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Alabama Small Business Development Center Network

CytoViva, Inc.

Alabama tech firm provides research scientists around the globe with world-class microscopy

For help with export expansion, the management of CytoViva turned to the Alabama International Trade Center (AITC) at the University of Alabama for overseas market research to identify new customer segments, distributors, and end-users. The AITC is a member of the Alabama SBDC Network, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

CytoViva Byron

CytoViva, Inc., based in Auburn, Alabama, is a global leader in scientific imaging.  It provides a proprietary Enhanced Darkfield (EDF) Hyperspectral Microscopy for researchers in multiple disciplines, which significantly aids observation and innovation in the fields of nanomaterials, nanobiology, and nanotoxicology.  CytoViva’s technology gives researchers the most advanced nanoscale optical and hyperspectral microscopy systems available in the market today.

Their product was first introduced to the market in 2005 and has now been installed in hundreds of research laboratories around the world. This includes leading national research laboratories, academic institutes, and private industrial labs across the Americas, Asia and Europe. The company has grown through product innovation, close customer relations, and export markets.

Product Development & Innovation Advantages

CytoViva’s technology was co-developed with Auburn University. The company’s product evolved from technology originally developed for aerial based imaging applications with

in the Department of Defense and NASA.  CytoViva adapted this technology for use in research laboratories.  Its patented EDF microscopy technology operates as a proprietary, integrated system, enabling spectral quantification of materials and live biologicals at the nanoscale.

Research applications are wide ranging and include advanced materials development; environmental health and safety; drug discovery and delivery; and human clinical applications such as digital pathology.  Their technology provides hyperspectral imaging solutions from the visible to near infrared range and is designed to enable fast and highly effective observation, characterization, and mapping of hard-to-image nanoscale sample elements. This allows scientists to significantly accelerate their research efforts.

The hyperspectral microscope is unique in its ability to capture optical spectral data in every pixel of the microscopic sample image. The hyperspectral microscope enables comparative spectral review, spectral mapping and other analysis of different elements within a sample. These sample materials can include fluorescent, plasmonic or other light scattering materials as well as live cell and tissue samples. CytoViva’s enhanced darkfield optics are unmatched in their ability to enable optical imaging of nanomaterials as small as 10nm.

This innovative technology was recognized early on by the scientific community and helped jumpstart sales.  For two years in a row – 2006 and 2007 – CytoViva’s EDF optical microscopy technology received the prestigious R&D 100 award, granted annually to the market’s most innovative new technologies. At the same time, CytoViva received a Nano50™ award for its contribution to the fast-growing world of nanotechnology research.

And in 2009, U.S. Patents No. 7,542,203 and No. 7,564,623 were issued for CytoViva’s EDF microscopy illumination optics.

Founder and CEO
The company’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Sam Lawrence, led the development of the core, patented optical illumination technology which is the foundation for CytoViva’s products.  He played a key role in the development of the patented CytoViva 3D imaging technology.  He leads all product development efforts and actively supports the company’s sales efforts both domestically and internationally. Sam has worked with dozens of laboratories around the world to help them solve their analytical imaging needs.  His knowledge spans all aspects of the CytoViva product catalog, including optical imaging at the nanoscale, hyperspectral analysis of images, and the application of Raman microscopy in combination with CytoViva’s optical and hyperspectral microscopy techniques.

Mr. Lawrence has a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from Mississippi State University and a Master of Management in Manufacturing from Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Alabama International Trade Center (AITC) Assistance

The AITC started working with CytoViva in 2016, when the company was referred by the BIO Alabama trade association.  The AITC team provided international market research to identify export markets in Europe and industry reports to help develop CytoViva’s growth strategies to target other market segments that could use the technology. The Center also provided training on export procedures and identified foreign distributors.  Specific examples of assistance are provided below.

In 2019, CytoViva participated in the State of Alabama Biotech Trade Mission to the UK and Ireland. The AITC prepared market research and found relevant companies to meet on trip. During 2020-2021, the AITC introduced CytoViva to the company IBT Online for a website globalization project. The company used the SBA-funded STEP grant from the Alabama Department of Commerce that enabled IBT On Line to create a Chinese version of CytoViva’s website.

According to CEO Sam Lawrence, “The new website has been the critical tool in helping our distributor in China and our sales have grown as a result.”

In 2022, the AITC partnered with Sci-Leads, a provider of a comprehensive database of research scientists.  The AITC promoted the tool to Alabama life science companies to help them find and engage scientists from around the world for product research and potential sales.  CytoViva took advantage of the Sci-Leads database and used the Alabama Department of Commerce’s STEP grant to obtain targeted leads for its global marketing efforts.

That same year CytoViva began work with a consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts – GeneWorx Capital – to help with commercialization strategies. CytoViva wanted to analyze its market potential for use in new market segments including ASO liquid biopsy, lyme disease, sepsis, autism, and stain free histopathology. The AITC compiled extensive research on the potential new segments that informed CytoViva’s strategy development.

Commenting on the Center’s research for the expansion project, Sam Lawrence said: “This was very good work.  It has helped us already focus our energy on Autism and Liquid Biopsy applications.  This work provided a lot of quantitative underpinning to support these decisions and it is extremely valuable in that regard.  Thank you all so much.  This would have taken us months to accomplish on our own.”

Future growth

The company has six full time employees and offers a 401K and 4% matching program. They have established a sustainable niche in the research imaging market through continued innovation and close relationships with its customers, and through growing a world-wide distribution network. They have secured distributors in Europe, China, India, Taiwan, Korea, Brazil, Japan and Singapore. These core principles allowed CytoVica to continue developing the market for its business through a variety of economic and funding ups and downs.

CytoViva also utilized the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program for help in a challenging time.

Sam Lawrence provided insights on the importance of the SBA program: “The SBA’s PPP loans we received allowed us to weather the COVID related business downturns with our team fully intact, without having to layoff anyone or reduce salaries. We are extremely grateful they were available.”

CytoViva intends to build on its core imaging business and expand into a variety of clinical applications such as autism screening tests, digital pathology, and stem cell sorting.

Mr. Lawrence summarized the AITC’s role by saying, “The AITC has been a critical resource for CytoViva.  Our business must operate in a lean and efficient manner, which means we often do not have the extra resources, CEO human or financial, to accomplish growth initiatives.  The AITC has been a fantastic partner in that regard, helping us grow our business in critical markets as well as providing data and insight to help us discern the best strategic path forward. We are extremely grateful that this high-quality resource exists and is so accessible.”

To aid in future growth projects, the AITC team recently compiled market research on the Nordic region – Denmark, Sweden, and Norway – and an international conference called Nordic Life Science Days held in Denmark.  The AITC recommended that CytoViva attend the event and target the Nordic region for expansion.  The company will participate in the State of Alabama’s trade mission to the conference in Copenhagen in November 2023.  The firm will use the opportunity to meet Nordic companies and explore new market segments for clinical applications, especially in digital pathology and using optical spectroscopy to aid in diagnosing Autism.

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