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Ireland: UL and NUIG in research alliance with Silicon Valley start-up

Silicon Valley start-up Compact Imaging has just signed two-year research collaboration with University of Limerick (UL) and National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). The two universities will be working with Compact Imaging on the area of biophotonics and will also gain a stake in the tech start-up.

UL and NUIG will be sharing their respective expertise with Compact Imaging specifically around the field of optical coherence tomography (OCT), which is an imaging technique similar to ultrasound, but employs light rather than sound. OCT was first commercialised more than a decade ago for use in ophthalmic and medical diagnostic imaging.

As a result of the scientific alliance, both the Galway University Foundation and University of Limerick Foundation will receive equity in the start-up.

Founded in 2003, Compact Imaging is headquartered in Mountain View, California. The early-stage technology company is focused on the market for non-invasive optical imaging, measurement and analysis. It is developing an OCT system that will fit inside a device the size of a mobile phone or wristwatch. The company has already been issued a series of US patents covering its OCT architecture. Compact Imaging’s team comprises PhD physicists, engineers and digital signal processing specialists.

On the NUIG side, Compact Imaging will draw upon the university’s expertise in OCT research in medical and biological imaging to help progress its intellectual property in the area of multiple-reference OCT. NUIG’s chair of applied physics, Prof Martin Leahy, will direct the university’s research efforts during the two-year alliance.

Leahy spoke about how photonics promises to bring healthcare to the next level. He said it is the “only means to see cells and molecules in small, accessible, low-cost and safe imaging systems”.

Harnessing research expertise

Compact Imaging’s CEO Don Bogue spoke about how the alliance with UL and NUIG will give the company access to research capability, scientific expertise and the right research focus to move the company’s technologies well beyond where its resources would otherwise have allowed.

“We expect that this collaboration will accelerate our development and delivery of small low-cost solutions to a variety of markets,” he said.

Commercially astute universities

UL president Prof Don Barry alluded to how the collaboration shows how universities can be commercially astute and capitalise on their research.

“This alliance and this pioneering commercial agreement highlight what can be achieved with some innovative thinking from supporters of the university. It demonstrates ways in which commercially astute universities and their foundations can benefit through creative collaborations with industry,” he said.

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