Optave Diagnostics’ National Science Foundation grant to drive R&D work for prototype development of photoacoustic imaging device that aims to transform prostate cancer detection and diagnosis

September 28, 2022, Baltimore, MD – Optave Diagnostics, a technology company developing an endoscopic probe device that uses photoacoustic imaging (PAI) to aid in cancer detection and diagnosis, today announced it has been awarded a $256,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

This NSF award will accelerate work on Optave’s PAI device that has the potential to transform how prostate cancer – currently affecting one in eight men globally and the second leading cause of cancer death in American men – is detected and monitored.

“With Optave’s PAI technology, cancer physicians and researchers will have dramatically new insights into detecting and treating prostate cancer, ultimately helping improve the health of millions of men in the U.S. and globally,” said Ken Malone, Executive Officer with Optave. “We’re grateful to the NSF SBIR program for empowering us to fast-track work on our product prototype so we can move to get this device in the hands of prostate cancer diagnosticians.”

As part of its Phase I grant project, Optave’s research and development team will complete a prototype of its device that aims to replace some current diagnostic methods for prostate cancer, including transrectal ultrasound, with Optave’s less invasive PAI technology. With these grant resources, Optave will work to miniaturize its acoustic lens and develop a new illumination system so that the key device features can fit into an endoscopic probe.

In addition, Optave will work on using its PAI technology to identify new biomarkers specifically indicative of prostate cancer. Following this R&D product work, the Optave team plans to explore additional applications for its PAI device in uterine and thyroid cancer diagnostics.

As it stands now, most prostate cancer screenings are conducted via MRI, which tends to be expensive and have poor accessibility in low-resource healthcare settings. These screenings also typically include highly invasive biopsies which should be limited to cases with a high likelihood of malignancy. With Optave’s PAI technology, in contrast, its endoscopic ultrasound probe allows for direct radiological diagnosis of cancer beyond traditional screening in a form factor with the simplicity, safety and per-use cost effectiveness of ultrasound.

The NSF’s SBIR grant program, known as America’s Seed Fund, awards more than $200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. All proposals submitted to the NSF SBIR/STTR program undergo a rigorous merit-based review process. For more information about America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, visit: www.seedfund.nsf.gov

About Optave Diagnostics:
Optave Diagnostics, an Early Charm Ventures portfolio company, is a Baltimore-based technology company developing an endoscopic probe device that uses photoacoustic imaging (PAI) to aid in cancer detection and diagnosis.

Media Contact:
Ken Berlack
Optave Diagnostics