Physics Professor Christopher Barty says his latest company, Lumitron Technologies Inc., is developing technology that could potentially change both the world of medicine—and the world at large.
Such technology is Lumitron’s HyperView, an ultra-high-intensity, laser-based X-ray machine.
It is designed to be capable of making 1 trillion X-rays per second, enabling 1,000-times higher fidelity—at a 100-times lower dose of radiation—than existing X-rays. The machine promises the ability to provide “unprecedented imaging detail and cellular level treatment, simultaneously,” according to a company statement.
In Barty’s words, the technology marks the biggest clinical breakthrough since Wilhelm Röntgen, the first Nobel Prize winner in physics, first discovered X-rays in 1895.
Lumitron, founded in 2017, is developing the fourth generation of the HyperView prototype at its 21,000-square-foot headquarters and R&D facility at the UCI Research Park.
“We’re making all of this stuff right here in this building,” Barty, Lumitron’s co-founder and chief technology officer, told the Business Journal. “I’m kind of bullish on what we can do. I couldn’t have said that four years ago.”
$220M, 17 Years
Barty holds three science degrees from North Carolina State University and a Ph.D. in applied physics from Stanford University. He has authored over 200 manuscripts and delivered over 200 lectures.
While he co-founded Lumitron with Australian investor Maurie Stang in 2017, he doesn’t consider their company a startup, but rather, a fledgling company whose proprietary technology is built upon 17 years—and $220 million—worth of R&D.
Its portfolio comprises 13 patents, 10 of which Barty is the sole inventor, and the co-inventor of the remaining three.
In 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded Lumitron an $11.6 million contract as part of its Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program. It has also been backed by General Electric (NYSE: GE) since its inception.
To date, Lumitron has raised over $34 million of capital, coming from investors Vickers Venture Partners, Perennial Value Management and others.
After teaching at Stanford for four years, Barty moved to San Diego to run a private research organization at University of California, San Diego, which focused on intense lasers and X-rays.
In 2000, Barty relocated to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federal research facility and nuclear weapons lab in the Bay Area, where he served as chief technology officer of the lab’s $3.2 billion laser directorate, which houses the world’s largest laser designed for nuclear fusion.
During his 17 years at Livermore, Barty realized this laser technology could make significant impacts across industries, and notably, medicine.
Bay Area Beginnings
Barty initially wanted to start Lumitron in Pleasanton, where tech giants Oracle and PeopleSoft call home, in hopes of attracting the right talent.
That all changed when University of California, Irvine Provost Enrique Lavernia recruited him for a senior-level faculty position as part of the school’s $8 million Convergence Optical Sciences Initiative.
Barty said he was awe-stricken by the region’s formidable medtech corridor, and decided Orange County would make for the most strategic location for Lumitron’s success.
Today, his company has a growing staff of 35 full-time employees and 12 interns—a mix of both Bay Area and local talent.
“It’s been relatively easy to recruit people from Livermore to Orange County. It’s a nice place,” he said. “Also, they come into work every day knowing they could be changing the world.”
Assuming no more COVID-19 and supply-chain related interruptions, Barty is expecting the first prototype of the HyperView to come online this summer.
Within the next few years, Lumitron will begin manufacturing dozens of the machines on an annual basis.
Early recipients may include big names in the center of excellence market, including The Mayo Clinic, The University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the UCI Medical Center.
The lower levels of radiation used by the product offer users peace of mind, along with better results, according to Barty.
“There’s a question about whether a mammogram causes or prevents breast cancer,” he said. “With our technology, a woman must live 100 lifetimes to find out, thus, you’ve completely eliminated this question.”
The HyperView is also being designed to be roughly the size of a modern CT or MRI machine, at a fraction of the price, and capable of both diagnosing and treating diseases like cancer.
“If we do this right, you’ll never remove a breast or prostate again,” he said.
“How valuable is curing cancer? If you’re the one with it, you can’t put a price tag on it.”
Barty believes this could possibly render the estimated 150,000 MRIs and CTs installed around the globe obsolete.
“These machines are like cars. They will wear out and be replaced. If we get diagnostics and therapy in the same machine, who knows what we will do—world domination?”
In addition, the products have also been envisioned for use in a variety of industries “that have long struggled with next-gen imaging needs,” the company says, such as homeland security and 3D manufacturing.