreneurship.”

Dennis Matthews © UC Regents
Dennis Matthews

The co-principal investigator of EBI is Kyriacos Athanasiou, chair of the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering, himself an innovator who started a number of biomedical companies. Other investigators include scientists and faculty from CBST, the UC Davis College of Engineering and Graduate School of Management, as well as the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Sacramento State University.

Beyond CBST and SARTA, the EBI alliance includes: Applied Precision, Inc., a GE Healthcare company in Issaquah, Washington; BD Biosciences in San Jose; Keaton Rafael Memorial, a Roseville-based pediatric cancer philanthropy; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Tahoe Institute for Rural Health Research; and Novartis Diagnostics.

Many of the project partners share a history of research, education and collaboration on knowledge-transfer, as well as a commitment to providing hands-on training. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has long participated with CBST on research projects. Applied Precision, Inc. installed the world’s first commercial Optical Microscopy eXperimental (OMX) system at CBST.

“As the key U.S.-based company that develops comprehensive imaging solutions for cellular and sub-cellular analyses beyond the limitations of conventional methods, we are delighted with the NSF’s program and its leadership in accelerating the translation of scientific advances to commercial reality,” said Joseph J. Victor, president and CEO of Applied Precision, Inc., a GE Healthcare company. “Our continued partnership with CBST and participation in the newly funded Ecosystem for Biophotonics Innovation will improve our ability to bring innovations to the marketplace.”

Among the technologies proposed for commercialization are a 3-D video-rate, wide-field super-resolution optical microscope that improves upon existing OMX technology; single-cell Raman spectroscopy systems; an ultra-short pulse laser scalpel; and a home blood-testing device.

In addition to the $1 million NSF grant, third-party investors have committed $1.7 million, which includes $750,000 in in-kind contributions. Other contributors to the project include JDID Product Design and COMPASS Product Design, Inc.

Established in 2002 with a grant from the National Science Foundation, the Center for Biophotonics, Science and Technology at UC Davis is focused on advancing biomedicine and photonics engineering to improve human health. In partnership with eight other university campuses and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the center focuses its intellectual, scientific, educational and industrial outreach efforts to develop new tools and technologies that apply the science of light to answer important questions in medicine. Center faculty collaborate with basic scientists and physicians to bring advanced technologies from the laboratory to the clinic. For example, advanced video imaging microscopy to record the behavior of live cells is advancing the diagnosis and treatment of disease. As national leaders in the biophotonics field, center faculty are formulating the first strategic roadmap for biophotonics research and are building a worldwide network of schools, industrial partners and other biophotonics research centers to train the next generation of scientists.