Blossoming Student Startup Designs Crystallized Flowers for Cancer Patients

Author: Gene Stowe

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Last summer (2016), two high school student interns in the lab of Matthew Leevy were tasked with finding a “cool” specimen on which to practice and learn CT scanning.  Their idea: gather flowers near Touchdown Jesus and Notre Dame Stadium and scan them back at the lab.  The resulting digital images were so dazzling that the group decided to engrave them into crystals with a 3D laser. One of the students, Breelyn Betts, mentioned that cancer patients (who are immunocompromised from chemotherapy) can’t have real flowers and thus would enjoy the replicas. The idea blossomed into Flourish3D, a startup company that provides the crystal flora to florists and gift shops, with profits going toward research at the Harper Cancer Research Institute. “These are products that we make with cancer patients in mind, although we think the general public will also derive enjoyment from these flowers in crystal,” said Leevy, the director of biological imaging in the Integrated Imaging Facility, which is an Indiana CTSI Core Facility, who also works with ESTEEM and Harper.

Betts and fellow high school student Kayley McLaughlin were working in the laboratory with a grant from the Liepert family. Undergraduates Christine Craig and Aislinn Betts, Breelyn’s older sister, were involved in the project with Sarah Chapman, assistant director of the Integrated Imaging Facility, and Tiffanie Stewart, a research scientist at the Notre Dame Center for Nano Science and Technology. Aislinn, who had been working on anatomical 3D laser engraving, is leading the startup. 

Flourish3D is offering four crystal flowers – Cone Flowers for a Cure, Love Thee Canna Lily, Our Lady Geraniums, and the Onward to Victory Rose. Local community partners, including Wygant Floral, Powell the Florist, Beacon Health System’s Cottage Place Gift Shop, and Martin’s Supermarket, have signed on to sell these products and advance the startup’s mission. Using domestic manufacturers, Flourish3D expects to expand the selection when more flowers bloom in the spring and hopes to reach a wider market, especially cancer hospitals in other cities. “We intend to expand to have a catalog of flowers from landmark sites across our campus,” Leevy said. “It truly aligns with the Notre Dame mission to be a force for good in the world.”

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Originally published by Gene Stowe at science.nd.edu on January 26, 2017.