UAMS Startup Receives $750,000 to Refine Imaging Technology

By Kevin Rowe

LITTLE ROCK – A startup company at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has received a $750,000 federal grant to develop imaging technology that could lead to new products for medicine and national defense.


By working with nanoparticles, UAMS’ Yunjun Wang, Ph.D., has discovered a low-cost method of imaging that has all the advantages of much more expensive conventional materials. The discovery opens the door to radiation imaging on a large scale, including the detection of low-level radiation at ports of entry to the United States.


As a result of his discovery, Wang created the company Mesolight in 2005. The startup is a client company of UAMS BioVentures, which provides lab space for Mesolight.


Wang recently completed the first phase of development of scintillating nanocrystals and a polymer composite used for his product. Scintillators are used for radiation detection. Scintillation is the conversion of high-energy radiation into light that can be read by photon-counting detectors.


The two-year Small Business Innovation Research Grant from the Department of Energy is supporting the second phase of research to refine the product. Wang is collaborating with Oak Ridge National Labs in Tennessee and the University of Florida at Gainesville.


“There is an immediate need for a new generation of scintillation materials,” Wang said.


The highly sensitive, low-cost nanocomposite scintillators that he is developing could be used in portable monitors to identify nuclear materials and in large radiation detectors for cargo containers, he said. They also could be used for medical imaging, X-ray instrumentation and materials analysis.


“Dr. Wang’s nanocomposite scintillators have very promising commercial potential, especially in biomedical applications,” said Mike Douglas, Ph.D., director of UAMS BioVentures. “His discoveries will likely open up new product forms and market opportunities, even some that we can’t predict today.”


Douglas also said that Wang and BioVentures will take advantage of opportunities to collaborate with other UAMS faculty to test and discuss his discovery’s potential medical applications.


UAMS BioVentures was formed in 1997 to help UAMS researchers get their discoveries into the marketplace, whether through licensing agreements or forming start-up companies. In addition to assisting with licensing of UAMS intellectual property, BioVentures has helped numerous start-up companies turn their UAMS-generated products and services into profitable businesses. UAMS BioVentures is housed in a 17,000-square-foot facility designed to provide office and lab space for up to 12 new companies. Its efforts have led to the establishment of 25 companies with an $18 million annual payroll.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,652 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. Visit