Giacomo Vacca, Ph.D.
Founder & President, Kinetic River Corp.
Giacomo Vacca earned his B.A. and M.A. in Physics from Harvard University, and his Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Stanford University. His dissertation, with Nobel Prize winner Bob Laughlin, introduced a new ultrafast optical technique for investigating microscopic fluid phenomena. His work experience spans the energy sector, telecommunications, lasers, microfluidics, and medical diagnostics. He has set up whole laboratories from scratch, started and led development programs, generated intellectual property (8 awarded patents, 20 pending), led diverse interdisciplinary groups, and managed IP portfolios. Dr. Vacca invented and developed Laser Rastering, a radically innovative concept in flow cytometry that yielded the fastest flow cytometer in the world. A Senior Member of the Optical Society of America and past Abbott Research Fellow, in 2010 Dr. Vacca founded Kinetic River, a biophotonics design and product development company focusing on cell analysis and in vitro diagnostics.
As our understanding of cellular processes has expanded, the role they play in a broad range of pathologies has become clearer. A prominent example is the plethora of cell signaling pathways mapped in recent years, which has led to targeting of specific proteins for treatment of several cancers (the "targeted therapies" involving, e.g., Rituximab, Gleevec, and Gefitinib). This understanding is built on detailed studies of molecular transport and protein-protein interactions at the single-cell level. One widely used tool for this purpose is fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy, or FLIM. While FLIM yields protein-interaction information at high resolution, its throughput is severely limiting. At Kinetic River, in collaboration with Prof. Houston of New Mexico State University, we have designed and developed a prototype cell analyzer that combines the power of FLIM and the speed of flow cytometry. Called the Danube, this instrument directly resolves fluorescence decay curves on a cell-by-cell basis, allowing studies of protein binding, intracellular environment, and FRET interactions at very high throughput. We will show the first results from the Danube and show what's around the corner.