HealthMyne Put the Band Back Together to Unite Medical Images & Data

Some startups are born out of an epiphany or an accident by a brilliant (or lucky) entrepreneur. Other companies’ origin stories are not as sexy, and instead center on a group of smart people putting their heads together to calculate where market winds are blowing and how to get there first.

Madison, WI-based HealthMyne falls into the latter category. The stealthy healthtech startup was sparked by a conversation between local serial entrepreneurs Rock Mackie, Praveen Sinha, and Mark Gehring while celebrating Gehring’s birthday at a local watering hole two years ago.

When the trio sat down at the Great Dane Pub and started kicking around ideas for their next business, they could’ve chosen almost anything, and observers probably wouldn’t have doubted them. After all, their previous startups have achieved more than $3 billion in combined sales, and two of the businesses netted a combined $250 million in initial public offerings (TomoTherapy, since acquired by Accuray for $277 million, and Emageon, which had previously merged with Madison-based UltraVisual Medical Systems).

The entrepreneurs decided that they wanted to make a play in the healthtech space, given their experience in medical devices and healthcare software, the billions of dollars being poured into the sector by venture capitalists around the country, and the Madison area’s growing strength in healthtech—anchored by electronic health records giant Epic Systems.

“We have a monster in town, and they generate a lot of interest,” Mackie says, referring to Epic. “This is a great climate for healthcare IT.”

Many healthtech companies make software that organizes text-based electronic health records so that hospital and insurance administrators can do their jobs better. But not all healthcare software companies target doctors as their end user, nor do all of them work with medical images—partly because images are bigger, more complicated files, and the companies would need U.S. Food & Drug Administration clearance if their products inform the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

That doesn’t faze HealthMyne. The company is developing a search engine and data analytics product that combines electronic health records and medical images, like X-rays and CT scans. The idea is to allow a doctor to rapidly search a healthcare system’s medical imaging archives, bring up the desired image on any device, and overlay a host of other relevant patient data and analytics reports on top of the image. The ultimate goal is to give doctors quicker access to the information they need to make better, faster decisions, ultimately resulting in healthier patients and more cost-effective care.

The company, which officially formed in January 2013, says it has raised $1.25 million so far, a mix of equity investments from the co-founders and angel investors, a federal research grant, and a state technology development loan. It scored a pilot partnership with the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics to conduct early tests of its software, which is handling more than 500,000 medical images and 85,000 pieces of patient data there per day—some 8,200 gigabytes of daily data—the company says.

HealthMyne has another beta-testing partnership with Moffitt Cancer Center, located in Tampa, FL, Sinha says. The executives are reaching out to other major cancer centers, as well as talking with investors to raise more capital. They currently have a staff of 10 people, including seven full-time employees.

The company will soon apply for FDA clearance so it can begin selling its software, and it aims to start generating revenue in 2016, Sinha says.

But before it could even get this far, it had to assemble a top-notch team. And here’s where the story sounds a little bit like the refrain from the movie “The Blues Brothers,” only in this case it’s a few major players in the Madison startup scene who are putting the band back together.

Gehring, a serial entrepreneur who studied biomedical engineering at Marquette University, and Mackie, a UW biomedical engineering professor emeritus, have known each other since the 1980s. In 1992, they co-founded Geometrics, which developed the Pinnacle 3D radiation treatment planning system. In 1996, they sold the company for $3.9 million to ADAC Laboratories, and in 1998, Sinha—who had met Gehring and Mackie while working as an NIH fellow in the UW hospital’s radiation oncology department—took a product manager job at ADAC. Sinha worked alongside Gehring at the company (which is now part of Philips). Mackie had already moved on to found TomoTherapy at that point.

Sinha, HealthMyne’s CEO, and Mackie, the company’s chairman, wanted Gehring as a full-time member of the team from day one, but at the time he was still heavily involved with a different healthtech startup that he co-founded, Propeller Health. Under CEO David Van Sickle, Propeller and its data-collecting sensors for respiratory disease patients have since gained traction with early customers and investors nationwide. Gehring, who says he prefers working with early-stage companies, gradually reduced his time spent working with Propeller as the company began maturing. He served as a HealthMyne advisor until last fall, when he joined the company.

“Getting back together with these guys is so much fun,” Gehring, HealthMyne’s chief strategy officer, says.

Meanwhile, Sinha and Mackie brought on HealthMyne co-founders Roger Chylla and Hao Wang as chief technology officer and chief privacy officer, respectively. Chylla worked with Sinha and Gehring at ADAC, and the trio later co-founded UltraVisual. Wang previously was CTO of NovaShield, an IT security company Sinha co-founded in 2006.

With this group (pictured above) in place, HealthMyne boasts one of the most experienced, successful, and cohesive executive teams among any Wisconsin startup right now.

“We can complete each other’s sentences,” Mackie jokes.

A track record is no guarantee of future success, of course, and HealthMyne’s execs will need to … Next Page »

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Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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