Jump Start: Health care software developer Otologic Technologies chooses to locate in Milwaukee

Den Wenger
Den Wenger Credit: Lila Aryan

Otologic Technologies Inc.

Location: Milwaukee
Founders: Dr. Aaron Moberly, Metin Gurcan, Darrin McCall, Dan Wenger and John Guequierre.
Founded: May 2019
Product: Ear disease diagnostic AI software
Website: otologictech.com
Employees: 5
Goal: Complete National Institutes of Health grant research work. Pursue Small Business Technology Transfer grant to fund commercialization.

It could have incorporated in Ohio, where it was invented. Or North Carolina, where one of its inventors now works. Though leaders pitched Otologic Technologies to make its home in those locales, the company ultimately decided to incorporate in Wisconsin.

“We actually chose Wisconsin because of the number of things that are going on here for startups, particularly tech startups and medical device startups,” said Dan Wenger, chief strategy officer and one of five founders of Otologic, which makes artificial intelligence software for ear disease diagnosis.

The company was officially founded in May, and is in the process of moving its headquarters from Madison to Milwaukee, starting in a coworking space. Its founders are raising a $250,000 friends-and-family funding round to begin product development and commercialization.

“The technology that we’re commercializing has been in development for about four years,” Wenger said.

Ear aches are one of the most common reasons people, and especially children, go to the doctor. But diagnoses of ear conditions are inaccurate up to 70% of the time, Wenger said.

“We believe it’s mostly the subjective nature of the diagnostic process. That process hasn’t changed in over 100 years,” Wenger said. “The tools provide limited visibility. You’re often working with a cranky, uncomfortable, squirming patient like a child.”

So co-inventors Dr. Aaron Moberly and Metin Gurcan used a grant from Ohio State University to develop artificial intelligence software that compares a short digital otoscope video of the patient’s ear to known cases of ear disease to find a match and suggest a possible diagnosis to the primary care provider.

“The doctor makes a final decision, but this time they’ve got some objective guidance from a system of known cases,” Wenger said.

Moberly and Gurcan are working on a two-year, $420,000 National Institutes of Health grant through September 2020 to expand the group of cases in the system to improve its accuracy. Early results have shown physicians’ accuracy rate improving from 30% to 85% with the use of Otologic, Wenger said.

In addition, primary care physicians with whom Otologic has tested the software have said they appreciate the ability to share the otoscope image with the patient to show them the problem, as well.

The company plans to move toward FDA clearance and commercialization over the next couple of years.

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Molly Dill
Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.