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Needle Microscope Wins SPIE Startup Challenge

CRAWLEY, Australia, and BELLINGHAM, Wash., Feb. 14, 2014 — A new needle microscope that will assist in breast cancer treatment has earned SPIE’s annual Startup Challenge.

The “Microscope in a Needle” project, developed by a team from western Australia and led by Robert McLaughlin, an associate professor at the University of Western Australia’s Optical and Biomedical Engineering Laboratory, earned the top prize. The award also includes $10,000 in cash, $5,000 worth of Edmund Optics’ products to further commercialization and development, and the opportunity to attend a week-long entrepreneur boot camp.

Western Australian researchers' microscope in a needle shows promise in the surgical treatment of breast cancer. Courtesy the University of Western Australia.

The device is a miniature OCT probe inside a needle that is designed to help surgeons remove tumors in breast cancer patients.

“We have made a device that helps a surgeon find the edge of a tumor,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a mini fiber optic probe inside a needle that helps perform biopsies below the skin’s surface.”

He noted that it will help to remove tumors completely and should reduce the number of repeat surgeries that are necessary when malignant material is missed the first time; currently, 25 percent of breast cancer patients undergo repeat surgeries.

Second prize was awarded to Nicholas Durr at MIT and PlenOptika for his device to determine eyeglass prescriptions economically to improve eye care in developing countries. Third prize went to Amos Danielli at MagBiosense for a heart biosensor.

The SPIE Startup Challenge is supported by Jenoptik, Trumpf, Open Photonics and Knobbe Martens.

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