An image of Jurgen Osing from PEARlabs
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Jürgen Osing, PEARlabs

Real-time photonic imaging to visualise how life works at a molecular level

What problem are you solving and what is innovative about your approach?

Optical imaging technologies, such as microscopy, are essential tools for investigations in biomedical research and diagnostics, and are fundamental to the understanding of disease mechanisms, early disease detection and the development of therapeutic treatments. Biomedical research applications, such as live imaging of cancer proliferation and viral infection mechanisms, are pushing down towards subcellular and molecular levels. Super resolution microscopy technologies have been developed in the past 15 years to visualise such detail at subcellular resolution but suffer from a dilemma: enhanced spatial resolution comes at the cost of either very low imaging speed (no dynamic processes visible), or being destructive to biological samples, or both.

PEARlabs has developed a patented Super Resolution Imaging (SRI) technology, which can overcome this dilemma. Using a proprietary photonic sensor chip technology, containing a nanoscale array of plasmonic elements, PEARlabs can produce live images with 10x improved spatial resolution at video rate without being toxic or destructive to the sample. This allows for long-term super resolution imaging of “living” samples to answer some fundamental biological questions.

How is this idea commercially attractive?

Super resolution is expected to give new insights into biomedical science. The global SRI market was valued at US$2.7bn in 2020 and is expected to grow to US$4.5bn in 2027, driven by trends towards live in-vivo cell imaging and strong funding for linking molecular and cellular function with disease. There are currently 30+ companies providing microscopy instrumentation in this market space, which is dominated by Olympus, Zeiss, Nikon and Leica.

PEARlabs is commercialising its novel technology through partnering with Tier 1&2 microscopy vendors using an “Intel inside” model. Partner companies will be able to differentiate from competition by accessing PEARlab’s USPs and significantly strengthen their commercial footprint in the growing market segment of super resolution microscopy.

PEARlabs is compact, cost-effective, and easily integrated into standard microscopy systems as a first commercial implementation. Further development of the photonic chip, AI software and electronics will see the PEARlabs technology become a sensor based high resolution imaging solution in diagnostic applications, such as endoscopy (a US$30bn market opportunity) or point-of-care “microscope-in-a-pocket” solutions and could even find its way into consumer devices.

What do you hope to achieve by participating in Big Ideas?

PEARlabs is positioning itself as a globally leading provider of super resolution imaging solutions. Big Ideas will help PEARlabs to gain access to a network of individuals and organisations that can contribute to and accelerate its growth path. Spinning out of UCD, PEARlabs is now seeking to raise seed funding and is looking forward to having conversations with interested investors.