Company Overview

While enrolled in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, Vadim Backman started to “think big.” He expanded his childhood goal of becoming a physician to help people; now he dreamed of saving millions of lives through the development of advanced technology. Dr. Backman believed that a team of experts that shared his vision could have as significant an impact on several cancer types as the Pap smear has had in cervical cancer. To realize his dream, he created the Backman Photonics Laboratory at Northwestern University.

Recognizing their shared values and their ability to collaborate effectively, in 2011 Drs. Backman, Roy and Subramanian created NanoCytomics, a team of professionals dedicated to enabling dramatic improvements in cancer survival rates.

The proprietary PWS technology platform is designed to provide highly accurate, low-cost, non-invasive testing that will revolutionize the risk stratification of patients, helping physicians identify people that are likely to benefit from gold-standard procedures to diagnose cancer as early as possible, when treatments are most likely to be effective.

Of particular significance will be the simple, easy-to-implement sample collection process that will be able to be performed in the primary care physician’s office during a routine physical examination. Samples will be sent from the physician’s office to a testing laboratory for analysis with NanoCytomic’ PWS technology platform. Within a few days of sample collection, NanoCytomics will send test results to the ordering physician, who can use the results to determine whether or not the patient is likely to benefit from gold-standard diagnostic tests, such as colonoscopies, CT scans, and biopsies.

The benefits of this risk-stratification testing platform are twofold:

  • Patients that require a comprehensive diagnostic workup would be identified sooner; receiving an early cancer diagnosis can help physicians deliver treatments when they are most likely to be effective.
  • Patients that do not require a comprehensive diagnostic exam would be spared the discomfort, anxiety and potential medical complications associated with the procedure; also, patients and their third-party payers would avoid the high costs of these exams.

These are “think-big goals” that the NanoCytomics team believes it is well positioned to accomplish over the coming years.  The company anticipates offering its first commercially available Laboratory Developed Test (LDT) for cancer risk stratification in 2018.


Board of Directors

Vadim Backman, PhD

Co-Founder; Chairman, Board of Directors

Dr. Backman is widely regarded as a leader in the biophotonics-cancer community and serves as a charter member of the Biomedical Imaging (BMIT) Study Section at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). He is a professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern University, where he also leads the Cancer Biomedical Engineering, Nanotechnology & Chemistry Program at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has received numerous prestigious awards, and Technology Review magazine named Dr. Backman one of the “Top 100 Young Innovators in the World.” He has co-authored more than 70 research papers published in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals. In the past three years alone, Dr. Backman has served as a principal investigator on research grants totaling more than $10 million. He received his PhD degree from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Division of Health Sciences and Technologies.

Hemant K. Roy, MD

Co-Founder; Board Member; Chairman, Scientific Advisory Board

Dr. Roy is the leader of the gastroenterology department and a professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine. His internal medicine training was at Harvard University (Beth Israel Hospital) with gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Chicago. Dr. Roy’s fundamental interests are in the prevention of colon cancer, and he is a recognized authority on colon cancer screening. He has co-authored more than 80 peer-reviewed research papers, the majority with a theme of colon cancer prevention. Dr. Roy has received numerous awards and currently serves as a deputy editor for the Archives of Internal Medicine. He is a primary member and a funded principal investigator of the National Cancer Institute’s Early Detection Research Network (EDRN). His expertise in biomarkers has been recognized as a charter membership to the Cancer Biomarker Study Section (CBSS). Dr. Roy received his medical degree from Northwestern University with distinction and election to Alpha Omega Alpha honor society.

Stuart Cornew

Board Member

Over the past 30 years, Stuart Cornew has developed expertise as an entrepreneur and business consultant serving a wide variety of industries, including medical, financial services, automotive, retail, consumer packaged goods and higher education, among others. As founder and managing director of AnswerMine / Pattern Associates, Mr. Cornew has developed IT protocols to apply proprietary software to large datasets and negotiated strategic alliances with data sources in multiple business sectors. In addition to serving as a board member for other technology-based startups, Mr. Cornew is chairman of Northwestern University’s Chemistry of Life Processes Institute Executive Advisory Board.



John Hart


John W. Hart brings to NanoCytomics a reputation for operational, strategic planning and business-development expertise, earned through a career that spans nearly 40 years in various healthcare sectors. Mr. Hart offers a unique blend of experience from his years working with startups as well as 26 years at three Fortune 100 companies: Baxter International, Allegiance and Cardinal Health, where he honed his expertise product development, manufacturing, distribution, strategy, project management, sales and marketing, and business development.  He received his bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences from Dartmouth College, and completed an Executive Development Program at Northwestern University.

Hariharan Subramanian, PhD

Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer

Dr. Subramanian was one of the original developers of partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy, the company’s foundational technology platform. He is currently spearheading the company’s clinical implementation of the technology for risk-stratification applications in colon, lung, prostate, esophageal, ovarian and pancreatic cancers. Dr. Subramanian has considerable experience in the areas of biomedical optics, cancer biology and clinical research, with numerous publications appearing in leading peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Subramanian has received multiple research and business challenge awards, and he serves as a technical reviewer for several scientific and medical journals. He received his PhD in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University.


Business Advisors

Steve Ducommun

Legal and Intellectual Property

Steven E. Ducommun, a partner at the Chicago law firm Perkins Coie, provides legal and intellectual property counsel to NanoCytomics based on his extensive experience in many industry sectors, including healthcare, biotechnology and medical devices. Steve advises the company on formation, research and development arrangements, technology commercialization, licensing, manufacturing and distribution issues. Mr. Ducommun has served as a board member of the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization (iBIO) since 2005.

Navigant Consulting Inc.


Colleen Hittle, managing director and leader of Navigant’s Regulatory Services Group, counsels NanoCytomics on issues relating to regulatory affairs strategies. Ms. Hittle has over two decades of experience in the medical product regulatory environment, supporting companies regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and global regulatory bodies. Among her areas of expertise are helping clients bring innovative products to the market and testifying as an expert witness at FDA hearings and meetings.