Lightsense Technology

Using Light to Detect Drugs and Pathogens

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Company Information



Technical & Scientific Instrumentation


Tucson, AZ

Lightsense Technology is focused on what's called optical pathogen detection.

It’s created patented technology in the form of handheld devices. These devices help:

• Law enforcement officers with illicit drug detection.

• Food-safety workers with bacterial pathogen detection.

• And healthcare workers avoid potential viral pathogens.

Lightsense has received a Phase 1 SBIR grant from the Defense Logistics Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense. This grant is funding development of devices intended to detect viruses in people, including Covid-19.

Other grant applications have been submitted, including one to the National Institutes of Health for research in point-of-care medical testing, and the Department of Defense for detection of chemical and biological warfare agents.

This is an enormous opportunity for Lightsense. That’s because it’s targeting three major markets:

Illicit drug detection is a $51 billion market. Bacterial pathogen detection can be a solution for the $20 billion pharmaceutical manufacturing sector as well as the $8 billion food supply sector. And point-of-care diagnostics is a $13 billion market.

The key behind Lightsense’s technology is the implementation of spectroscopy. This is the science of using light of various wavelengths to analyze objects or chemical compounds.

Lightsense has incorporated this technology into a series of handheld scanners, known as spectrometers. When objects are scanned, light energy “interrogates” their molecules and produces a spectral response. The unique emission is then compared to a pre-determined signature stored in a cloud-based database.

For illicit drug detection, Lightsense has created DrugDetect. This optical scanner is about the size of a smartphone, and works as a “point-and-shoot” device. It can detect methamphetamine on surfaces, including skin, fabric, plastics, wood, and metal. (In 2022, this device will have detection capabilities for fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin.)

Additionally, Lightsense is creating instruments that can be used to analyze molecules in food and prescription drugs. These instruments have the potential to reduce pathogen testing from 3 days to 1 minute, and can reduce the number and severity of outbreaks.

Lightsense’s team has created more than 90 miniaturized spectrometers. It’s seeking capital to increase R&D efforts, as well as file additional patents covering its technology.

Team Background

Terje Skotheim - Chief Executive Officer

Terje is a world-renowned scientist in physics and materials science. For more than 25 years, he's focused on bringing technologies from the laboratory to the product stage, including spectrometers and sensors.

Prior to starting Ligthsense, he founded Intex, a company focused on spectrometry technology that was acquired by a Germany-based competitor. Before that, he co-founded Optoel Corporation, a developer of electron and photon technology.

Earlier in his career, Terje founded Moltech Corporation, a producer of rechargeable lithium-sulfur batteries. Under his guidance, Moltech raised $65 million from venture capitalists and reached $130 million in sales. Before that, he spent time in academia, serving as a senior scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from MIT and a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Wade Poteet - Chief Technology Officer

With more than 30 years of experience as a research physicist and engineer, Wade is an expert in system design and advanced instrumentation manufacturing. Throughout his career, he’s assembled devices ranging from X-rays to telescopes.

He's received recognition awards from NASA and holds a Bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in Physics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Bruce Berkoff - Chief Marketing Officer

Bruce has extensive experience in the technology industry, having held marketing positions at several leading technology companies.

In addition to his role with Lightsense, he is an advisor and strategist for technology companies LG Display, Nanosys, and Infocus. He’s also an advisor with Berkeley SkyDeck, a startup accelerator affiliated with UC Berkeley.

Previously, he was Chief Marketing Officer with Applied Materials, a semiconductors business. Before that, he held the same role with Ascent Solar Technologies, an energy company.

Earlier in his career, Bruce was a general manager with Philips, an electronics manufacturer. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Physics and Biophysics from Princeton University and UC Berkeley.

$2 million
$1.12 million (56%)
Current Valuation
$12 million
Min. Investment
Deal Type
Title III
(For all investors)
Offering Type
Finance History
  • $384K
  • $90K
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