2017 Optics in the Life Sciences Recap

2017 Optics in the Life Sciences Recap

The 2017 OSA Biophotonics Congress has concluded with more than 55 technical sessions and over 270  presentations. Program highlights included: 

Joint Plenary Session

Much of the emphasis in biophotonics research has been placed on the clinical translation of our technologies. Entitled “Cell Biophysics and Human Diseases”, Subra Suresh, President of Carnegie Mellon University, detailed recent research being completed to image chronic and inherited diseases such as malaria and sickle cell anemia. Suresh detailed the changes in biophysical properties of these diseases, what is the effect of the diseased state at the molecular level and the challenges facing progression of this research.

Nobel Laureate and Stanford Professor, Steven Chu, began his presentation with a “Wish List” for optical microscopy. According to Chu, we want photostable nanoprobes that will allow 5 – 10 nm spatial resolution of multiple proteins; are bright enough to follow the dynamics of cell signaling at one millisecond timescales; and will allow us to look through several millimeters of tissue with optical resolution.

This is not only a wish list for Chu but for all of those in biophotonics. How can we look to the other optics-based sciences to meet these goals? Chu is looking to adaptive optics used in astrophysics for more precise imagining.

Through the combination of today’s computational and microscopy research, Laura Waller, University of California at Berkeley, described how her team brings together innovative techniques in computational imaging. Much work has been done in an effort to improve the resolution and sensitivity of microscopes, while at the same time to introduce new imaging modalities, and make existing imaging systems more efficient and more accessible. Waller is committed to open-source hardware and software enabling future, portable imaging systems for resource-limited geographies.


Plenary presenter Laura Waller offers additional insights into her research work. View other videos captured at the 2017 OSA Biophotonics Congress in the OSA Video Library.

Panel: Strategies for Commercialization and Dissemination of Non-Clinical Optical Technologies

A panel discussion highlighted the various paths to get your invention into the hands of researchers and end-users. Although the path for medical technologies involves complex clinical trials and FDA approval, technologies for research applications such as microscopes and fluorescent proteins can be much more rapidly translated and can provide rapid, high-impact for scientific research. There are many approaches: in-lab support, open-source dissemination, start-ups, or licensing, each with their own pros and cons. Daniel Côté, Universite Laval, led the session soliciting viewpoints and experiences from: Kevin Eliceiri, Elizabeth Hillman, Tomasz Tkaczyk and Chris Xu.

The panelist’s open discussion moved from commercialization strategies to entrepreneurship and then to various career paths in the field. Attendees had the opportunity to ask practical questions about working for a start-up, building their own company and setting realistic financial expectations yourself and your business.

Other Highlights

OSA Congresses are not just about the sharing of technical content, but professional development as well. Developmental programming, such as Wednesday’s grant writing workshop and numerous daily networking coffee breaks and luncheons, offered students and early-career professional attendees to forge integral connections within the life sciences and biophotonics fields throughout the Congress