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Under the Microscope: Why this Scientist Launched a Startup

Todd Doehring spent years working as a scientist at the Cleveland Clinic and as a professor of Bioengineering at Drexel University. His projects centered on images and micro-testing systems. He wanted to make them work better for doctors and other scientists. Todd researched and taught biomechanics of soft tissues and microscopy.

It was in this capacity that Todd realized he needed something that wasn’t available.

“I needed a microscope capable of larger-scale calibrated imaging but nothing existed that was customizable and affordable,” says Todd.

Anything that came close to doing what he needed was far too expensive for his relatively small laboratory. Automated microscopy systems by Leica, Nikon or Olympus cost more than $100,000.

So Todd decided to make one. With his own money, Todd built an automated scanning microscopy system called the MezoScope™. 

Much to his surprise, his first iteration worked pretty well.

Its full X-Y-Z motor control let him image large specimens like aortic valves. Its rapid imaging capabilities let him to render images 10 times faster than any other system. Its large-scale 3D mosaicking allowed him to view larger structures. And its customizable software helped him with unique and difficult imaging problems.

The MezoScope worked better than any system Todd had used in decades of research.

But it wasn’t until he figured out what he could sell it for—one-tenth the cost of today’s systems—that he realized its business potential. The MezoScope system starts at under $10,000.

“I used a lot of new imaging, motor-control and 3D printing technologies, so I knew I could keep the short-run manufacturing costs low,” says Todd. “That meant the ability to develop highly custom, but affordable micro-testing systems.”

Now Todd had more than a working prototype in his hands. He had a startup.

ABEMIS co foundersSo he partnered with Bill Nelson, a business and finance professional, to launch ABĒMIS.

“The ABĒMIS team makes the perfect startup pair,” said Russ Donda, the GLIDE entrepreneur-in-residence who works with bioscience companies. “They have an expert on the science side and an expert on the business side working together to carve a niche in microscopy.”

With no marketing and sales effort, the MezoScope is already gaining market traction.

It’s now installed at Drexler University and is in production for the Lerner Research Institute, which is part of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. The ABEMIS team is also building a new system for national distributor Meyer Instruments of Houston, TX.

Several other medical facilities have contacted the team to learn more.

That demand is what brought the ABEMIS team to the Innovation Fund. With a $25,000 grant Todd and Bill will hire interns and employees and get into a production facility.

“The potential for our affordable, durable and portable automated microscopy system is tremendous. No other system has the advanced 3D programming or customizable features of our MezoScope,” Todd says.

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