Photothermal Spectroscopy Corp (PSC): Pioneering the Addition of Chemistry for Optical Microscopy

Roshan Shetty, Co-Founder and CEO

For Roshan Shetty, the Co-Founder and CEO at Photothermal Spectroscopy Corp (PSC), failure has never been an option. Being a serial science entrepreneur with two exits under his belt, he has a successful track record of repeatedly taking new scientific breakthroughs from initial laboratory discovery to product/market fit and scaling annual revenues from $0 through to acquisition by market leaders with >$100 billion in market capitalization. Shetty has successfully pioneered two breakthrough scientific fields of parathyroid ID during endocrine surgery and nanoscale photothermal IR spectroscopy. The veteran is currently working on pioneering the scientific breakthrough of optical photothermal IR spectroscopy (O-PTIR) that could transform the field of vibrational spectroscopy in general and its application to life sciences, in particular. “Chemistry is the most powerful analytical technique since it can identify unknown molecules and hence can uniquely answer the question of ‘What is it’ when pointing to any part of a microscope image. Our team was fortunate to be able to pioneer the commercialization of the new chemistry field of Photothermal IR Spectroscopy, initially at the nanoscale and now at the microscale,” he says.

Chemistry is the most powerful analytical technique and our team was fortunate to pioneer a slice of this field

Shetty co-founded Anasys Instruments in 2005, which pioneered nanoscale chemistry (via Infrared spectroscopy). This technology was widely adopted in academia and industry-leading to the company being acquired by the market leader Bruker (NASDAQ: BRKR) in April 2018. At that time, Shetty spun out a new company PSC with the IP required to pioneer the addition of chemistry for optical microscopy. “A microscope would generally separate out the different components of the sample in an image, via the contrast mechanism it uses and how this varies across the different constituents of the sample,” states Shetty. “The contrast mechanism can be based on differences in morphology or material properties such as mechanical; thermal; chemistsryetc. Of all of these, chemistry is the most powerful since it can uniquely identify the sample constituent.” Key Application areas of PSC’s innovation are Life Sciences, Polymers, microplastics, contaminants/defects in High-Value Manufacturing such as Semiconductors.

IR spectroscopy is the standard technique for chemistry analysis for over 50 years and has annual sales of over $1 billion/yr. However, it has a few fundamental problems. Top among these is spatial resolution. The resolution of standard IR spectroscopy is around 20 microns.
At PSC, they are now doing it at 500nm using Optical technology (O-PTIR). The breakthroughs enabled by O-PTIR technology solve the three fundamental problems that IR had faced for over 50 years, as Shetty mentions, “Sub-micron Spatial resolution, ability to work in reflection, ability to work in fluid.”

Invention has been in the founding DNA of PSC since 2005. “Since we operate at the forefront of science, we are used to inventing new technologies ourselves or working with the leading academic scientists worldwide in commercializing their innovations. We need to keep doing this to stay competitive and grow,” states Shetty. One other area of great interest to PSC is the application of optical spectroscopy-based identification as applied to medical devices. “We had spun out a medical device technology that used auto-fluorescence to identify the parathyroid gland during ENT and Endocrine surgery,” informs Shetty. After successful R&D and product development, this product got FDA approval in 2018 and was acquired in 2020 by Medtronic Corporation (NYSE: MDT), the leader in medical devices.

Shetty graduated from BITS Pilani and has an MS in Optical Sciences from Arizona and an MBA from INSEAD. He worked at KLA in the Silicon Valley on semiconductor equipment R&D/manufacturing and at Veeco in Santa Barbara in the Business Development of nanomechanics. He credited his investment banking experience at Alex Brown, San Francisco (working on Silicon Valley IPOs and M&A) to giving him a very different perspective of what value creation by a technology company is and how to capture it effectively.