University of South Alabama, Office of Public Relations
July 21, 2014
Contact: Jeb Schrenk, USA Public Relations, (251) 460-6633

USA Researchers’ Project Selected to Advance in Statewide Competition

Dr. Silas Leavesley, foreground, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Dr. Thomas Rich, associate professor of pharmacology, are co-founders of SpectraCyte.

A University of South Alabama-affiliated research team creating advanced endoscopic imaging technology for cancer detection has been selected as a finalist in the Alabama Launchpad Start- Up Competition.

SpectraCyte, co-founded by Dr. Silas Leavesley, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Dr. Thomas Rich, associate professor of pharmacology, will compete against five other teams Sept. 25 at the 4th Annual Alabama Launchpad Innovation & Entrepreneurship Conference in Birmingham. The groups are seeking a chance to share up to $300,000.

The event is open to the public. It will take place beginning at 9 a.m. at Workplay, 500 23rd St. South.

The finalists were selected July 18 after pitching their businesses before a five-judge panel comprised of entrepreneurs, investors and corporate stakeholders.

Drs. Leavesley and Rich are seeking to improve endoscopic imaging capabilities using an approach called hyperspectral imaging – filtering light before it reaches the camera over a series of wavelengths. The result is a multi-dimensional image that could allow physicians to better detect cancerous and pre-cancerous cells and improve the ability to remove those tissues during colonoscopies and other endoscopic procedures. This is possible because each type of tissue has a different spectral fingerprint, and cancerous tissues have different spectral fingerprints than surrounding tissues. In addition to developing the imaging hardware, USA researchers are creating software that renders the image data into a useful format for clinicians and physicians to interpret in real time.

“The goal of this technology is to provide a new way to detect cancers of the colon or other organs endoscopically with a high sensitivity and a high specificity,” Leavesley said. “Through doing this we hope to be able to detect cancerous lesions earlier and to be able to resect those lesions more cleanly and accurately.”

“SpectraCyte’s technology would allow for real-time, high-speed molecular detection in cells and tissues,” said Rich. “For patients, the results would be faster procedures, better outcomes and improved survival rates.”

The USA project also was one of six announced earlier this year for grants awarded through USA’s Abraham A. Mitchell Cancer Research Fund.

The Alabama Launchpad competition, organized by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, is geared to promote and reward high-growth, innovative ventures that have the potential to create and retain jobs in Alabama. It is financed by businesses, the state of Alabama and seven universities, including USA. Since its inception in 2006, more than 30 companies have been funded with more than $1.3 million.


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