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  • Time to Speed Up Technology Transfer

Sep 2016

James SchlettAll too often, the journey from bench to bedside is measured not with a stopwatch but with a calendar. There are reasons for this slow pace: Time is the cost of a thorough vetting. But it’s unfortunate how some photonics technologies show so much promise to save lives, but — because of funding constraints — don’t reach their potential. As reviewed in our cover story, “NIR and Optoacoustic Spectroscopy Cerebral Oximeters Aim to Save Preemies,” (read article), that tragedy has been playing out in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) worldwide for decades as near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR)-based cerebral oximeters have failed to rise to the standard-of-care level for the monitoring of dangerously low levels of oxygen in the brains of premature infants. While a years-long effort in Europe, known as Safeguarding the Brain of our Smallest Children (SafeBoosC), has shown promise to make that happen, this initiative recently failed to receive funding from the European Union for a 17-country randomized study. That initiative — and perhaps the regular, clinical deployment of NIR cerebral oximeters in NICUs — now hangs on a grant application for a smaller study in Ireland.

Preemies, however, are not alone in suffering from the slow transfer of biophotonics technologies. Cancer patients suffer, too, as Tom Baer, chairman of the National Photonics Initiative Cancer Moonshot Task Force, notes in “National Cancer Moonshot: Bridging the Gap Between Photonics Research and Technology Deployment,” (read article). Advanced optics and photonics technologies could hold the key to the early detection of brain, lung and other cancers and effective treatment protocols for them. But without an ambitious public-private initiative, such as President Obama’s new National Cancer Moonshot, these technologies may never realize that promise or could take far longer to do so than the five years targeted by the White House.

Baer’s column marks the debut of BioPhotonics’ Biopinion, a column in which leaders in the field can voice their opinions — and jump-start a public discussion — on the challenges to expanding the influence of biophotonics in the medical arena and other life sciences and what can be done to overcome those obstacles. People interested in contributing to Biopinion should send me an approximately 100-word abstract for consideration. Email abstracts to

Other articles you will not want to miss in this month’s BioPhotonics include:

• “Holotomography Unlocks New Potential for Life Sciences Research,” by Jodi Pounds for Tomocube Inc. (read article);

• “Growing Gratings Menu a Boon for Biophotonics Research,” by David Huang and Brian Lin, of II-VI Photop (read article);

• “Live-Cell Imaging Research Thrives With Micro-Environment Control Systems,” by Daniel Focht, of Bioptechs Inc. (read article); and

• “Tip-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy Takes Bio Fingerprinting to Nanoscale Level,” by Maruda Shanmugasundaram and Fran Adar of Horiba Instruments Inc. (read article).

As many of these articles stress, time is a precious commodity in biophotonics. Enjoy.

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