PhysioSonics, Looking at Blood in the Brain, Aims to Monitor Effects of Drugs

6/29/09Follow @xconomy

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to hold a transducer to the patient’s head,” Harlow says. “It will significantly lower the cost to the hospital, and significantly increase awareness of the patient’s neurological condition.”

PhysioSonics started in 2000 as a spinout from the University of Washington, founded by Robert Frederickson, Michel Kliot, Pierre Mourad, and Jeffrey Jarvik. Harlow, a former investment banker and lead dealmaker with Bothell, WA-based Data Critical, joined PhysioSonics as CEO in January 2007. The company now has 12 to 15 employees.

The transcranial Doppler ultrasound technique has been around since the 1980s, and is generally effective at spotting blood flow disruptions in the brain. The problem is that the technician’s work is time-consuming, and for hospitals looking to make cuts, time is money.

I wanted to know more about how this might be used, or how it might change the standard of care. Stroke is a pretty obvious use, and since it’s one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., that’s no small application. Traumatic head injuries are another, smaller use. But the convenience of the PhysioSonics tool opens up new ways to use transcranial Doppler, Harlow says.

Since it’s so convenient to hook up a patient to this continuous monitoring machine, it’s possible to get readouts before and after any type of brain surgery, or before or after certain drugs are administered to get a real-time sense of cause and effect.

It’s too early to say with any confidence that this approach will be successful, especially since PhysioSonics isn’t saying anything publicly about the clinical trial data to support this, or the cost of the machine, how the price compares with the existing paradigm, and the competition. When I asked which physicians are supporting the technology, Harlow didn’t name names, but said that many of the company’s angel investors are physicians who have seen the technology at the University of Washington.

The company has other applications in the works that it will be able to talk about in coming months. “It’s a big deal to offer physicians trend data versus what they have now, a single data point,” Harlow says. “This is a platform that we’re going to be able to do other things with in the future.”

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