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so they can kick the tires, and over time active users will pay fees, Lyon says. By going the free route, FiatLux hopes to build up a big base of users within a number of medical niches, like cardiology, orthopedics, oncology, and neurosurgery, Lyon says. Once the audience is assembled, and engaged, FiatLux also hopes to sell sponsorships to Big Pharma or medical device companies that want to get their brand in front of those specialists, Lyon says.
Of course, FiatLux isn’t the only group of people who want to democratize the storage, analysis, and sharing of CT and MRI images. Lexington, MA-based Able Software markets a product called 3-D Doctor, and it has been around a long time, and boasts a long list of users like Massachusetts General Hospital, the FDA, and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. Another program comes from an open-source competitor called OsiriX.
One key point of differentiation, Lyon says, is that a comparable 3-D Doctor program costs $1,800 to $2,000 a year—presumably more than FiatLux will cost. And OsiriX is made to work with Apple devices, not Windows PCs, Lyon says, which are much more common in the medical industry.
“There is no free viewer for a Windows-based system,” Lyon says, other than the one being offered now by FiatLux.
Since the free download came out in November, FiatLux has attracted about 85 registered users and 2,000 downloads, Lyon says. [Correction: 5:04 pm Pacific, 3/23/10–an earlier version said there were 200 downloads, but Lyon informed me he misspoke before]. It didn’t sound like very much for a free product, although Lyon insists FiatLux is still early in its effort to introduce the product. He’s hopeful that physicians will find it easy to use, that it will help them explain what they are doing with their patients, and that word will spread among the docs.
I didn’t get a very detailed sense of how big the market potential might be for a business like FiatLux, partly because it’s unclear at what point the free test-drive period would end, and when the subscription would kick in for heavy users, and how much that might cost. But Lyon notes that a large portion of the 800,000 physicians in the U.S. might find such a program useful.
The business plan has been in place for some time, and Lyon says his job is mainly to execute on it. He also hopes to raise $2 million to $3 million in a Series C financing round. If they can get that money, he says, who knows how many physicians and patients will want to download the program? “We want to open up these images to the non-radiology specialty physicians,” Lyon says. “We think we can make a whole world of data accessible to them that really isn’t today.”