A decade of hard work is beginning to pay off for breast cancer researchers at Detroit’s Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, whose spinoff company, Delphinus Medical Technologies, announced last night it has attracted $8 million in venture capital to help bring its breast cancer imaging device to market.
The lead investor is Arboretum Ventures of Ann Arbor, MI. Beringea, with offices in Farmington Hills, MI, co-led the deal through its InvestMichigan! Growth Capital Fund, which provides expansion capital to promising Michigan businesses. Also joining was North Coast Technology Investors, with offices in Ann Arbor and Midland, MI.
Delphinus Medical’s product, SoftVue, has been undergoing development at Karmanos for the past 10 years. It does not use radiation or compression, as in mammography, to image the breast to detect early stages of breast cancer. Instead, the breast is submerged in warm water and surrounded by an ultrasound ring that emits sound waves much like sonar and employs sophisticated computer algorithms to build detailed, three-dimensional images of the tissue.
I first heard about this technology a little more than a year ago when I spoke with Dr. Cassann Blake, then team leader of the Breast Multidisciplinary Team at the Karmanos Institute. She was quite excited about the possibilities of what was then known by the acronym CURE (Computerized Ultrasound Risk Evaluation) because it could potentially detect breast cancer sooner than standard ultrasound or MRI. She said at the time that she hopes the device could complement other methods of imaging and that Karmanos researchers were in the process of finding out whether it was actually more accurate than MRI.
Since then, CURE was renamed SoftVue, and Delphinus was launched in late 2009 to shepherd the product to market. Karmanos has the only SoftVue prototype now, but the company says it has already secured commitments from several health institutions to purchase the SoftVue system.
The company said the VC investment will enable it to build the first 10 machines that will be used in clinical settings, which in turn will help validate initial findings in order to win FDA approval.