The BiOS (Biomedical Optics) expo and conference never fails to draw a crowd, but this year’s schedule is so exciting that SPIE officials recommend showing up early for lectures and events if you want to grab a spot. BiOS is held every year in conjunction with SPIE Photonics West; this year, the events will be held at the Moscone Center. Photonics West will be held Jan. 21-26, with BiOS launching on the weekend (Jan. 21-22). This year’s BiOS Expo is already reporting a greater number of exhibiting companies than last year’s. Courtesy of SPIE. One must-attend event is the popular Saturday evening “hot topics” session, which features compelling talks by nine leading researchers on some of the most promising new advances in the field, with a strong emphasis on translational research from the laboratory to the clinic. “Typically, the session draws a standing-room-only audience of close to 1000 – even with all the distractions of San Francisco,” said Marilyn Gorsuch, director of technical programs at SPIE. “This year’s talks include topics such as new technologies for restoring sight to the blind, non-invasive early-stage cancer detection with coherence imaging, and imaging lymphatic flow. My advice: Get there early to get a seat.” Along with the regular BiOS Expo, hot topics talks, conferences and courses, this year’s show boasts some new events reflecting emerging trends in the field. Getting down to business: BiOS attracts attendees from throughout the international community, giving businesses the opportunity to meet more customers and demonstrate product lines. Sessions on optogenetics and optical techniques in pulmonary medicine are debuting, built around a keynote talk by Karl Deisseroth of Stanford University, a pioneer in noninvasive control of brain circuits, as well as papers from another leader in the field, Samarendra Mohanty of the University of Texas at Arlington. Optogenetics represents an exciting new application for biophotonics and is an important example of multidisciplinary research: combining genetic methods and optical technologies, said James Fujimoto, a professor at MIT and co-chair of the BiOS symposium. The Prism Awards banquet has become a major highlight of the conference, organizers said. “From among 27 finalists, winners will be announced in nine categories for their new photonic products that break with conventional ideas, solve problems and improve life through the generation and harnessing of light,” Gorsuch said. “Industry leaders make the presentations, and finalists and winners are chosen by a panel of independent judges from industry. So the evening really is a celebration of the many important applications enabled by photonics.” Problems with the international economy and the US government’s conflict on budget priorities are causes for concern for many in the field and no doubt will be the focus of conversations held in conference rooms and exhibition halls, and over the dinner table. “Many leading researchers and scientific administrators have characterized the current situation as the worst time for science in the past 20 years,” Fujimoto said. “As a community, I think that it is important for biomedical optics to place increased emphasis on applied and translational problems, to develop solutions that accelerate the pace of scientific and clinical research, and to create technology and methods that can directly improve patient care. This is especially important as society looks critically at the cost benefit of science support.” But organizers are not worried about the current economic turmoil in terms of its impact on attendee numbers. In fact, the photonics industry is enjoying some stability, Gorsuch said, and biomedical optics is just one area that remains strong, even in a weak economy. “In this environment, it is more important than ever to spend your time and money wisely. Thousands of people across industry, academia and government have seen that attending Photonics West and BiOS is extremely important,” she said. “There is more potential at a larger meeting to see more customers. Photonics West draws attendees from throughout the international community, and companies with diversified product lines tend to bring more products to show this broader, more diversified audience at Photonics West.” In total, this year’s Photonics West event is expected to attract more than 19,000 people; typically, more than 5000 attend the BiOS conferences. The number of exhibiting companies at the BiOS Expo has already surpassed last year’s total and is approaching 200.