A new tool in the fight against breast cancer may soon be developed in Medford.
Nena Golubovic, a research scientist with Advanced Microsensors of Shrewsbury, Mass., was named Sustainable Valley Technology Group's Inspiration Grant winner Thursday night.
Golubovic has produced groundbreaking work in photo acoustic technology, combining light and sound to search deep into human tissue, producing high-resolution images.
By more accurately detailing defects and abnormalities, doctors will more readily be able to determine whether chemotherapy is working. If not, they can halt treatment rather than exposing patients to more discomfort.
"We think this product will be a game-changer," she said. "It can have a tremendous impact on the quality of life of the patient, and disease management becomes less expensive. It's not replacement or adjunct to mammography, it's a stand-alone product looking at blood vessels within tumors, which no other technology can do today. If we can do that, we can understand a lot about the cancer itself."
The iGrant, announced during Sustainable Valley's Venture Forum at Southern Oregon University, is sponsored by SVTG and Rogue Valley Microdevices and culminated a competition among researchers, entrepreneurs and technology teams.
Golubovic earned a $175,000 package of services, including $25,000 cash. Her venture gains access to the Rogue Valley Microdevices lab and facilities, while receiving mentoring and guidance in legal, financial and investment areas from veteran entrepreneurs.
Engineering, business development, device design support and consultation also are part of the package.
"I came to Oregon looking for additional resources to support development and to advance the commercial activities in connection with a medical imaging technology for breast cancer," Golubovic said.
"The iGrant provides immediate support for the project."
Golubovic funded some of the early development through a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant and is angling toward a second-phase grant of up to $1.5 million.
Sustainable Valley will assist Golubovic and her associates in pursuing the grant, said Executive Director Heather Stafford.
"Once they get Phase II funding, they can hire people in Southern Oregon," Stafford said.
Sustainable Valley will tap into Oregon's Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program, which provides graduates from Oregon State University, the Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Portland and Portland State University.
"MECOP places graduating engineers into six-month internships," said Stafford, adding that she expects at least two graduate students and a project manager to work with Golubovic.
SBIR grant results will be known in May or June, said Golubovic, who estimates the device will be on the market within three years "in the best case" and five years "in the worst case."
She plans to commute between her Bridgeport, N.J., home and the Rogue Valley in the initial months of the project before turning over day-to-day responsibilities to someone locally.
The work in Medford, she said, will be to push the technology to maximum performance, ensuring materials are bio-compatible with Food and Drug Administration requirements.
"We have to fully understand the economics," Golubovic said. "How to position the product in the market, how to get reimbursements. There are a whole range of issues to resolve when you have a medical device. Sometimes you have a very good technology that certainly has benefits, but if it increases costs to the health care system, it's going to be difficult to get that technology to market. So the whole time you have to be thinking economy on one side of the equation and technology on the other."