Semi-finalists announced for Photonics West Startup Challenge

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The semi-finalists for the 2016 SPIE Startup Challenge have been announced. Held annually during the Photonics West trade show in San Francisco, California, the competition will see young entrepreneurs pitch their new photonics-based product proposals to business development and venture capitalists.

The semi-final and final rounds of the competition will be held next month during SPIE Photonics West, with finals open to the public. A panel of judges will select six finalists after hearing semi-finalist pitches on 16 February. In the final round on 17 February, judges will announce their picks for the top three pitches.

An overarching theme this year among the semi-finalists’ products is medical diagnostics. Echnofos Medical will present a proposal for a diagnostic instrument that uses sound waves to listen for the presence of cancer cells in a patient's blood sample. Rubitection will also present a low cost optical diagnostic tool that can be used in hospitals, long term care facilities, and home care agencies to improve care, reduce cost, and save lives.

Moreover, Eta Diagnostics will pitch a massively parallel flow cytometry technique for fast and efficient analysis of rare biological cells and particles. Holobe will also demonstrate a patented plug and play technology that allows life sciences researchers to convert standard microscopes into cutting-edge multiphoton spatial light modulation microscopes.

Another popular application area is wearable technology. Zeev Zalevsky will pitch FabriXense smart clothing, which provides active and continuous measure of biomedical parameters – such as heart beat rhythm, breathing and blood pressure – without the need of having tight contact between the fabric and the body of the wearer. A finger-free wrist-worn pulse oximeter will also be pitched by the Taiwan Biophotonic Cooporation, which measures pulse rate and blood oxygen with a micro-structured reflective optic sensor.

In addition, Limbak will present a new virtual reality (VR) headset that is around 50 per cent lighter and less bulky than existing VR headsets, while Bodle Technologies will propose a new breed of ultra-high resolution, colourful, flexible reflective displays for wearables.

Cash prizes, including $10,000 for the first prize, $5,000 for second prize, and $2,500 for third are funded by Founding Partner Jenoptik. Additional support comes from lead sponsors, Axsun Technologies and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and supporting sponsors, Edmund Optics, Trumpf, Open Photonics, and Knobbe Martens. Edmund Optics also will award the first-place winner $5,000 in products.

See the full list of finalists here.