Biomedical optics a 'hot topic' at Photonics Europe

April 25, 2008, Jena, Germany--The field of biomedical optics and biophotonics attracted much attention at this year's Photonics Europe conference, held April 7-11 in Strasbourg, France.

April 25, 2008, Jena, Germany--The field of biomedical optics and biophotonics attracted much attention at this year's "Photonics Europe" conference, held April 7-11 in Strasbourg, France. Dealing with the development of new optical systems and solutions for medicine and the life sciences, biophotonics is a discipline on the rise, both in the scientific as well as in the economic sense. Market surveys anticipate a worldwide growth by 10% to 30% within the next years.

Organized by SPIE Europe, the exhibition and conference program attracted about 2,300 visitors. The subconference "Biophotonics--Photonic Solutions for Better Health Care" established itself as the second largest of the 18 technical conferences. In nearly 100 talks and posters, researchers presented state-of-the-art optical technologies aiming at the early diagnosis of diseases, as well as their understanding and targeted treatment.

"Our topics range from technology development to clinical practice. The aim of the conference was to embrace this all, and to strengthen the dialog between medical and natural scientists," explains Prof. Jürgen Popp from the University of Jena, who hosted the Biophotonics conference as one of four conference chairs.

The wide range of topics was already reflected by the keynote session. Stephen Boppart, medical scientist and founding director of the American Mills Breast Cancer Institute, gave a review on innovative optical methods for the gentle and early diagnosis of breast cancer, some of them being tried clinically already. In the second keynote, Prof. Kishan Dholakia from the Scottish University of St. Andrews introduced the latest advances of so-called optical tweezers for applications in cell biology.

The broad variety of topics and the fast economic growth of biophotonics confront the scientific world with the task of restructuring their field of research. Thus together with leading European scientists, Jürgen Popp launched the initiative "PHOTONICS4LIFE". With their concept of integrating the European research landscape, the scientists stand a good chance of being funded as a NoE (Network of Excellence) within the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission. As Scientific Director of the Institute of Photonic Technology (Jena), Popp is designated to coordinate the network of 13 high-ranking research institutes from 9 EU countries and Russia. Industry will be involved in the network's activities, however, "the biggest challenge is to overcome the strong technology orientation in biophotonics, and to set up new ways of thinking, consequently developing solutions right out of the applicant's needs," Popp says.

Improving the communication between developers and applicants is also the aim of the new Journal of Biophotonics. Popp founded it together with Professor Gert von Bally (Univ. of Münster/Germany), who is also designated vice coordinator of PHOTONICS4LIFE, and the internationally renowned publisher Wiley-VCH. The launch of the first issue was celebrated with a dinner reception in Strasbourg.

"This first issue already received much feedback," emphasized Dr. Andreas Thoss, the journal's managing editor. The issue's article on the ultrasharp microscopy of whole biological objects by Hans-Ulrich Dodt (Univ. of Vienna) was featured as leading topic of the science section of Germany's leading daily newspaper FAZ.

Along with the launch of the journal, Wiley-VCH donated a prize for the best poster presentation. A jury of high-ranking scientists made a careful review of 48 poster contributions and found two equally qualified candidates. Each of them was awarded with a 250 Euro book voucher. The winning contributions are dealing with intraoperative diagnostics of brain tumors and with the highly sensitive readout of fluorescent biochips.

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