Five recommendations from NPI health & medicine group

In a webcast on May 23, 2013, subcommittee chairs of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI)—a group representing industry, academe, and government that aims to raise awareness of photonics—presented recommendations for continued growth of a field that has a proven its ability to leverage investment for substantial payoff. Health & Medicine Working Group Chair Stephen Laderman, director of Agilent Technologies’ Molecular Tools Laboratory, discussed the value proposition for biophotonics (sensitivity, speed, precision, accuracy) and the impact photonics technologies have made and continue to make in biomedical research and cost-effective health care. He said that while the United States is the acknowledged leader in biophotonics, other nations are making significant investments and as a result the country has experienced a substantial loss of global market share and thousands of jobs.

He presented a number of recommendations:

1. Support photonics research by keeping in mind the fact that it has already enabled some of the most exciting biomedical discoveries achieved to date, and has much more to offer

2. Invest in the development a shared database (and standards for its use) to facilitate photonics-based biomedical research

3. Prioritize the development of imaging standards and software methods toward a goal of quantitative (rather than qualitative or semi-quantitative) analysis

4. Fund development of affordable point-of-care diagnostic devices that meet real needs and will be embraced by medical practitioners

5. Support multidisciplinary efforts

Establishing the NPI was a key recommendation included the US National Academy of Sciences’ 2012 report, “Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for our Nation.” The initiative is spearheaded by the leading photonics societies: OSA, SPIE, APS, IEEE Photonics Society and LIA. According to Thomas Baer of Stanford Photonics Research Center, who chairs the NPI advisory committee and led the webcast, the group aims to “provide an opportunity to create the infrastructure for ongoing industry road mapping, economic impact analysis and improved interface between industry, academia, and government funding agencies.”

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