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Biophotonics to play key role in Radiology, personalized medicine, environment sensing, chemical and biological sensors for military and security

A new photonics congress debuted in Berlin on October 11, with scientific tracks on biophotonics and micro/nanophotonics. The congress was connected with a trade fair featuring an extensive three-day program supported by the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) and several local organizations. The general and biophotonics chair Jürgen Popp of the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (IPHT) Jena said “Scientists and technology developers must take the needs of users into account–medical professionals, for example–and keep in close touch with the providers of end products in the industry. This conference can make an important contribution towards strengthening this cooperation.”


One new technical solution was presented by Thierry Livache from the CREAB group at CEA Grenoble (France). His biochip uses surface plasmon resonances (SPR) for molecular interaction measurement on microsystems. The chips provide a number of different sensors on the surface. Once in contact with the right molecule, they show SPR which can be electronically imaged. This technique may help to track different bacteria species on surfaces or to follow salmonella in large food samples


Biophotonics refers to the interplay between light and biological matter. Within medicine and the life sciences biophotonics promises progress and new developments with regard to a better understanding of the origins of disease, improving diagnosis and follow-up care, preventing disease and treating patients individually and specifically (‘personalized medicine’). Optical devices are used in the clinic today to detect colon tumours, guide surgical excision, perform laser surgery, diagnose dermatological conditions and far more.


Affordable light-based technologies also play a key role in meeting global healthcare challenges. As an example, Brian Wilson from the University of Toronto in Canada, described his research team’s development of a mobile phone-based fluorescence imager that detects bacteria in infected wounds and guides the clinician to areas requiring decontamination prior to bandaging. “A clinical trial showed that this makes a significant difference in terms of outcome, and it is now being commercialized,” he noted.


“Biophotonics opens up the possibility to understand and manipulate things at the micrometer or even nanometer level. Micromanipulation techniques for example will allow to sort, move or modify cells. This links biophotonics to areas such as gen technology, stem cell research, tissue engineering, neuroscience or systems biology. Some of these techniques might also possibly allow for new ways of enhancing human performance features,” write Johann S. Ach; Beate Lüttenberg, Centre for Bioethics, University Münster


Various techniques used in biophotonics have been developed in an industrial or military setting before migrating to medicine and the life sciences. This is one reason why many techniques and applications used in biophotonics are open for dual use, i.e. can in principle be used for both civilian and military aims. Laser applications, high resolution analysis tools or microscopy technologies can for example serve military purposes as well as human (or animal) health care goals.


A wide range of chemicals, toxins, and microbiological materials are now being used in warfare and terror attacks; it is expected that in the coming years, threats from such chemicals and biological warfare will increase significantly.The military uses  Biophotonics sensors for chemical and biological explosive detection, field intelligence, and bio-warfare defense as they can easily detect bacteria, spores, viruses, and toxins, and function perfectly in dirty environments.


These sensors are also being used to enhance homeland security. They are also used to monitor water supplies, sense intrusion at country borders, and secure cargo containers. Hong Kong uses biophotonic sensors to inspect the contents of all containers entering its port area. Other countries are expected to follow this practice, thus leading to a growth of the sensor market during the forecast period.


Biophotonics: Pushes the Boundaries of Radiology

Biophotonics — the development and application of optical techniques for the study of biological molecules, cells and tissue — is expanding the scope of radiology by bringing clinicians and researchers new tools for noninvasive imaging of cancer and other diseases.While the x­rays and gamma rays commonly used in imaging represent high energy light sources, biophotonics typically relies on sources   on sources at the lower end of the energy spectrum like infrared,  near infrared, visible and ultraviolet light.


This lower  energy light helps preserve the bilogical cells examined even as the optical equipment visualizes structures too small to be seen with xray, CT and MRI. Optical biopsies allow the real ­time detection of abnormal tissue to be studied in the operating room improving the process and helping to avoid the  sampling errors common to conventional methods.


“In conventional biopsy, we take the tissue to the microscope, but with optical biopsy, we’are taking the microscope to the tissue,” said Arthur F. Gmitro, PhD, professor and head of the  Department of Department of Biomedical  Engineering and professor of medical imaging and optical sciences at the university of Arizona in Tucson. “With optical biopsy, you scan across the tissue in real time and  make a less invasive and potentially more accurate  diagnosis,” Dr. Gmitro said.


Optical coherence tomography (OCT), a high­ speed, cross sectional microscopic imaging modality, is another well  established area of biophotonics. Like ultrasound, OCT operates on an echobased paadigm except that in OCT the ultrasonic waves are replaced by light waves. OCT is commonly used in the eye to study the retina and diagnose glaucoma, macular degeneration and other conditions. “OCT is now used for image ­guided surgery in the retina and has potential importance for interventional and vascular radiology,”Michael A. Choma, MD, PhD, principal investigator at the Yale Biophotonics Laboratory in New Haven, Conn said.


 European partnership for thrust on Biophotonics


The field of life sciences is heavily dependent on bulky and expensive optical systems and would benefit enormously from low cost photonic implementations. However this field requires a visible light PIC-technology. Proof of concept demonstrations are abundant, but pilot line and manufacturing capacity is limited, inhibiting industrial take up.


PIX4life will drive the future European RTD in visible photonic applications for life sciences by bridging technological research (via participation of 2 academic and 2 research institutes) towards industrial development (via participation of a foundry, two large companies and 9 fabless SME’s, either technology suppliers or life science end users).


PIX4Life is a pilot for a state-of-the-art photonics platform for health applications. Recently, a promising Silicon Nitride Photonic Integrated Circuit technology was researched to make compact, low cost detection and imaging systems in the visible range and the TriPleXTM and BioPIX platforms were developed. PIX4Life will scale up these platforms in order to bring Silicon Nitride based systems towards commercial production and industrial take up. This will open a multibillion market of products including biosensors, cytometers, DNA sequencers, gas sensors, microscopes, medical imagers and more. The PIX4Life pilot line will drive European leadership in health applications by making this technology accessible to industrial and academic customers together with the necessary design, packaging and test services. The project brings together 15 leading organisations from 7 European countries and is coordinated by IMEC, Belgium.


MIRPHAB ( is a pilot line for prototyping and production of innovative sources and sensors in the Mid-IR range, for the detection of chemicals in gas and liquids. MIRPHAB platform is based on miniaturized laser systems and will allow the manufacturing of compact, low cost and low power consumption sensing devices which can be used for safety, security and environmental applications. The industry partners involved in MIRPHAB are committed to deploy new products swiftly in the market and achieve prompt take up in the environmental and chemical sensing areas.The project brings together 18 leading organisations from 9 European countries and is coordinated by CEA-Leti, France.



National Science Foundation and DARPA program on Biophotonics

Photonics is the technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The unparalleled combination of spatial resolution, sensitivity, and spectral specificity of optical techniques has provided new biomedical research tools for visualization, measurement, analysis, and manipulation. Photonic techniques are under investigation for noninvasive diagnostic and monitoring applications such as early detection of breast cancer and glucose monitoring for people with diabetes.


The intent of this initiative is to exploit the power of photonics to advance biomedical engineering. Developing noninvasive, molecularly specific sensing, imaging, monitoring, and therapeutic systems with high optical sensitivity, and resolution would be an enormous accomplishment with powerful applications to both biology and medicine. Low cost diagnostics will require novel integration of photonics, molecular biology and material science. Complex biosensors capable of detecting and discriminating among large classes of biomolecules could be important not only to biology and medicine but also to environmental sensing. These advances will require multidisciplinary integration of optical technologies with molecular biology in novel engineered systems  biomolecules.


Biophotonic topical areas

  1. The development of new classes of photonic probes and contrast agents to label structures and push the envelope of optical sensing to the limits of detection, resolution, and identification
  2. New imaging modalities and image/data fusion between optical imaging, spectroscopic techniques, and conventional medical imaging
  3. New optical approaches for non­invasive diagnosis, localization, and treatment of small tumors (i.e. either entirely new methods or major removal of limitations within existing technology)
  4. Development of biocompatible detection technologies that could serve as massively parallel interfaces for communicating with cells and tissue such as neural tissue
  5. Novel methods for “endoscopic” optical imaging at the subcellular level
  6. Noninvasive optical sensing techniques to detect key physiological and molecular concentrations in­vivo for anemia, jaundice, dehydration, glucose levels, drug levels, etc.
  7. Innovative methods for fluorescent labeling of macromolecules, use of enzyme­activated fluorophores, new compositions of matter/methods of fabrication of multi­color probes for in­vivo diagnostics such as marking and detection of tumors


Biophotonics Market worth 50.18 Billion USD by 2020

According to a new market research report “Biophotonics Market by Application(See-through Imaging, Inside Imaging, Spectromolecular, Surface Imaging, Microscopy, Light Therapy, Biosensors), Technology(In-vivo, In-vitro), End-use(Diagnostics, Therapeutic, Tests), & Geography – Global Forecast to 2020”, the total market was valued at USD 26.26 Billion in 2014 and is expected to reach USD 50.18 Billion by 2020, at a CAGR of 11.5% between 2015 and 2020.


Nanotechnology has helped in the improvement of the sensing phenomenon by the use of nanomaterials ranging from nanocantilevers, nanowires, nanoparticles, nanorods, and nanotubes. Nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and indium oxide nanowires are widely used for the construction of nanobiosensors. The most promising nanobiosensors technology is said to be based on the electronic detection of the target molecule such as Field Effect Transistor (FET) nanosensor.


The largest segment for biophotonics market is see-through imaging, it accounted for a market share of about 40% in 2014. There have been significant developments in the field of see-through imaging techniques in recent years, especially in drug discovery and medical diagnostics. Over the years, see-through imaging has emerged as an effective tool for in-vitro and in-vivo imaging, and become an integral part of biomedical research. These techniques have helped in enhancing the knowledge of disease detection and progression, thereby expediting the development of effective therapeutics


The biophotonic sensor market has tremendous growth opportunity over the forecast period due to the growing application of these sensors in the military and medical sectors.Fiber-optic sensors are being deployed in new applications such as consumer electronics and biomedical sensing. Hospitals across the globe are adopting advanced medical equipment such as biomedical sensors, which deploy fiber-optic sensors, to improve diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of patients. This will support the demand for fiber-optic sensors during the forecast period, according to market research study released by Technavio.


In the medical sector, they help in the development of drugs and vaccines as well as in therapeutics and diagnostics. The ability of these sensors to offer quick and precise analysis has increased their use in the medical sector, especially in microfluidic devices. The need of biophotonics systems for the detection of biochemical agents will boost the demand of the biophotonics market in the defense sector.


Biophotonics systems are also being developed for the use in environmental monitoring. Since environmental concerns such as increasing pollution and global warming are common issues faced by various nations, the use of biophotonics for environment monitoring is expected to grow in the coming years.


The key companies in this market include Affymetrix, Inc. (U.S.), Andor Technology Ltd. (U.K.), Becton, Dickinson and Company (U.S.), Carl Zeiss AG (Germany), FEI Company (U.S.), Hamamatsu Photonics K.K. (Japan), Lumenis Ltd. (Israel), Olympus Corporation (Japan), PerkinElmer, Inc. (U.S.), and Zecotek Photonics Inc. (Canada). Brief information on Research methodology for the report can be found in the report description provided on website.



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