Science start-up creates advanced microscope

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Science start-up creates advanced microscope

TomoCube, a start-up run by Korean scientists, has developed the first 3-D holographic microscope that enables a user to see the dynamics of cells and tissue in real time.

The company raised a combined 3 billion won ($2.6 million) in funding from two venture capital firms to develop the technology further.
With existing two-dimensional microscopes, researchers have had to stain the cells with fluorescence to create 3-D images, which renders the cells unusable afterward. That posed a challenge for studying immune or stem cells, which often need to be reinjected into the body. The new device enables scientists to non-invasively investigate the cells, according to the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist) on Tuesday.

TomoCube has applied deep learning-based image recognition technologies to the microscope that help it make early diagnoses of diseases such as cancer and diabetes. In the long term, the technology could contribute to developing new drugs, Kaist said.
SoftBank Ventures Korea, a venture capital firm established by Japan’s SoftBank, has injected 2 billion won, and Hanmi Science, the holding company of Hanmi Pharmaceutical, has invested 10 billion won into the fledging company.
“We expect TomoCube’s rise in the global medical market on the back of its excellent R&D technologies,” said Son Ji-woong, vice president at Hanmi Pharmaceutical.

A team of researchers led by physics Prof. Park Yong-keun succeeded in developing the technology last year, and Park co-founded TomoCube in February to commercialize it.

Park, who is also the principal investigator in the biomedical optics laboratory at Kaist, is a leading researcher in the field of biophotonics and has dedicated much of his research career to working on digital holographic microscopy technology. He earned his Ph.D. at Harvard University.

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