It’s not often that a new surgical imaging technology is inspired by pure darkness.
That is one way of looking at the origins of OnLume, a Morgridge Institute spinoff company that is working to bring a new generation of fluorescence image-guided surgery to hospitals everywhere.
Because fluorescence imaging is extremely sensitive to ambient light, physicians currently cannot use it on patients in real time during surgery without hurting the quality of the image. They have to interrupt the procedure and turn out the lights to see the fluorescent agents — which are critical tools for illuminating nerves and veins, and defining the precise location of diseased tissues.
OnLume has developed a novel system that removes the ambient light from the fluorescence guided procedure, all while the operating room environment remains bathed in light. The company had a banner year in 2020, when it received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, met its venture funding goals and launched its first clinical trial with a California company. And they are working closely with UW Health physicians to get expert feedback and data on the device.
“The surgeon response has been very positive,” says Adam Uselmann, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of OnLume. “Especially with folks who are using competing technology that requires a darkened operating room, there’s definitely been a kind of ‘ah-ha’ moment, where the light bulb goes on. It’s been great to see.”