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Ocean Insight 2020 Grant Program Winners Announced

  • Education & Academia
researching tree leaves

February 1, 2021

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Ocean Insight Grant Program.

From improving cancer detection and treatment to addressing issues related to the environment and climate change, our inaugural class of grant winners are using optical sensing technologies to take on challenges for a safer, cleaner, healthier world.

The seven winning proposals were selected from among hundreds of entries representing more than 50 countries and comprising leading universities, research institutions and technology start-ups.

Grantees will be honored at a virtual Ocean Insight Grant Program Awards event, with scheduling and other details to be announced.

Thank you and CONGRATULATIONS to ALL the participants!

Ocean Insight 2020-21 Grant Program Winners

Gold Medal for the Ocean Inspiration AwardOcean Inspiration Award - $20,000 in Ocean Insight Products

Izmir Biomedicine and Genome Center, Izmir, Turkey
Submitted by Arif Engin Cetin
Improving therapeutic response of cancer patients to drug treatments

Many cancer patients are cured, and their life quality improved, thanks to new treatment options. However, completely curing this disease is very challenging, due to the resistance of cancer cells to drug therapies. To address this, a plasmonic functional assay platform will be developed that can determine therapeutic responses of cancer models at single-cell sensitivity levels.

Traditional techniques determine drug treatments via monitoring the response of patients to such drug treatments; i.e., their decision-making mechanism is very slow. Given the fatality of this disease, making a quick decision is extremely important. The platform will expedite the duration of drug selection for different cancer types, and eliminate unnecessary treatment options, by monitoring responses to a range of drugs simultaneously and all in the same platform. This feature will help doctors choose proper standard-of-care drug therapies with high accuracy, thus increasing the survival rate of patients.


Silver Medal for the Ocean Merit AwardsOcean Merit Awards - 2 winners, each receiving $10,000 in Ocean Insight Products

Amplified Sciences, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
Submitted by
Diana Caldwell and Rajesh Ummadisetti, Ph.D.
Improving pancreatic cancer diagnostics

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth deadliest cancer in the U.S. Early detection is key for patient survival. Pancreatic cysts represent precursors to ductal pancreatic adenocarcinomas presenting a significant risk if undiagnosed. We are developing a novel assay for patients with incidentally detected cysts (1M detected annually) that identifies cancer earlier thus saving lives and improving health by reducing unnecessary surgeries.

Current standard of care competitors are plagued with low accuracy and limitations due to large sample size requirements. We are developing a highly accurate diagnostic that both rules out disease (mucinous vs. non-mucinous) and distinguishes between high and low-grade dysplasia using unprecedented small volumes of fluid. Our chemometric platform also enables the multiplexing of biomarkers (genomic/proteomic/functional markers).


Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
Submitted by Santiago Arellano
Assessing the impact of aerosols and cloud particles on the atmosphere

Despite being present in small amounts, particles have a disproportionally large effect on radiative balance in the atmosphere, where the imbalance causes climate change, or in the quality of air, which has profound effects on human health.

Particles are characterized by composition, shape, size and mass. Information about these characteristics is encoded in the way that particles scatter out radiation and change the polarization of light. Recent progress in spectropolarimetry allows us to build relatively simple systems to obtain general characteristics of particles. We aim at developing such a system with a focus on forest fires and volcanic eruption clouds. They can then be deployed in existing gas monitoring networks, such as NOVAC (led by our group), present in more than 40 volcanoes of the world.


Bronze Medal for the Ocean Finalists AwardsOcean Finalists Awards - 4 winners, each receiving $5,000 in Ocean Insight Products

Biko Biolabs, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Submitted by Kelsey Sakimoto
Breaking down bulk and microplastic waste into carbon feedstock chemicals

Plastic pollution affects both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, with ~90% of recyclable plastics entering fragile ecosystems. Our work addresses this problem by providing a scalable, distributed solution to capture in-place and remediate all plastic waste through bulk oxidation, and charts a course toward remediation of persistent microplastics in the environment. The resulting product is a safe, ecologically friendly, biocompatible mixture of organic acids and alcohols.

The resulting plastic-derived mixture can serve as an organic carbon source for sustainable manufacturing through biological fermentation with applications in pharmaceuticals, biomaterials (biopolymers), alternative proteins (cultured meat), and more.


Northwest A&F University, Xianyang, Shaanxi, China
Submitted by
Baofeng Su
Summary: Monitoring ecosystems to address environmental deterioration and safety issues

Deterioration of the ecological environment and food safety issues are major issues affecting the sustainable development of the world today. Efficient field ecology and crop monitoring systems play an important role in analyzing environmental changes.

Our plan is to develop a remote monitoring system that combines Ocean Insight sensors and Internet of Things technology, and uploads the remotely acquired spectral data to a cloud server wirelessly. This will reduce labor intensity while making it easier to build a huge ecosystem and food monitoring network, while providing programs and technical support for the development of ecological and food production monitoring based on big data. And provide help for the green, healthy and sustainable development of the world.


Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA
Submitted by Zi Jing Wong
Developing nanophotonics sensors for coronavirus detection

Conventional optical biosensors are large, non-portable, expensive, and have limited sensitivity due to a small shift of resonant frequency with the virus concentration. In contrast, our nanophotonic sensors exhibit exponential increase in sensitivity. Through the incorporation of coronavirus-targeting bioreceptors in our design, we can realize a highly sensitive COVID-19 viral detector.

The ability to detect coronavirus at an extremely low concentration level enables open space virus detection with unprecedented accuracy. In addition, our sensor is based on an optical waveguide array that can be manufactured on a chip, thus significantly reducing its size, weight, and cost. By combining with Ocean Insight’s low-noise and ultra-compact spectrometer, a truly affordable, portable and high-efficacy coronavirus detector can be envisioned.


Université des Antilles, Schoelcher, France
Submitted by Paule Salvin
Developing solutions for electrochemical depollution of wetland and aquatic areas 

Wetlands and aquatic areas are subject to chemical pollution related to the agricultural and maritime sectors. Research carried out in Martinique is developing solutions to remedy this through: electrochemical depollution of waters in organochlorine compounds, development of eco-compatible substances for anti-corrosion use, and recovery of invasive Sargassum algae.

We are developing an innovative device – a microbial fuel cell -- for the bio-electrochemical depollution of water polluted by pesticides, herbicides and pollutants. This technology is based on the combination of microbial and electrochemical degradation techniques for organic substances. In addition, bio-remediation can be coupled with renewable electricity production.

*Summaries have been edited for length and clarity. 

Ocean Insight 2020-21 Grant Program Finalists

  • Baylor University, United States, submitted by Michael Wiggs
  • Bilkent University, Turkey, submitted by Fatih Inci
  • UA, Ukraine, submitted by Taras Kazantsev
  • Duke University Marine Lab, United States, submitted by Patrick Gray
  • ExciPlex, United States, submitted by Daryl Staveness, Ph.D.
  • Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India, submitted by Arnab Dutta
  • Institute of Electronics, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria, submitted by Ekaterina Borisova
  • Longwood University, United States, submitted by Dina Leech
  • Mount Mary University, United States, submitted by Karen Savitskij
  • National Antarctic Scientific Center of Ukraine, Ukraine, submitted by Hanna Yevchin
  • National Centre of Scientific Research "Demokritos", Greece, submitted by Nikolaos Papanikolaou
  • National Centre of Scientific Research "Demokritos", Greece, submitted by Ioannis Raptis
  • North Carolina State University, United States, submitted by Milad Abolhasani
  • Puxano, Belgium, submitted by Wouter Van Putte
  • Queensland University of Technology, Australia, submitted by Branka Miljevic
  • RMIT University, Australia, submitted by Jordan Wallace
  • Spectro-AG BV, The Netherlands, submitted by Hamed Mehdipoor
  • Transcender SAS, France, submitted by Jean Causse
  • UAB Žemdirbių Konsultacijos, Lithuania, submitted by Andrius Ciapas
  • Universidad de Guanajuato, Mexico, submitted by Rigoberto Castro Beltrán
  • Universität Bern, Switzerland, submitted by Julien Rehault
  • University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy, Bulgaria, submitted by Dr. Eng. George R. Ivanov
  • University of Auckland, New Zealand, submitted by Cushla McGoverin
  • University of Cape Town, South Africa, submitted by Graeme Meintjes and Dr. Jacob A.M. Stadler
  • University of Cincinnati, United States, submitted by Latonya Jackson
  • University of Delaware, United States, submitted by Jonathan Cohen
  • University of Glasgow, Scotland, submitted by Victor Ochoa-Gutierrez
  • University of Latvia, Institute of Atomic Physics and Spectroscopy, Latvia, submitted by Roman Viter
  • University of Montreal, Canada, submitted by Audrey Laventure
  • University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria, submitted by Samuel Uzondu
  • University of Queensland, Centre for Organic Photonics & Electronics, Australia, submitted by Paul Burn
  • Wichita State University, United States, submitted by Hongsheng He


Researchers from start-up companies and local, state and federal institutions including colleges, universities, research centers and regulatory agencies in the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) are eligible.

Grant Program Awards

Ocean Insight will make awards of up to $20,000 USD in equipment donations:

  • Ocean Finalist Awards – up to 4 finalists at $5,000 in products
  • Ocean Merit Awards – up to 2 winners at $10,000 in products
  • Ocean Inspiration Award – up to 1 winner at $20,000 in products

In addition to the product donation, awardees are entitled to enhanced technical support from Ocean Insight, at a level that will be determined upon award. This support may include a virtual consultation session, online training, or a single Ocean Lab Services feasibility study.

Important Dates 

  • Program launch: Oct. 1, 2020
  • Application deadline: Dec. 23, 2020
  • Finalists selected: Jan. 15, 2021
  • Award recipients announced: Feb. 1, 2021


Your application must be submitted no later than Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020. When submitting your application, you agree to the following terms:

  • Permission for Ocean Insight to generate publicity relating to the application and/or award including press releases and case studies.
  • Permission for Ocean Insight to contact the applicant(s) about our products and services.

Successful Applications 

Ocean Insight collaborates with customers to discover, refine and deliver new approaches to solving the world’s most pressing problems with spectral technologies. Our expert Grant Program judging panel will evaluate applications based on their technical merit, innovation, and advancement of initiatives that improve health, safety or the environment. Examples include improved medical diagnostics, more accurate security screening technologies, and more advanced crop analysis.

Other Considerations 

  • No purchase is necessary to apply for an award.
  • Ocean Insight reserves the right to exclude applications that fail to meet program criteria, and to limit the number of award recipients to only the most meritorious.
  • There is no limit to the number of entries that may be submitted.
  • Grantees have six (6) months from the date of the award to order Ocean Insight equipment and apply the award. Grantees may not disperse the award over more than two (2) transactions.
  • Products selected by grantees will be valued in USD at the standard retail pricing in effect when the award is redeemed.
  • Ocean Insight is not responsible for any local, state or federal taxes resulting from the award.
  • In addition to the product donation, and as part of the donation transaction only, Ocean Insight will provide to grant winners standard UPS ground shipping at no charge. Expedited shipping, and customs fees or duties, are not part of the award.
  • Ocean Insight reserves the right to change the terms or conditions of the program at any time, for any reason, without prior written notice.


Inspiring Research Partners

Georgia Aquarium - USA

In this video, we explore how Ocean Insight and Georgia Aquarium team up to create better habitats by exploring light and its impact on aquatic environments

Ghent University - Belgium

Learn how Ocean Insight equipment is part of research efforts to make cataract diagnosis and treatment faster and more effective to reduce preventable blindness worldwide

Tracey Jones Graphic designer

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