New imaging company hits the capital-raising trail

By Tanya Hollis
Monday, 25 February, 2002

Australia's latest biotech public share offering opened today as vision sciences company IATIA began efforts to raise $5 million.

The Box Hill company, which has exclusive global licensing rights to quantitative phase imaging (QPI) technology developed at the University of Melbourne, is offering 20 million ordinary shares in a raising forecast to deliver a $27.4 million market capitalisation.

CEO Philippe Cussinet said the QPI technology, a result of the university's departments of physics and ophthalmology, enabled the digital construction and manipulation of images without a need for special optics equipment.

Cussinet said the company released its first products - the QPm, which applies QPI to optical microscopy, and the Phase Tube, which allows it be universally connected to microscopes - in November.

"Both these products are breakthroughs," he said. "We are bringing in products that are revolutionary by enabling things to be seen that would have previously not been visible."

Images are created when light passes through a specimen, with the two characteristics of the transmitted radiation being intensity and phase.

Intensity, displayed by traditional technology, measures only the amount of radiation passing through the specimen. Cussinet said this meant opaque or transparent elements remained unseen.

But by concentrating on phase, which measures the change in radiation speed as it travels through a specimen, the developers discovered a way of making the invisible seen.

Cussinet said Federation Fellowship winner Prof Keith Nugent developed an algorithm to calculate phase, which enabled characteristics transparent to radiation to become visible.

Then, using a special light attached to an optical microscope and a digital camera connected via an adapter, images can be taken and transmitted to proprietary software.

"Once we have taken images of the sample and sent it the software which has the necessary calculation imbedded to measure phase, we can see things that we could not see before," Cussinet said.

"The benefit is that when you have difficult-to-see samples, such as biological cells that might be clear or opaque because they absorb very little light, by using phase you are able to see more of them."

While the technology will initially be applied to a suite of products for use in optical and electron microscopy, opthalmics and industrial imaging, the company's prospectus also says it could be applied to astronomy, X-ray radiography and neutron radiography.

The document says IATIA intends to spend $5 million raised to launch its next product, establish more international offices, develop further QPI products and instrument prototypes and on general working capital.

Last year the company estimated it would need to raise $10 million in capital. But when the planned IPO was postponed after the September 11 US terrorist attacks it pursued other funding sources, securing $6 million from two private investors including Malaysian entrepreneur Vincent Thiang. IATIA also has AusIndustry grants totalling $2 million.

Tolhurst Noall, which is handling the float, said interest was extremely strong on the offering's first day.

The offering is open until March 20, with the company expected to float by April 5.

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