EDITOR'S COLUMN: Biophotonics' 'last-mile' links maximize potential

“The last mile” is term the telecommunications industry uses to describe the critical gap at the end of the line that must be filled for a customer to access enhanced services. Unless the customer has a way to bridge the gap, all the incredible potential of the service is lost. In our realm, the same concept exists: Customers often cannot access the advantages provided by advanced instrumentation unless some critical link exists. For instance, without a nanometer-resolution stage, a nonlinear microscopy system may not be fully useful; without image analysis software, all the effort that goes into image collection may fail to produce results.

While visiting exhibitors at the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) annual meeting in Washington, DC (see “Cell Bio event highlights and foretells change made possible by biophotonics,” p. 17), I found a couple of new companies that have sprung up to fill critical gaps they’ve identified. I’d actually just seen two impressive new camera systems—Hamamatsu’s second-generation scientific CMOS (sCMOS) system, ORCA-Flash4.0 (see http://bit.ly/vFPcZ6), and Photonis’ xSCELL high-speed digital scientific camera (see p. 37)—and was wondering about the implications of the massive quantities of image data they will no doubt produce, when I came across Labguru. This startup, based in Israel, aims to help labs plan, simultaneously track details and keep an eye on the big picture, and maximize outcomes by organizing results and providing context for them. I also met with Black Mesa Imaging (Dowingtown, PA), which offers custom software design to help biologists meet their unique microscopy goals—that is, providing a last-mile link between hardware and practical results.

You might consider optics another example of a “last-mile” solution: Truly, without the correct filter or lens, the potential of a laser or imaging system cannot be realized. You’ll find many examples of how optics enable biophotonics instrumentation in the inaugural installment of our new department, Product Focus (see p. 38). Each issue we’ll use this platform to explore a category of technology, and understand related trends and developments.

While it is easy to be dazzled by the impressive capabilities of complex instruments and processes, in the field of biophotonics there are many examples of technologies and services that make the critical difference between potential and maximum effectiveness. With more coming available all the time—and with vendors increasingly prioritizing biomedicine as a key growth area—life scientists have a rich array of tools with which to pursue discovery and leverage their efforts. I’m curious to know, what’s made a difference for you?

Barbara GoodeBarbara Goode
Editor in Chief



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