Imaging software gets sales OK
Intrinsic is out to improve 2-D scans, cut costs
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CEO Jorey Chernett says Intrinsic Medical Imaging LLC is six months away from a launch of its software that converts flat medical scans into 3-D images.
Photo: GLENN TRIEST
Intrinsic Medical Imaging LLC, a Bloomfield Hills-based medical imaging software company, has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin sales of a workstation that helps physicians more accurately read 2-D computed tomography scans.
If Intrinsic's stand-alone imaging software works more effectively than the software built into existing CT equipment, billions of dollars in unnecessary cardiology and other medical procedures could be avoided and patient safety, quality and satisfaction could be improved, Intrinsic CEO Jorey Chernett said.
"With health care reform and the focus on accountable-care organizations putting more responsibility on providers (and health insurers) to reduce costs and improve quality, we believe we have a solution to provide more accurate information to reduce the amount of cardiac catheterization (diagnosis and removal of plaque in the arteries) procedures," Chernett said.
In the U.S., cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, accounting for 25 percent of total deaths in 2009. Each year, more than 1.2 million angioplasties are performed, costing $25 billion. As many as 40 percent of those procedures may be unnecessary, said a 2007 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Chernett said his 1-year-old company is six months away from a soft launch of its IMI Spectrum 3-D imaging workstation. Intrinsic is testing the workstation at Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak and the Detroit Medical Center.
Intrinsic's software enables cardiologists to convert 2-D CT images into 3-D without loss of data, Chernett said.
"We take data in its raw form, either 2-D or in some cases 3-D, and use novel rendering techniques that allow doctors to view it more accurately and with more relevance than before," Chernett said.
Simon Dixon, M.D., Beaumont's chief of cardiology, said he and cardiologist A. Neil Bilolikar, M.D., have been working with Intrinsic for several years to refine the software program. The two plan to publish a paper in a medical journal with their findings.
By the end of the year, Beaumont will have reviewed 50 to 100 standard CT imaging scans of coronary arteries taken between 2007 to 2010 that were found to have stenosis, or narrowing of the arteries, Dixon said.
"We will look for the degree of stenosis between the old (images) and the new (images improved with the Intrinsic software) and look for disagreement," Dixon said. "If there is disagreement, we will (look at data from) a more invasive diagnostic approach as a tiebreaker" to the CT scans.
For example, Bilolikar said, if original imaging scans show 60 percent stenosis of the artery and the enhanced images show only 30 percent stenosis, researchers would look at an intravascular ultrasound test, if one was taken, to confirm the actual amount of stenosis.
Dixon said Beaumont's research is aimed at determining whether Intrinsic's software helps cardiologists more accurately read the images than the existing CT software.
"There sometimes is calcified plaque in arteries that gives the most false positives (that leads to overestimation in the degree of stenosis)," said Bilolikar, adding that if less than 17 percent stenosis is found in the artery, depending on the location of the plaque, cardiologists might opt to treat the chest pains medically, or with drugs.
A study this year by the Ann Arbor-based Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation suggests more discussion is needed between patients and cardiologists before a catherization lab procedure is conducted. The cath lab procedure tells a physician how much a patient's arteries are clogged.
Treatment options for patients with stable coronary artery disease could include elective angioplasties or the less expensive but often equally effective medical treatment with drugs, aspirin and lifestyle changes, said Marianne Udow-Phillips, the center's director. The difference in costs between an angioplasty and medical treatment is about $10,000, she said.
Despite a drop in medical imaging studies the past six years from a 6 percent annual rate to less than 3 percent, Intrinsic is entering a growing market for medical imaging enhancement software.
Competitors to Intrinsic include at least two other stand-alone companies, including Minnetonka, Minn.-based Vital Images Inc., and such large medical imaging manufacturers as Siemens, General Electric Healthcare and Phillips Healthcare. The manufacturers also offer imaging enhancement software with their products.
Since 1995, Vital Images has been selling Vitrea, medical imaging software that is used by cardiologists, neurologists and oncologists, said Erkan Akyuz, the company's president.
"The primary benefits to physicians include the ability to view intricate details of anatomy and assess for the presence or absence of disease," said Akyuz.
Akyuz said he estimates the stand-alone advanced visualization market at $150 million to $300 million in annual sales.
However, worldwide demand for 3-D medical imaging is expected to reach $5.9 billion by 2017, said San Jose-based Global Industry Analysts Inc. That market includes medical imaging manufacturing companies that are enhancing their products.
Chernett said he believes the emphasis on reducing costs under health care reform and accountable-care organizations will help expand the market.
Besides cardiology uses, Chernett said Intrinsic's software will allow physicians to use a standard 2-D CT scan to analyze the conditions of bones and other organs in the body in 3-D views.
The company will eventual develop diagnostic and medical device products, Chernett said.
Next year, Intrinsic plans on adding as many as eight salespeople to its 25-employee company, Chernett said.
Intrinsic, which has no revenue yet, has been internally financed, said Chernett, a co-founder. Chernett declined to project revenue. The other two co-founders are Lee McKenzie, chief technology officer; and Mark McKenzie, principal engineer. So far this year, Intrinsic has raised about $5 million to fund the startup, according to Chernett and Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Chernett also is a co-founder and CEO of Pointillist Capital Management LLC, a Chicago-based venture capital firm. He said Pointillist has not funded Intrinsic.
Jay Greene: (313) 446-0325, email@example.com. Twitter: @jaybgreene