Phi Optics

Phi Optics is an optical microscope company that has created a way for life science researches to explore deeper, discover more, and cure better. Their patented technology, Quantitative Phase Imaging (QPI), revolutionizes the way life science researchers perform fundamental science researchers perform fundamental science on live cells, discover how diseases spread and identify how drugs combat diseases.

Dr. Gabriel Popescu, Associate Professor in Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, developed the QPI with hopes that it would be a practical instrument that would help other researchers discover scientific breakthroughs. Dr. Catalin Chiritscu, alumnus of Urbana Champaign’s Material Science and Engineering Program joined Phi Optics at Chief Operations Officer and Principal Scientist.

In 2011, Phi Optics was selected to participate in the I-Start Entrepreneur Assistance Program where they further established the company culture.  The company paired with Entrepreneur in Residence, Tim Hoerr, who is now the company’s Chief Business Development Officer.

Phi Optics was one of twenty-four teams selected to participate in the NSF I-Corps program, which resulted in accelerated product development and a more structured business model. In 2013, they moved into the EnterpriseWorks Incubator and were granted technology licensing through OTM.

In 2013 Phi Optics was awarded a Phase I SBIR grant of $150,000 to develop a Proof-of-Concept prototype of an optical microscope using QPI technology.  A $750,000 phase II SBIR grant was received in 2014 for the development of a commercial version of the prototype.

This case study is provided by OVPR.