Double Helix 3D Nano-imaging System Wins 2016 SPIE Startup Challenge

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Three winners have been named in the 2016 SPIE Startup Challenge after a live competition during SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco. Top prize in the contest hosted by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and supported by Founding Partner Jenoptik and other sponsors went to Colorado-based Double Helix.

Founding Sponsor Jenoptik representative Jay Kumler, center, congratulates Double Helix on their first-place win in the 2016 SPIE Startup Challenge.

Founding Sponsor Jenoptik representative Jay Kumler, center, congratulates Double Helix on their first-place win in the 2016 SPIE Startup Challenge.

First-place winner Double Helix won with its 3D system that can image at the single-molecule level inside individual cells.

A 3D nanoscale imaging system, a marijuana breathalyzer, and a disease diagnostic tool made with refrigerator magnets and a laser pointer were selected as the top projects in the 2016 SPIE Startup Challenge. Hosted by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, the pitch competition was held 17 February in San Francisco during SPIE Photonics West, the premier annual event for the international optics and photonics community.

First-place winner Double Helix of Colorado won the grand prize with its 3D system that can image at the single-molecule level inside individual cells. The company was co-founded by Leslie Kimerling who accepted the $10,000 cash award funded by Founding Partner Jenoptik plus $5,000 in products from sponsor Edmund Optics.

Kimerling won over a group of expert judges with a system that can provide unprecedented imaging detail at the nanoscale level to speed the drug development process. The Double Helix system has the potential to reduce the time involved in bringing targeted therapies to market. It provides early verification and validation of the efficacy of drug therapy mechanisms in action.

Taking second place was Diagnostic anSERS with its marijuana breathalyzer. The Maryland-based company uses surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) for its tool for law enforcement who need a road-side drug test for suspected impaired drivers. Sean Virgile, co-founder of Diagnostic anSERS, made the pitch.

In third place was Disease Diagnostic Group, founded by John Lewandowski, who hopes his diagnostic tool made from refrigerator magnets and a laser pointer can be used to help diagnose diseases like malaria before people show symptoms, thus saving lives and treatment costs.

Cash prizes, including the $10,000 top award, $5,000 for second place, 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.

Winners were chosen from among six finalists in a public final competition at the Moscone Center. Finalists had three minutes in which to deliver their pitches showcasing optics or photonics technologies or applications presented as the basis for viable new businesses.

Along with the winners, other finalists were: Bold Biometrix with its blood-pressure monitoring patches; Bodle Technologies, for its reflective displays for wearables; and Stream Technologies’ spectral camera lens.

Judging the final round were Marc Himel of Jenoptik Optical Systems, Sam Sadoulet of Edmund Optics, Bruce Itchkawitz of Knobbe Martens, Mike Mielke of Trumpf, Jason Eichenholz of Open Photonics, Jenny Rooke of 5 Prime Ventures, Peter Whitney of Axsun Technologies, and Mark Wippich of LightWave Advisors.

SPIE will provide support for winners to attend a multi-day entrepreneur training camp and investor networking session for further help in refining their ideas.

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 2015, SPIE provided more than $5.2 million in support of education and outreach programs. http://www.spie.org

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