Hartford Business Journal

April 19, 2021

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26 Hartford Business Journal | April 19, 2021 | HartfordBusiness.com RSL Fiber Systems lights Navy ships, other challenging environments By Norm Bell Special to the Hartford Business Journal T he fiber optics revolution of the 1980s helped inspire RSL Fiber Systems to become one of the guiding lights in the Hartford region's tech universe. Now President Giovanni Tomasi sees a newer laser-driven revolution propelling RSL in a range of new directions. Contracts to supply innovative lighting solutions to the U.S. Navy remain at the heart of the business. RSL's fiber optic technologies light the masts of several U.S. Navy ships as well as frigates of the Italian navy. The system solves a variety of problems of traditional electrical connections in hard-to-reach places. It cuts maintenance costs and bypasses cable deterioration concerns. RSL, which has six employees, has expanded its fiber optic scope to include lighting for areas where hazardous chemicals make traditional lighting dangerous. It also uses fiber optics to measure methane in coal mines and sense temperature changes in a variety of industrial settings. Tomasi credits government research funding from the National Shipbuilder Research Program, Navy Manufacturing Technology Program and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health with driving much of RSL's work in fiber optic development. Recent developments in laser power transmission technology suggest new avenues for RSL. And Tomasi credits the cinema industry. When the pandemic closed movie theaters across the globe, the companies that supplied the laser projection technology to theaters went looking for new markets. Professional connections led to RSL working with an Italian laser firm on new applications. The next frontier for RSL is the offshore wind farms soon to launch across New England. The harsh environment seems ripe for the marriage of fiber optic and laser technologies, Tomasi says. RSL expects to use adaptive technologies to monitor the health of wind turbines' electrical lines. Tomasi sees the conditions as similar to those experienced aboard naval vessels, where RSL has experience, and ripe for RSL's new knowledge of laser-projection technologies. Much of RSL's business is in government contracts, so the pandemic hasn't had the kind of chilling effect that other industries have felt. Tomasi reports employment levels have been steady. He says RSL works closely with Connecticut's wealth of colleges and universities, which provide a steady flow of interns and new hires. Tomasi describes RSL as a lean operation driven by the philosophy "stay focused but diversify." The firm's roots are in New Jersey where Tomasi founded RSL Fiber Systems as a joint venture of Skyler Technologies and Wire-Pro Inc. RSL soon moved to Connecticut and never looked back. In July 2020, Tomasi was named board chairman of the Connecticut Technology Council. He is quick to tout the many benefits of the state's knowledge-based economy and urges creating more pathways to collaboration. He is often "on my soapbox" urging companies — even competitors — to work together on sharing best practices and driving professional development. "Give 5, get 10," he says. While his office is miles from the coal mines and ocean environments where his products are in use, Tomasi says the benefits of working in Connecticut far outweigh any disadvantages. Farmington startup aims to detect cancer cells before they become deadly By Norm Bell Special to the Hartford Business Journal C ancer comes in many forms, but the abnormal cells tend to travel through the body via the bloodstream. It's only when the cancer cells form a mass that traditional diagnostic imaging techniques can identify the problem and shape a counterattack. What if a new technology could identify cancer five to 12 months earlier? And what if this new technology could also offer clues on the most effective countermeasures? That's the vision of Triantafyllos (Fyl) Tafas, founder, CEO and director at QCDx (Quantitative Cell Diagnostix) in Farmington. Tafas holds a Ph.D. in ecology and population biology from the University of Athens in Greece, where he developed a new prenatal screening for the Down Syndrome biomarker and introduced the first prenatal chromosomal abnormalities screening program for his home country. Since coming to the U.S. in 2000, he's been a serial entrepreneur and patent factory. He co-founded Ikonisys, a maker of robotic microscopy platforms and diagnostic products used around the world; he holds or co-holds more than three dozen patents with more pending. He started QCDx in 2017 with the goal of identifying rare circulating tumor cells as they travel through the blood system, before they attach themselves to tissue and form a mass. The key to examining all nucleated cells in a blood sample is the RareScope, QCDx's flagship product. The RareScope doesn't need a microscopy slide. Instead, it utilizes a 3D tomographic method to examine cells stained with fluorescent markers. It's a unique approach that has been undergoing testing at UConn Health's cancer research center across Farmington Avenue. There, the focus has been on breast cancer, but Tafas said the RareScope can identify more than three dozen unique cancer cells. UConn Health will take delivery of its own RareScope in June, the first commercial sale for QCDx. While QCDx also will sell the proprietary chemicals and reagents that fuel the RareScope, it is the sale of the $250,000 units that will determine the firm's financial future. From Tafas' perspective, it's technology that should be in every hospital and research facility in the world. If QCDx can even nibble at that lofty goal, financial success will follow. But there's a lot of work to be done first. An engineering firm in Shelton is putting together the first commercial RareScope. Arrangements must be made for scaling up production. And that takes capital. Connecticut Innovations was an initial investor. Tafas said a round of "friends and family" fundraising generated about a half-million dollars and the firm continues to seek angel funding. Plans are underway to seek $6 million to $8 million in Series A funding before the end of the year. As a sweetener, Tafas teases that the technology also can be used to identify COVID-19 infection within 24 hours after exposure, a quantum leap from today's five-to-seven day wait. Downstream, QCDx would like to explore early identification of other infectious diseases, from influenza and SARS to the common cold. Once production issues are solved, a sales staff will be added to today's spartan team of three employees. At a Glance Company: QCDx LLC | Industry: Bioscience Top Executive: Triantafyllos (Fyl) Tafas, Founder, CEO and Director HQ: 400 Farmington Ave., Farmington No. of Employees: 3 Company Website: www.qcd-x.com | Phone Number: 860-679-4673 At a Glance Company: RSL Fiber Systems Industry: Manufacturing Top Executive: Giovanni Tomasi, President & CTO HQ: 473 Silver Ln, East Hartford No. of Employees: 6 Company Website: https://www.rslfibersys- tems.com/ Phone number: 860-282-4930 QCDx Founder and CEO Triantafyllos (Fyl) Tafas (left) working with an associate in his Farmington lab. At RSL, a 5-watt red laser travels through an optical fiber and lights a low-profile ship's luminaire. HBJ PHOTO | STEVE LASCHEVER PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED Tech 25 Giovanni Tomasi

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