Voyage to Patent for Dad & Son Developers of New Medical Device
Five years ago, after a trip to Disney world
and after watching the science fantasy film Fantastic Voyage,
10-year-old Scott Alfano had a cool idea. Why couldn't
you really, really miniaturize a camera and pop it into the
body to perform diagnostic expeditions? He put his idea into
a creative-writing paper he had been assigned in a science class.
| Scott Alfano and his father Robert
in his City College lab.
The paper eventually came under the eye of his father, Dr.
Robert R. Alfano, a CUNY Distinguished Professor of Science
and Engineering at City College with no fewer than 80 U.S. and
foreign patents to his name. Clearly adept at spotting an envelope
that's been pushed, the elder Alfanowho is also the director
of CCNY's Institute for Ultrafast Spectroscopy and Lasers and
the director of the New York State sponsored CUNY Center for
Advanced Technology for Ultrafast Photonic Materialstook
his son's concept and ran with it.
consulted with CCNY electrical engineering professor Ping Pei
Ho and Dr. Quan-Zhen Wang, a former CCNY researcher to make
Scott's concept more scientific. The conceptualization process
progressed sufficiently to file a patent application in the
fall of 1998, and on May 29 of this year U.S. Patent #6,240,312
B1 was granted to the team of Alfano, Alfano, Ho, and Wang for
a "remote-controllable, micro-scale device for use in vivo
medical diagnosis and/or treatment." Scott, now 15 years
old, is a 10th-grader at Riverdale Country School in the Bronx.
This device, which has been dubbed a Micro Photonic Explorer
(seen in the illustration), will be from 0.1 mm to 10 mm in
length and will be introduced into the body either from natural
body openings or by injection into the bloodstream. Once inside
the body, an operator using radio controls and computer software
will guide the Explorer to different locations in the body,
gathering two-dimensional image information and spectroscopic
data. This will be transmitted via video and radio signals to
an external computer.
The information will then be processed, analyzed, and displayed
to the operator/ diagnostician. The Explorer might then be instructed
to render treatment on the site being examined, for example,
the ablation (i.e. removal) of tissue using lasers or the binding
of ruptured tissues with chemical glue, UV-cured epoxy materials,
or photo- ionization techniques.
Alfano, a world leader in optical biomedical imaging (the use
of laser light beams to replace mammograms and biopsies as the
key tool for cancer diagnosis), says that the Micro Photonic
Explorer would contain lasers, light emitters, a video camera,
The Explorer patent, incidentally, is not the first for Alfano
pËre et fils. Their attention has also focused on area of research
vital to the interests of this baseball-mad city. Last year
they were awarded U.S. Patent #6,045,465 for a revolutionary
baseball training bat designed to improve a player's batting
average. Out of fairness to pitchers, they should now brainstorm
for a training baseball.