Mouse brains and more in 3D: Seattle microscopy startup lands $4M to visualize medical specimens
New funding: Lightspeed Microscopy, a Seattle startup spun out of the University of Washington, raised $4 million in a Series A financing round led by Dynamk Capital. Lightspeed is developing an end-to-end microscopy system for pathologists, and the new funding will be used to commercialize the platform.
The technology: The platform adapts a type of microscopy commonly used for basic research to assess pathology specimens in three dimensions. Samples are optically cleared using chemicals, mounted intact on an open-top system, and rapidly scanned. They are then visualized on the microscope, which detects fluorescent labels that stick to key components of a sample. The microscope takes optical thin sections that are then computationally analyzed, using a cloud-based AI system. The result is a three-dimensional image.
“The questions being asked in Pharma R&D departments are increasingly complex and often cannot be answered with traditional 2D pathology,” said CEO Nicholas Reder in a statement. “We provide our Pharma customers with novel biological insights,” he added.
Reder, a University of Washington-trained pathologist, collaborated with Jonathan T. C. Liu, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, at the University of Washington and their colleagues to help develop the technology.
Use cases: The Lightspeed system has the potential to generate images from pathological samples, such as prostate biopsies, more rapidly than current technologies and with additional 3D structural information. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote about the technology in 2017, noting that it showed promise for assessing samples on the day of surgery, minimizing repeat operations. As with some other uses of light sheet microscopy, Lightspeed’s process can yield stunning images, like these images of a kidney and an entire intact mouse brain.