For nearly three decades, the principals of PhotoPharmics, Inc. (PPI) have been industry leaders in light therapy and circadian regulation. Their first company, Apollo Light Systems, was established in the mid 80s and participated in the first multi-center investigation of light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Over the succeeding years, the founders of PPI sponsored or participated in nearly 100 clinical investigations and were instrumental in bringing light therapy from obscurity to becoming a first-line accepted treatment for certain sleep and depressive disorders, recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
The research associations forged over the past decades continue today. As a result, PPI has been able to take advantage of leading-edge research and its application in humans. Recently an ‘action spectrum,’ or specific bandwidth of light was discovered which was primarily responsible for the circadian and alerting responses to light. This meant that light could be more accurately and efficiently administered. Therapeutic light could now be delivered at 1/100th the intensity of traditional bright light therapy. It also meant that therapeutic light could be applied much more broadly than before.
This discovery created the need for new technology, and PPI has been at the forefront of this development in creating new, specific bandwidth edge-lit LED light therapy devices. Some of the first uses of this new technology were pioneered by PPIs founders as portable light therapy devices for treating Winter Blues. They also engineered large, specific bandwidth LED panels for the NASA Mars Mission crew, to keep their body clocks entrained to the longer Mars day. Current PPI technology is used in research devices, with the ability to produce an even, diffused treatment field of specific bandwidths of light.
By 2007, researchers began reporting significant improvement in Parkinson’s disease with light therapy. In 2012, more in-depth research revealed that Parkinson’s patients responded differently to different brands of light boxes, with some light boxes eliciting an undesirable response. This was not surprising, given recent discoveries with specific bandwidths of light. Conventional light boxes use fluorescent technology, and the spectral properties can vary widely from one light box to another. This problem illustrated the need to produce a new technology which could accurately deliver the effective wavelengths of light while eliminating wavelengths that may produce a negative response.
Thus in 2012, PhotoPharmics was incorporated to provide specialized light technology to Parkinson’s disease. Over the past few years, PPI has sponsored and supported a number of small pilot trials to determine the effective bandwidths and intensity of therapeutic light for Parkinson’s. PPI has incorporated these findings into a proprietary LED edge-lit device called, Spectramax™. The safety and efficacy of Spectramax is being validated in a pivotal, multi-site investigation. Results from this double-blind investigation should be available in 2016.