Optics software and hardware developer Simphotek is a small New Jersey business having a big impact on a wide range of industries, particularly in the creation of cancer therapies.
Located in the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s (NJIT) Enterprise Development Center (EDC) in Newark, Simphotek creates and commercializes patented optics software, called SimphoSOFT®. SimphoSOFT® enables users to calculate photokinetics, the way light interacts with matter, through a series of mathematical equations, allowing these calculations to be executed much faster than ever before.
One example of SimphoSOFT®’s practical application is the company’s recent projects involving the use of computer optimization tools for light-drug based cancer therapy. Known as photodynamic therapy (PDT), this alternative or adjunct to chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery is in clinical studies throughout the world. Simphotek partners with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, two of the world’s leading cancer centers. Simphotek is working with these hospitals to combine its optimization software with optical components to create a portable instrument that can be used by the physician in real time in the clinic or operating room. Simphotek believes that such an instrument is a critical missing piece that when developed, will enable PDT to grow as large as radiation therapy. According to Simphotek Co-Founder and President Dr. Mary Potasek, the radiation therapy market is projected to be about $6 billion in 2016.
Simphotek’s team not only performs leading software development, but combines it with optical components for complete product development. The company’s three co-founders bring unique areas of expertise to the startup; Potasek is an expert in lasers, optical fibers and optical instruments having worked at Lucent/Bell Labs, while Dr. Karl Besson has over 60 patents in optical devices at Allied-Signal and Honeywell. Dr. Gene Parilov is an expert in applied mathematics and software development.
On Tuesday, October 27, Potasek was among more than 30 executives to participate in New Jersey’s Founders & Funders event. Held at the EDA’s Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT), the program provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs to meet one-on-one with angel and venture investors in a series of 10-minute “speed dating” strategic sessions to discuss strategy, business models and funding opportunities. The EDA hosts Founders & Funders semi-annually, and registration for upcoming Founders & Funders events is currently open.
Since it was founded in 2007, Simphotek has taken advantage of various state and federal resources, including the New Jersey Angel Investor Tax Credit Program, which is administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA). Simphotek was one of the first companies to benefit from the program shortly after its launch in 2013. The program provides tax credits of 10 percent of a qualified investment in an emerging New Jersey technology business that conducts research, manufacturing, or technology commercialization in the state. Applications must be submitted within one year of the date of investment. Completed applications, with all required documentation, must be submitted by November 15 in order to be considered for approval for a 2015 tax credit certificate.
In addition to resources provided through the Garden State, Simphotek has received more than $1 million in seed funding from the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), which provide early-stage capital for innovative small companies in the United States. SBIR/STTR recently held a seminar at CCIT to teach New Jersey-based entrepreneurs how to apply for these funds.
@NJEDATech spoke with Potasek about her company’s experience in New Jersey and its plans for the future:
Why did you decide to grow Simphotek in New Jersey?
We chose to grow in New Jersey because of the large educated workforce from universities and centers in and around the state. In addition, we settled at the EDC in Newark because it provides a site with excellent office, meeting, laboratory, and collaboration space at a reasonable cost.
How have State resources such as the Angel Tax Credit Program and the New Jersey Founders & Funders help Simphotek?
The Angel Investor Tax Credit Program enabled us to attract Series A and B funding. In addition, the New Jersey Founders and Funders event afforded us the opportunity to meet with several investors. Each potential investor gave us encouragement and we made a number of contacts, which are very, very valuable to us going forward.
What is your company’s biggest success to date?
We have been fortunate to receive external recognition. Our patented software methods were considered a breakthrough technology by the American Physical Society in 2006. We have published more than seven technical papers and six presentations at international conferences. Two well-known trade journals selected us for special articles. Then in 2012, our first program was selected by an international journal as a Top 20 Innovation and in 2013, our second program was again selected for this honor.
What’s on the horizon for Simphotek?
Simphotek is working in a number of areas with its platform technology. We concentrate on lasers-material interactions that have numerous applications including lasers, optical fibers and amplifiers, rare earth materials, nanomaterials, and microscopy, as well as biomedical areas.
One of our current areas is developing a sophisticated instrument using software and specialized hardware to optimize treatment planning for cancer using light and drugs. We hope this becomes one of the main treatments for cancer leading to a multi-billion market. I am also a member of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI) that meets with Congress and the White House to educate, guide and initiate funding for photonics industrialization in the US. One recent project is the $600 million fabrication center for photonic integrated circuits expected to replace current electronic devices used in areas including computers, iPhones, telecommunications, data centers, and cloud computing centers.Related Articles: