Innovation: Contrast-free MRI software
FoundeR: Michael Schmainda
Elm Grove-based Imaging Biometrics LLC recently filed a patent application for its MRI software, which allows for the procedure to take place without the use of contrast agents.
Imaging Biometrics has developed medical software that takes diagnostic images from CT scans or MRIs of the brain and digitizes them, then runs software algorithms on the image to provide diagnostic help to doctors. The software examines blood supply in an area of the body, for example, to help a radiologist determine whether a mass is a tumor or scar tissue, said David Smith, chief operating officer of IQ-AI, Imaging Biometrics’ parent company.
“One of the problems with MRI scans is that the regrowth of a tumor can appear to be exactly the same as scar tissue,” Smith said. “Often with brain tumors, they will look for a blood supply, obviously, to nourish themselves and grow.”
By demonstrating blood perfusion, the IB software can help doctors and patients avoid an unnecessary surgery or decide whether to continue chemotherapy if what appears to be a tumor is demonstrated to be scar tissue.
The patent application is for “gadolinium-free MR imaging of the brain and other organs.”
“When you do an MRI…typically a contrast agent is introduced into the patient’s body that enhances the image,” Smith said. “Those contrast agents are magnetic, which is why the MRI works.”
But Imaging Biometrics’ technology helps radiologists get a clear image of the MRI without gadolinium-based contrast agents, which the company says show toxicity potential, and would also offer savings for health care providers.
“Using artificial intelligence, what we can do is take a large number of datasets for training purposes, train the AI model and use it to essentially simulate where contrast would normally appear, even without using contrast,” said Michael Schmainda, founder and chief executive officer of Imaging Biometrics.
Schmainda established the company in 2007. It was based on the work his wife, Kathleen, does as a professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Kathleen is a pioneer in diffusion and perfusion imaging, Michael said.
IB was privately funded for its first 10 years, Michael said, gaining FDA clearance and its first patent during that period.
“We were able to successfuly be awarded grants during that time, so it was a combination of sales and grant funding that fueled our business,” he said.
Imaging Biometrics was acquired in May by Jersey-based IQ-AI (formerly known as Flying Brands Ltd.), which trades on the London Stock Exchange. IB’s two employees will continue to work out of their Elm Grove office.
In fact, Smith said IQ-AI (which stands for Image Quantification-Artificial Intelligence) plans to make the Elm Grove office a research and development hub for the firm, which plans to acquire several medical software imaging companies.
“At IQ-AI, what we are looking for are innovative companies that really are first movers into a specific field, and that led us to acquire last year a company in the kidney field,” Smith said. “We’re on the lookout for more businesses to acquire and it’s our intention, given the expertise that is there in Elm Grove, that we use that as a center and build on that.”
The kidney company, Stonechecker, helps a urologist to determine whether a kidney stone would respond well to sound therapy.
And Imaging Biometrics’ software has room to grow, as well, with potential applications to other parts of the body, including the liver.
“The whole field of AI is having a tremendous impact on health care,” Michael said. “This is just one way AI is being applied to predict where disease could occur or reoccur.” ν