School of Physics & Astronomy

Major grant for applied photonics research

Major funding for University-Company collaborative research for the diagnosis and treatment of dementia and cancer

Innovative research using ultra-pure lasers, led by the University of St Andrews and Glasgow-based company M Squared Lasers, could benefit researchers looking for new ways to diagnose and treat dementia and cancer. There are also potential applications in high precision measurements and in the food and drinks industry.

Image of neurons above taken using the light sheet imaging system developed at St Andrews and M Squared Lasers, courtesy of: Dr A Vernon and R Chesters, Dept of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience; MRC Centre for Neurodevelopment Disorders, King’s College London

Laser-based imaging techniques using light scattering will be applied in medical research for early diagnosis of cancer and other diseases, together with research into measurement techniques which use light scattering and interference. It is hoped that the results will transform current diagnosis and treatment capabilities. This collaborative research programme sees Prof Dholakia's research group in the School continuing to work closely with the award winning M-Squared Lasers company in Glasgow.

Funding for the revolutionary research will come from the Prosperity Partnerships, which is a new £78 million government fund from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). The Prosperity Partnerships create exciting opportunities for industry and academia to work together on strategically significant problems to address societal needs. The collaborative research here will focus on light sheet imaging to develop new technologies that will give a better understanding of issues in neuroscience and dementia.

Professor Kishan Dholakia said, “The potential for us to drive forward new research ideas with the goal of creating real tangible benefit for UK’s societal needs is very inspiring. This is a very timely and exciting venture that builds upon our very strong relationship with M Squared Lasers that aims to rapidly transfer new innovations from the University into real-world impact.”

Dr Graeme Malcom OBE, CEO and Co-Founder of M Squared Lasers said, “Biophotonics and laser-based innovations can have a huge impact in medicine. Our work with research partners, and in particular the University of St Andrews, brings our technology much closer to the sectors – including medicine, industrials and even quantum computing – where our work can have the largest impact. We have a lot of confidence in this project, made possible by the EPSRC.”

As part of the Prosperity Partnerships programme, ten universities will lead on 11 projects that range from future networks for digital infrastructure to offshore wind, partnering with businesses operating in key areas of the innovation landscape. These include household names such as Siemens, BP and Unilever but also firms like M Squared that are leading in new areas such as quantum technologies.

First posted BDS 14.7.17