In preterm infants, there is a risk of long-term cognitive, motor and behavioral impairments due to hemorrhagic and/or ischemic lesions. If detected early, lesions can be prevented. A bedside imaging modality, capable of early detection of both disorders, is necessary. We present the state of development of a tomographic imager (named Pioneer), that will be capable of determining the oxygenation of the preterm-infant brain with high spatial resolution. Pioneer is a time-resolved near-infrared optical tomography (TR NIROT) instrument. It employs multiple wavelength laser light in short pulses on 11 distinct locations and measures the reemerging light in a con tactless fashion by means of a time-correlated single-photon counting (TCSPC) camera (named Piccolo) covering similar to 4.9 cm(2) with 300 detectors. Timing response of the entire system is 116 ps. An in-house designed biocompatible source ring ensures fixed relative positions of sources and detectors and provides a secure interface between the patient and the probe. At the present state, the NIROT Pioneer system successfully detected a 6x6x50 mm(3) inclusion 3 cm deep inside a phantom. These results confirm that the Pioneer imager is working as expected and is on a solid path towards full 3D tissue oxygenation imaging.