Ultrasound and Wisconsin

Fujifilm has announced a $995 million cash acquisition of a company called Sonosite. Normally a transaction so far outside my space (cancer drugs) would not catch my eye but this announcement was quite interesting for two reasons.

First, Sonosite has had some relatively bold TV spots. While I was watching football this fall, I saw The Rehabilitator, which is an ad for ultrasound equipment that is supposed to provide enhanced images. How often do you see doctors with the overlay of superhero imagery (the floating cape now a white coat) in medical advertisements? 

The ad and the transaction are also notable to me because a local (Madison, WI) biotech company is in the ultrasound space. Echometrix is working to provide quantitative ultrasound imaging and to tie the imaging not only to initial diagnosis of musculoskeletal injury but also to track repair over time. Sam Adams, who runs the company, recently invited me to an open house where I had the chance to see a demo of the EchoSoft system, which uses acoustoelasticity in conjunction with ultrasound. A key differentiator to other approaches is that the technology allows for evaluation of dynamic, as opposed to static muscle. The technology came out of Ray Vanderby’s labs at UW Madison. If you are interested in seeing how it works, a beta version of their EchoSoft Portal available for research use. Since they are working on their 510(k) approval, the product is limited to investigational use. If you read about lean biotechs, Echmoetrix is a good example of doing a lot with relatively small investment. Angel investors and SBIR grants have funded the company’s product development and the team has been able to form a number of exciting partnerships that will help them collect the clinical data to support their development of the product. Their collaboration with the US Marines to evaluate possible tendon damage during training hikes was announced earlier this year. Echometrix also has a clinical trial ongoing with the PanAm clinic in Winnipeg, which is funded by Manitoba’s Science and Technology International Collaboration (STIC) fund.

One of the differences between the coasts and Wisconsin is the size of our biotech communities. While I can’t necessarily get a room packed full of cancer drug development folks, I can always find a group of passionate entrepreneurs working to bring medical innovation to patients.


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