SBIR Phase II: Quantitative Phase Imaging for Life Sciences

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Phi Optics, Inc.
Champaign, IL 61820
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase II project proposes to develop a faster and more accurate optical instrument for studying live cells and tissues. The study of live cells has yielded numerous discoveries (e.g. germ theory, the Krebs cycle, cell division) and is important for drug discovery and disease treatment. Live cells are transparent and need to be observed for long periods of time (days, weeks) in their natural state. To make the cells visible and measure them quantitatively, current state of the art instruments require injecting the cells with staining agents or light emitting fluorophores. Both processes are invasive, labor intensive and expensive and long term observations of live cells is difficult: staining embalms the cells and the fluorophores fade quickly and kill the cells in hours. The Phase I project produced a proof-of-concept prototype that provides quantitative imaging of live cells by processing the light transmitted through the cells in their natural state. Completion of the Phase II objectives will upgrade the Phase I prototype to a commercial grade instrument: improve optical design and build a housing enclosure, develop commercial grade software and automate the hardware controls and develop task-specific software applications to solve particular biological problems. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to enable life scientists with a new and powerful instrument for studying live cells. The greatest impact of the commercial instrument developed in Phase II project will have is enabling researchers to do science better than before, i.e., more accurately, more quantitatively, and more noninvasively. The range of breakthroughs enabled by the instrument will likely include: novel drug discovery by accurate monitoring of cell response to treatment, fundamental studies of cell proliferation and growth, minimally invasive automatic diagnosis of cancer biopsies, and fast and accurate blood testing instruments. Scaling up the production of the instrument will create new jobs and increase the US dominance in the biotechnology area. Due to their full automation, the instruments can also operate in areas with limited access to trained personnel and provide the digital data necessary for remote diagnosis, such as Medically Underserved Areas/Populations in United States.