From the Lab to the Real World

Innovative Technology by MolecuLight Inc. Poised to Revolutionize Chronic Wound Care

Ontario healthcare innovator, MolecuLight Inc., is developing a hand-held optical imaging technology designed to visualize bacteria in real-time at the point-of-care. Founded by Dr. Ralph DaCosta, Scientist at The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Techna Institutute in partnership with University Health Network, MolecuLight’s device is revolutionizing wound care and strengthening Ontario’s role as a global innovation leader in health care.

Founded in June 2012 by University Health Network Scientist, Dr. Ralph DaCosta, MolecuLight Inc. has joined the ranks of research hospital spin-off companies strengthening Ontario’s role as a global innovation hub. Located in Toronto’s MaRS Centre, MolecuLight employs a multidisciplinary team of top researchers, engineers, clinical experts and international business leaders to commercialize its first medical device product for global markets: MolecuLight i:XTM.

What is it?

MolecuLight i:XTM is a hand-held optical imaging device that allows clinicians to quickly, safely and easily visualize the presence and distribution of clinically important levels of bacteria on the skin and in wounds in real-time at the point-of-care. Not only is the device portable, it’s also non-contact and requires no additional contrast agents to highlight bacterial load – a critical step in the assessment and treatment continuum of patients with wounds.

The MolecuLight i:XTM fluorescence imaging device instantly reveals the presence of clinically important bacteria in wounds without the need for contrast agents and can be used in hospital, home care and other wound care settings.
The MolecuLight i:XTM fluorescence imaging device instantly reveals the presence of clinically important bacteria in wounds without the need for contrast agents and can be used in hospital, home care and other wound care settings.

How does it work?

Invisible to the naked eye, tissues and microbes emit intrinsic fluorescence signals. Dr. DaCosta, a molecular imaging scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the Techna Institute for the Advancement of Technology for Heath (UHN), has developed imaging technology that can detect and analyze those fluorescence signals by scanning them with specific wavelengths of light.  The resulting images are displayed in high resolution colour images (or video) on the device’s touch screen for the clinical team. Bacteria are made visible instantly in and around the wound, thereby enabling clinicians to quickly assess, sample and treat wounds more effectively.

Why does it matter?

The fluorescence images generated by the device can be used to guide wound sampling or debridement (removal of damaged tissue) procedures in real-time. The images can also be used to objectively determine treatment response and images/videos can easily appended to a patient’s clinical care record. MolecuLight i:XTM will be first launched in Canada in the Fall of 2015, pending Health Canada approval, with roll out in the US and Europe anticipated thereafter.

Alleviating the burden of chronic wound care

MolecuLight i:XTM is anticipated to aid the treatment of chronic wounds, which represent a significant burden to patients, health care professionals and health care systems. According to Wound Care Alliance Canada (WCAC), wound care costs Canadian taxpayers nearly $4 billion annually. We can expect this burden to continue to grow due to an aging population, the emergence of hospital acquired infections and the epidemic of diabetes.

Patients with diabetes are highly prone to developing non-healing chronic wounds that become infected with bacteria easily. Early detection of infection in these patients is critical, as failure to treat these wounds properly and early can lead to amputation and eventually death.

Currently in clinical trials at University Health Network (UHN), one of the key initial uses of MolecuLight i:XTM will be to assist clinicians in the screening of diabetic foot ulcers (DFU) for the presence of potentially harmful bacteria levels. This will help to guide clinical teams towards a more complete wound examination as well as ‘targeted’ sampling of bacteria and debridement of wounds.

To read more on the UHN-MolecuLight diabetic foot ulcer study, click here.

 Improving chronic wound care—from anywhere

Designed as a portable, hand-held device with an intuitive user interface, MolecuLight i:XTM is able to acquire images (or video) in a manner similar to a point-and-shoot digital camera. By combining accuracy with usability, this device can provide bacteriological information about a patient’s wounds, whether they are being treated in a hospital, a long-term treatment setting, at home, or in rural areas via telemedicine networks.

Wound care in the future

While initial clinical research has focused primarily on chronic wound care, the potential for MolecuLight i:XTM extends to many areas of treatment. The innovative imaging technology has begun early clinical trial evaluation for fluorescence image-guided margin assessment and surgical guidance in breast cancer at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center as well as other applications including radiation-induced skin wounds and surgical site infections.

The technology can also contribute to solutions for the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, a key component of which has been empiric therapy. Broad-spectrum antibiotics are commonly given to patients as a preventative measure before the severity—or even presence—of a bacterial infection is known. By assessing bacterial load and distinguishing between different bacterial strains, the device has the potential to limit the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, helping to impede antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Ralph DaCosta was named UHN's Innovator of the Year in 2014.
Dr. Ralph DaCosta, UHN Scientist and Founder of MolecuLight Inc.

In 2014, UHN named Dr. DaCosta “Innovator of the Year” for his development of the hand-held fluorescence imaging technology, marking him as one of Ontario’s best and brightest health-research minds. As MolecuLight continues to grow its staff and bring products to market, Ontario can look forward to even more innovations from Dr. DaCosta.

Initial research and development for this technology was supported by funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, Canadian Institute for Photonic Innovations, Health Technology Exchange, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Cancer Care Ontario at various stages during product development and validation. MolecuLight is also supported by iGAN Partners.

To learn more about MolecuLight and MolecuLight i:XTM, visit