OnLume LLC, a Madison-based company, placed second in the life sciences division of the 2015 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.
This year’s approximately 240 applicants from across the state were whittled down through three rounds of judging to the “Diligent Dozen.” Usually a group of the top 12 contestants, the finalists became 13 because of a tied score.
Adam Uselmann, a co-founder of OnLume and a member of the Morgridge Institute for Research’s medical engineering team, says the business plan competition was a great learning experience in many ways.
“Each successive stage of judging pushed us to refine our vision, goals, and business plan,” Uselmann says. “The timing coincided well with our own need as a company to define these key issues while at an early stage.”
OnLume is developing a system that uses transient lighting technology to improve the field of fluorescence image-guided surgery (FIGS). Uselmann pitched the technology at the 2015 Wisconsin Entrepreneur’s Conference during the “Diligent Dozen” presentations.
“FIGS is a rapidly growing technique that has applications in numerous types of surgery, but the most compelling is cancer surgery,” says Uselmann.
Using fluorescent dyes, cancer cells can literally light up and guide surgeons as they remove cancerous tissue.
Typically a fluorescence-guided method requires a dark operating room, limiting what the surgeons and surgical staff can do during those periods. Alternating between periods of dark and light can be disruptive to work flow and requires an adjustment time of the surgeon’s eyes, as well as everyone else in the operating room.
OnLume transient lighting technology enables surgeons to utilize fluorescence-guided methods without the darkening of the operating room. Transient lighting refers to light that imperceptibly flickers. It’s timed in such a way that the human brain registers a fully lit room, but light-sensitive equipment registers a dark room.
The OnLume product itself is an integrated lighting and camera system, currently patent pending through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) by several of the co-inventors.
“OnLume’s technology is for surgeons seeking to utilize fluorescence-guided surgery without the drawbacks of existing systems,” Uselmann says, “leading to a safer, quicker, more intuitive way to perform fluorescence-guided surgery.”
Uselmann says the strengths of the OnLume team, a collaboration of both business and technological expertise, makes them uniquely positioned to bring the product to both national and international markets.
“You can plan for and mitigate expected challenges; it’s the unexpected challenges that pop up that can often make or break new companies,” Uselmann says. “In the few months we’ve been operation, we’ve already found that we work well under pressure and difficult circumstances, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to tackle any unexpected hurdles as they arise.”
Moving forward, OnLume will provide demo units to collaborators at the UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine who have agreed to beta test the device and provide user feedback for the development of the clinical system.
The full OnLume team includes:
- Mark Duerst, a medical device industry veteran and former co-manager of Wisconsin Investment Partners;
- Adam Uselmann, a medical physicist and engineer who co-invented and co-designed OnLume’s prototype device and is a researcher in medical engineering at the Morgridge Institute for Research;
- Rock Mackie, a serial entrepreneur known for co-founding numerous medical device companies and has a long track record of commercializing technologies;
- Benjamin Titz, a research medical physicist and biomedical engineer with extensive business development and industry experience;
- Kevin Eliceiri, an internationally known expert in advanced light microscopy, director of medical engineering at the Morgridge Institute for Research and director of the Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation (LOCI) at UW–Madison;
- Andreas Velten, a co-inventor of OnLume technology, assistant scientist in medical engineering at the Morgridge Institute for Research and the Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation (LOCI).