Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)

David Green

"PSI has leveraged NIH SBIR funding to develop innovative tools that empower researchers to make new discoveries; train the next generation of medical professionals; create many jobs in the private sector; and benefit American citizens through improved eye exams and earlier disease detection."

– David Green, Ph.D., Physical Sciences Inc. President and CEO

Physical Sciences Inc.exit disclaimer icon (PSI) provides diversified contract research and development services in a wide range of technical areas, including aerospace, defense, energy, and medical, to both government and commercial customers. The 100% employee-owned company focuses on optics and sensor applications, and platform technologies that once brought to maturation can be applied to other solutions.

PSI was founded in 1973 in Andover, Massachusetts and initially focused on defense applications with a small group of researchers with diverse scientific backgrounds. The team entered the medical sector in the 1980’s with the main objective to provide tools to empower premier researchers worldwide and has ever since delivered a number of technologies to the ophthalmic market.

SBIR research and development funding from several different agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the US Defense and Energy Departments, and NASA, has been instrumental to PSI’s success. From NIH alone, PSI received a total of roughly $27 million and presently employs 115 people. "We work alongside our nation’s premier researchers, hear their interests and hopes for next generation instrumentation, and the NIH grants enabled the creation of those new technologies and their testing in research environments" says Green of PSI’s approach.

Next Generation Product: Compact Adaptive Optics Retinal Imager (CAORI)

PSI’s Compact Adaptive Optics Retinal Imagerexit disclaimer icon (CAORI) produces three dimensional images of the retina using a lower light intensity with the capability to resolve individual rods and cones. This product distinguishes cellular layers and visualizes blood flow in the capillaries over a wide area of the retina, providing superior diagnosis for diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness for Americans under the age of 60, and age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness for people over the age of 50 in the western world.

Using NIH Phase IIB funding from the National Eye Institute, and internal company funds, PSI is currently testing the CAORI under an investigational device exemption at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 100 to 250- patient studies and in clinical testing at the Boston Children's Hospital in about 40 children. The instrument is designed to fit in a clinical setting and includes a table top imaging station, small electronics module, and computer and further enables earlier disease detection in children and adults.

PSI’s Compact Adaptive Optics Retinal Imager (CAORI)

PSI’s Compact Adaptive Optics Retinal Imager (CAORI)

The CAORI is commercially available to researchers with projected sales of 10-30 thousand units over the next 20 years. The product has not yet gone through approval by the Food and Drug Administration because PSI would like to first identify the clinical benefits of the device and then possibly look for strategic or equity partnerships with larger companies.

Forming Strategic Partnerships to Develop Adaptive Optical Solutions

The NIH SBIR awards have allowed PSI to develop 16 issued patents and several more pending. PSI has granted non-exclusive rights to its core patents to a strategic partner, who has requested to remain unnamed at this time. The partnering company engineered PSI’s core technology to launch their next generation project in 2009. The strategic partner was able to sell over 13,000 optical systems in five years, translating to over tens of millions of eyes being tested by optometrists with the improved technology. The incremental revenue value added of PSI’s subsystem is approximately $116 million.

PSI has sold a dozen research (investigational) devices using Tracking Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope (TSLO) and Tracking Optical Coherence Tomography (TOCT), as well as Spectral and Frequency Domain OCT (SDOCT, FDOCT). The Line Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope (LSLO) is the basis of PSI’s license to several companies that have included it in their products. To date over 14,000 devices have been sold incorporating the patented adaptive optical technology.

PSI is continually focusing on research and innovation as a way to bring next generation products to the marketplace.

Location: Andover, Massachusetts

Company Website: http://www.psicorp.comexit disclaimer icon

Contact: Donna Lamb; lamb@psicorp.comexit disclaimer icon; (978) 689-0003 

Company Awards:

  • 2005 R&D 100 Award by R&D Magazineexit disclaimer icon
  • 2006 Tibbetts Award
  • 2009 World Class Supplier Award from Northrup Grumman
  • 2011 Army SBIR Achievement Award
  • 2012 National Small Business Association (NSBA) Small Business Champion Award


Information for this success story was gathered through an interview that was conducted by Dr. Lenka Fedorkova, the NIH SBIR/STTR Program Manager and Betty Royster, the NIH SBIR/STTR Communications Coordinator.