By Bill Kisliuk
A technology firm founded by UCLA Engineering Professor Aydogan Ozcan and his students has made it to the final round of a $2.25 million international competition for companies improving healthcare by developing advanced, easy-to-use sensing devices.
Holomic LLC, a company Ozcan founded in 2011 based on his work at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, is a finalist in the 2013 Nokia Sensing XChallenge. Judges will award prizes up to $525,000 to firms developing accurate and reliable sensors for identifying and diagnosing diseases and other health conditions.
Holomic has developed a series of lightweight and compact lens-free microscopes and diagnostic tools that can be attached to camera-enabled cellphones to test samples of blood and other bodily fluids. The company also has created portable devices to gather and transmit data evaluating bacteria in water or food supplies and potential allergens in prepared foods, as well as a diagnostic test reader providing instant access to electronic health records and other information useful in direct care or public health monitoring.
The start-up was launched with the help of UCLA Engineering’s technology incubator, the Institute for Technology Advancement (ITA).
Holomic is one of 12 finalists in the 2013 XChallenge, according to an announcement made Aug. 6 by event sponsors Nokia Corp. and the X Prize Foundation, a nonprofit technology catalyst. Other finalists are based in Japan, Israel, the United Kingdom and around the United States. Awards will be announced in October, with grand prizes of $525,000 and several awards of $120,000.
“We are very excited to be named among the finalists for the 2013 XChallenge,” Ozcan said. “Through this opportunity we would like to impact human life by developing cutting-edge technology solutions to the hardest problems that we today face for telemedicine and its applications in the developed and developing countries.”
The contest is designed to spur advances in easy-to-use consumer-oriented mobile technologies that improve healthcare and health monitoring.
“While there has been an influx of market activity around health and fitness applications, medical diagnostic and sensing technologies for consumers remain scarce,” said Nokia Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President Henry Tirri. “Through this competition and the selection of the finalist teams, we’re eager to see the developments in consumer-focused applications and technologies that will potentially transform the way healthcare is delivered across the globe on multiple levels including monitoring, prevention, diagnosis, and disease management.”
Ozcan, who holds numerous patents related to optics, lens-less imaging and nanoscopy, joined the UCLA Engineering faculty in 2007, and holds joint appointment in the electrical engineering and bioengineering departments. He is also the associate director of the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI).
In 2012, Ozcan was named one of Popular Science Magazine’s “Brilliant 10” young innovators. In 2011, Ozcan won a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), as well as the 2011 Army Research Office Young Investigator Award and the Early Career Achievement Award from SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. In 2010 he won the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career (CAREER) Award, and in 2009 he won the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award and the National Institute of Health Director’s New Innovator Award.