German-Japanese Research Alliance for Biophotonics

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is an imaging technology used to visualize the structures of optical scattering media. The process is particularly suitable for examining organic tissue and for characterizing tissue morphology thereby permitting cancer cells, for example, to be detected and diagnosed when the disease is still at an early stage. Although OCT technology is regarded as the "gold standard" in disciplines such as ophthalmology, it has not yet successfully established itself in other areas of application, often as a result of a lack of reliable knowledge and suitable system design. There is an urgent need for research and development in these areas. Potential areas of application for OCT technology are, therefore, currently being identified in the "Optical Coherence Tomography for New Medical Applications", shortened to "OCTmapp" Research Project.

The aim of the OCTmapp Research Project is to develop a permanent research infrastructure and research network on the subject of OCT in Japan for new medical applications. As part of the project, the Fraunhofer IPT is expanding its existing connections with the Institute for Advanced Biomedical Engineering and Science (ABMES) in Japan, a central research unit at Tokyo Women’s Medical University (TWMU), to create a long-term research base. Collaboration with these two research facilities provides us with access to their clinical expertise which, in turn, permits us to expand our know-how in OCT technology for medical applications. It is anticipated that project structures will be transferred to permanent facilities so that a self-financing research institute dedicated to the pursuit of excellence will emerge at the end of the funding period.

Project execution

The project duration of five years is divided into two phases, which will serve as preparation for the standard operation following on from the project. A collaborative development plan and research strategies will be drawn up at the beginning of a two-year start-up phase. Preparatory measures will subsequently be put in place in preparation for the implementation of the strategies. The third year, which will see extensive consolidation, will mark the beginning of the second phase of the project. The research base will be institutionalized and the research strategy, technology transfer and IP concept implemented. There will be a strong focus on public relations work during this phase. Preparation will be made in the last year of the project duration for the standard operation which will follow.

Market potential

It is expected that there will be continuous expansion of the market for OCT systems in the medical sector in the coming years. OCT technology will be used in new specialist medical fields, which currently seem likely to be dominated by minimally invasive surgery and non-invasive applications. Point-of-care laboratory testing will be a further important area of application. As such, the potential for commercialization is regarded as exceptionally promising. The concentrated expertise and competencies of the research partners will enable them to successfully exploit market opportunities as they arise. Companies interested in taking part in the project are cordially invited to contact the project partners.