Startup Gets $1.4 Million From NIH
Lebanon — A Dartmouth College-affiliated start up firm that has developed imaging technology to provide a live visualization of radiation therapy while it is being administered to a patient has received $1.4 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health that will allow the technology to proceed to clinical trial.
DoseOptics, a company founded by two engineering professors at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering and a Cambridge, Mass., technology executive, has developed imaging technology that it says will reduce errors during radiation therapy and improve patient outcomes. Current alternatives for providing live imaging of radiation therapy are either overly time consuming, inaccurate or too costly for most procedures, the company says.
The technology allows doctors the ability literally to “see” the radiation beam while it is administered — on a breast tumor, for example — to ensure it is being properly targeted and delivered. Misdirected radiation beams, although rare, can damage nearby tissues and organs and complicate the patient’s recovery.
Brian Pogue, a Thayer engineering sciences professor and co-founder of DoseOptics, expects clinical trials with patients to begin at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in the fall of 2016. The NIH Small Business Innovation Research grant covering the trial portion extends for two years and will be “used to develop prototypes for human imaging and clinical instrument calibration,” the company explained in a news release.
Pogue said the technology will improve the safety and efficiency of radiation therapy for patients who typically have to endure many applications of radiation over the course of treatment, which can last weeks and causes patients to lose significant amounts of weight and endure other side effects.
The breakthrough in live visual detection of a radiation beam directed upon a patient’s tissue came when Pogue and collaborators at Thayer discovered a way to capture through a specialized camera and computer system the glow emitted from the so-called Cherenkov light that comes from interactions with tissue.
The resulting real-time video of ultrasound-like images that are then viewed on a monitor can help doctors adjust the daily targeting and “dose” of the beam and verify the amount delivered. Accurate delivery is essential to kill cancerous cells in the affected organs, while sparing surrounding normal tissues.
“Cherenkov light” is the name given to a tiny light signal, appearing as a blue glow, which is given off when high-energy radiation hits anything like water or human tissue. The light can’t be seen by the human eye but can be captured by the right camera system, and the interaction it measures is direct evidence of the radiation hitting the targeted tissue.
Pogue credited the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, the college’s office to foster business launches from within the Dartmouth community, with helping DoseOptics negotiate for the license with the Dartmouth Office of Technology Transfer for commercializing the patents. The patents were result of the work by Pogue and colleagues David Gladstone and Lesley Jarvis, but are owned by the college. Pogue called the college a “partner in the startup venture.”
In July, the startup was provided office space at the Dartmouth Regional Technology Center at Centerra Resource Park in Lebanon. Pogue said the company has two full-time employees: a vice president of technology and a research engineer. He said additional contract employees will be hired on an as-needed basis.
Pogue, who has taught at Thayer for 19 years and runs one of the largest labs at Thayer with about 20 people supported by $2 million annual research budget, is a leading researcher of optics in medicine and biomedical engineering. The chief executive of the company is Bill Ware, a Hanover resident and Thayer alumnus, whose prior work in Silicon Valley provides the leadership needed to launch the company as a spinoff entity from the Dartmouth research, Pogue said.