It's amazing that a venture can surprise its founders.
When we first started working on our venture, back in November, 2012, we never imagined we would be able to get to where we've gotten today. The prototype you see here is our first build of what we thought was impossible: conducting polarized difference imaging and spectral measurement simultaneously on one camera. And yet, here it is.
This is important for two reasons: until now, advanced biophotonics (that is, imaging with light) has required heavy, expensive systems with a whole clinic to provide them with the energy and space they needed to work. This limited where those imaging systems could be deployed - and whom could therefore access them. Second, until now, polarized difference imaging was hard to integrate into the clinical setting because it required either two cameras (as do some of our peers) or moving parts and pieces (as was developed in the lab of our scientific advisor, Steve Jacques). Polarized Difference Imaging is powerful stuff - it enables one to look at the superficial layer of the skin from the bottom-up, and thereby know if there are any abnormal growths. But requiring two synchronized cameras or one camera with moving mechanisms made the systems hard to rely upon.
And that is why today was such a huge breakthrough. What we thought was impossible to do in a cheap, no-moving-parts version is now possible: we figured out how to bend the light using a compound lens design to enable us to capture the right type of images we need to conduct both analyses, in parallel. And we did it on an off-the-shelf, Microsoft non-HD webcam.
Very, very cool.
The opportunities this present are endless. But more importantly for us, they are endless for the places that need this sort of diagnostic power most: The developing world. Thanks to this innovation, women who are currently being screened using Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid will now have the opportunity to be screened using as advanced if not more advanced of a technique than in the developing world -- meaning that we can reduce false positives, reduce over treatment and therefore reduce the pain, suffering and cost over-run that comes from too many women being referred to treatment they do not need. All because we can connect our new innovation to any digital camera - even that on a smartphone - and provide it to a health care worker in the field for screening.
Sure, the road is still a long one - but now that we have this innovation we know our motivation can lead us to the solution we've been searching for: a low-cost, advanced technology that can provide hope to a global population of women who do not have access to high quality diagnostic technologies. And that's only the beginning.
How to Defeat Cervical Cancer
This blog reflects the lessons our team learns on our quest to defeat cervical cancer.