Mobisante has a vision of taking the next step in miniaturization of ultrasound technology, and today it has raised some of the cash it needs to carry out the idea.
The Redmond, WA-based company has raised an undisclosed amount of seed financing from Seattle-based WRF Capital. Mobisante plans to use the cash to finish some key development steps with technology that puts diagnostic ultrasound capability on a smartphone. If all goes well, the company could win clearance from the FDA to start selling the product in the first or second quarter of 2011, says CEO Sailesh Chutani.
Mobisante was founded by Chutani, a former senior director in Microsoft’s Windows Mobile group, and David Zar, an ultrasound researcher who previously worked at Washington University in St. Louis. Their plan, which engineer Nikhil George described in demo last week at an MIT Enterprise Forum event, is to hook an ultrasound probe into a smartphone so that its diagnostic capability can fit in a doctor’s pocket. Traditional ultrasound machines, made by companies like General Electric, Philips, and Siemens, can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and sit on big carts that are operated primarily by radiologists. Mobisante is hoping that by going with a low-cost, super-lightweight alternative, it will enable ordinary physicians from a wider array of disciplines to look inside the body quickly and easily for things like internal bleeding.
“Mobisante is a wonderful example of new innovative companies that are leveraging the deep local talent in Seattle to solve important global health problems,” said Loretta Little, managing director of WRF Capital, in a company statement.
If Mobisante can deliver this kind of small ultrasound tool to the marketplace, it could have significant implications for global health. About 70 percent of the population around the world currently lacks access to ultrasound imaging, Mobisante says, because of the cost and complex nature of many ultrasound systems. Since cell phones are so widely used around the world, the ultrasound images can be sent from remote areas to consulting physicians in a hospital, by building on a lot of pre-existing wireless communications infrastructure, the company says.
Mobisante isn’t the only company thinking about tackling this problem—Bothell, WA-based SonoSite (NASDAQ: SONO) has worked with doctors in Uganda to see what kind of impact its hand-held ultrasound machines can make. Like SonoSite has learned in its years of ultrasound miniaturization, the technology that will have to prove its medical value to physicians, and its economic value to the folks who purchase equipment. As I noted last week, the images George showed to the audience at the MIT Enterprise Forum are not the kind of vivid pictures that heavy-duty and expensive machines on the market deliver now. The key question is whether they are good enough to help doctors perform some fundamental tasks that they can’t already do in cost-effective way today.
It may not be long before Mobisante gets its chance to really prove to doctors what its tool can do. George, in his talk last week, says the company is ready for the challenge.
“This is not a toy,” George said. “It’s a real ultrasound machine.”
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