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by Dr. Andrey V. Larichev,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, on behalf of Dr. Otten and myself I would like to thank the NATO Science Committee for the recognition they have given to our work. We also warmly thank Secretary General Lord Robertson for personally presenting the Prize to us this morning.
We started the project just after the monetary crisis in Russia, when the national currency was devaluated 4 times with respect major world currencies and many people and institutions lost their money due to the bankruptcy of the banks. It’s clear that in such a situation governments first cut the expenses for the science including national research funds. Many laboratories, like the one in which I work, ended up with enthusiastic researchers who were unable to continue any useful research due to absence of research funds. At the same time, gathering funds from industry outside of Russia required well developed product, not only ideas.
At the time when we proposed the SfP project there were technologies originally developed for military applications which allowed image enhancement with the help of adaptive optics. Our proposal was to convert these technology to medical applications.
The goal of our project was to develop the first clinical high resolution multispectral fundus imager for looking at the human eye retina with micron resolution. It was quite an ambitious task.. Several well known laboratories around the world with good funding had been working in the area yet nobody had succeeded in making a clinical system.
In Russia we formed an unique team of researchers and engineers from our institute (Institute of Laser and Information Technologies) Moscow State University and our industrial partner Zagorsk Optical Factory. Our US partner, the Kestrel Corporation, carried out the whole project management from administrative and technical point of view and also resolved patent issues.
The research solved multiple technical problems related to high resolution fundus imaging and packaged the final product in a small, clinic type of device. The resulting system was tested in the US and Russia and is currently operating in a well known clinic in Moscow. The instrument was also granted approval for investigative use within the United States.
The project encountered many administrative obstacles, mainly associated with internal Russian regulations. Sometimes we thought that they can not be resolved, but with kind help of NATO SfP team, support of IPLIT director Prof. Panchenko, and participation of Dr.Otten from Kestrel, we found practical solutions and project has been successfully completed.
Now, with the project completed we are continuing our collaboration with the Kestrel Corporation creating a second generation of fundus imager with improved operator interfaces.
While the original uses of the technology we developed were for medial applications, we believe that this work will be very valuable for use in retinal imaging as part of a highly reliable person identification system for security purposes. We hope that this research can be continued with NATO assistance.
It’s important to note that together with technical accomplishments the SfP program opened significant commercial opportunities for the teams and institutions participated in the project. After the project completion over 2 millions USD have been gathered for follow up development. Russian based institutions are now getting the contracts for supplying equipment and technologies developed under the SfP project for foreign and Russian customers. This would never had been possible without the NATO grant.
I should note that NATO scientific projects including SfP, helps create a positive image of NATO in Russia. If several years ago signs of confrontation with NATO were quite visible in the public opinion, now NATO is considered as a long term partner of our country. If NATO’s image in the Russian academic community and in our young generation is becoming very positive, it is largely thanks to NATO’s support of Science in Russia.
In conclusion, I greatly appreciate NATO’s help for Russian science and tender thanks to the NATO SfP team for their professional and friendly work.