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Dartmouth Startup Awarded $400K NCI Phase I SBIR Contract

Nov 15, 2021   |   Dartmouth / QUEL

QUEL Imaging LLC, a venture spun out of Dartmouth Engineering, will expand its portfolio of tools for biomedical optical imaging thanks in part to a new highly-competitive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract in the amount of $400,000 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The award will enable QUEL Imaging to develop bio-mimicking optical phantoms to advance development of fluorescence guided surgical imaging systems.

l to r: Professor Brian Pogue, Ethan LaRochelle Th'20, and PhD Innovation Fellow Alberto Ruiz.

QUEL Imaging was co-founded in 2019 by MacLean Professor of Engineering Brian Pogue, PhD Innovation Fellow Alberto Ruiz, and Ethan LaRochelle Th'20. The company, based in White River Junction, Vt., aims to provide world-leading expertise in biomedical optics and has a unique knowledge-base and growing portfolio of innovative tools to enable optical diagnosis and treatment.

"Fluorescence guidance for surgical resection of cancerous tissue is a rapidly growing field," the company writes in a press release announcing the award. "System calibration and performance validation are generally performed on an ad hoc basis but is necessary for regulatory review. QUEL Imaging has developed methods for rapid production of tissue simulating phantoms with controlled optical properties and fluorescence inclusions. The current contract will leverage previous production experience, and devices will be developed to directly mimic both shape and function of organ sites commonly treated with surgical resection."

The press release also states that additional tools will be developed to study fluid flow in environments mimicking tissue optical properties, which will allow QUEL Imaging to expand its ability to provide computational design and simulation tools. "The suite of customizable tools will establish a cohesive platform to enable the collection of improved quality metrics by providing a simplified mechanism for companies and users to investigate capabilities and compare system performance," write the co-founders.

The project will additionally be supported through a sub-award to the Center for Imaging Medicine at Dartmouth.

Last fall, QUEL Imaging was awarded a SBIR Phase I grant by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to develop fluorescence reference phantoms.

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