A University of South Alabama-affiliated research team creating advanced endoscopic imaging
technology for cancer detection has been selected as a finalist in the Alabama Launchpad Start-
SpectraCyte, co-founded by Dr. Silas Leavesley, assistant professor of chemical and
biomolecular engineering, and Dr. Thomas Rich, associate professor of pharmacology, will
compete against five other teams Sept. 25 at the 4th Annual Alabama Launchpad Innovation &
Entrepreneurship Conference in Birmingham. The groups are seeking a chance to share up to
The event is open to the public. It will take place beginning at 9 a.m. at Workplay, 500 23rd St.
The finalists were selected July 18 after pitching their businesses before a five-judge panel
comprised of entrepreneurs, investors and corporate stakeholders.
Drs. Leavesley and Rich are seeking to improve endoscopic imaging capabilities using an
approach called hyperspectral imaging – filtering light before it reaches the camera over a series
of wavelengths. The result is a multi-dimensional image that could allow physicians to better
detect cancerous and pre-cancerous cells and improve the ability to remove those tissues during
colonoscopies and other endoscopic procedures. This is possible because each type of tissue
has a different spectral fingerprint, and cancerous tissues have different spectral fingerprints
than surrounding tissues. In addition to developing the imaging hardware, USA researchers are
creating software that renders the image data into a useful format for clinicians and physicians to
interpret in real time.
“The goal of this technology is to provide a new way to detect cancers of the colon or other
organs endoscopically with a high sensitivity and a high specificity,” Leavesley said. “Through
doing this we hope to be able to detect cancerous lesions earlier and to be able to resect those
lesions more cleanly and accurately.”
“SpectraCyte’s technology would allow for real-time, high-speed molecular detection in cells
and tissues,” said Rich. “For patients, the results would be faster procedures, better outcomes and
improved survival rates.”
The USA project also was one of six announced earlier this year for grants awarded through
USA’s Abraham A. Mitchell Cancer Research Fund.
The Alabama Launchpad competition, organized by the Economic Development Partnership
of Alabama, is geared to promote and reward high-growth, innovative ventures that have the
potential to create and retain jobs in Alabama. It is financed by businesses, the state of Alabama
and seven universities, including USA. Since its inception in 2006, more than 30 companies have
been funded with more than $1.3 million.