Case Study

Ontario company develops world’s first portable dual energy x-ray detector

Having an organization that exists specifically to develop programs for Ontario biotech is a ‘must have’ to create a robust local ecosystem. I think OBIO® is pretty key to helping the Ontario biotech ecosystem grow to really amazing heights.

Mark TaylorDirector of Commercialization, University Health Network

With two images taken simultaneously with different characteristics or different energy, we can extract additional diagnostic information. I firmly believe that this is helpful for detecting diseases in the chest.

Patrik RogallaRadiologist, University Health Network

We have the capability to see pneumonia or changes in the lungs earlier than standard x-ray because we eliminate the rib cage from the image so the clinician can look at only the soft tissue.

Amol KarnickPresident and CEO, KA Imaging

High quality diagnostic imaging is essential to diagnosing and treating diseases and illnesses affecting the lungs. Now an Ontario company, KA Imaging, has developed the world’s first portable dual energy x-ray detector—an innovative technology that can be installed on any x-ray machine to significantly enhance the quality of chest x-rays.

Dual energy x-ray uses two radiation exposures (one high level energy and one low level energy) to separate soft tissue and bone in the images. This allows clinicians to look at the lung tissue without ribs in the way, making it far easier to detect changes related to cancer or other diseases in the lungs. Until now, the technology has had a significant limitation: because the two exposures are separated by about half a second, any patient movement can create a blurring or streak (known as a motion artifact) that reduces the clarity of the image. Even the beat of the heart against the lungs can alter the image.

KA Imaging has solved that problem. Rather than requiring two exposures at the emitting end, the company’s new x-ray detector separates the high and low energy at the receiving end. Only one radiation exposure is needed, resulting in clearer, sharper images. The KA detector is also easily installed on existing x-ray units, so any x-ray machine—fixed or portable—can now become a dual energy system at minimal cost.

EAHN™ project supports test of technology for COVID-19 patients

In early 2020, KA Imaging was working with University Health Network (UHN) to evaluate use of its new technology in lung cancer screening. When the pandemic began, the company immediately saw the technology’s potential for diagnosing and treating COVID-19 patients; many of these patients experience pneumonia, and a high-quality dual energy image could potentially identify these changes in the lung earlier than a standard x-ray. The technology’s portability would also be a distinct advantage, since it would reduce the need to move COVID-19 patients through the hospital.

The opportunity to test the detector in this patient population arrived through an initiative launched by OBIO’s Early Adopter Health Network (EAHN™) to advance new technologies with the potential to address COVID-19. Through EAHN™, companies with innovative health technologies are matched with health organizations to test, refine, adopt, procure and disseminate novel technologies. KA Imaging and UHN were accepted into the program and launched a study focused on cancer patients who have received a stem cell transplant. For these immunocompromised patients, pneumonia would be particular concern.

The study enables clinicians to test whether dual energy images allow them to find cases of pneumonia that they would not see using a standard x-ray. It provides data to help determine whether use of the technology increases clinicians’ confidence in their diagnosis.

Completing a study during the pandemic has proved challenging, and the study continues to enrol patients. However, using the technology in the hospital setting has already provided KA Imaging with important learnings, allowing the company to optimize its algorithms and fine tune the technology to ensure better image quality.

When someone is positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms, what do you do? It gets very difficult. You want something that is quick and fast and helps you decide whether a patient should actually seek medical attention rather than just going home and isolating.

Patrik RogallaRadiologist, University Health Network

When you get into hospitals early, you are able to work closely with them with the understanding that this is an early stage and there could be some hiccups and problems. When you have the right people on board, they’re very open and understanding.

Amol KarnickPresident and CEO, KA Imaging

If we’ve been involved with the product development and the company from early stages, we’re already really familiar with what the product is able to do. That can really help when we’re bringing on technologies on the clinical side.

Mark TaylorDirector of Commercialization, University Health Network

Building a Canadian and international market

Although the EAHN™ study focused on COVID-19 patients, KA Imaging believes its technology can improve diagnosis and care for a broad group of diseases, from lung cancer to tuberculosis. And while the technology won’t replace the advanced capabilities of CT scans, the number of CTs in Canada is limited, particularly in more remote areas. Enhanced x-ray images could likely address some of the demand.

The company estimates its initial market is $2 billion. However, approximately 500,000 x-ray systems are installed globally, creating significant market potential. KA Imaging has already engaged distributors to handle sales, support and installation in the US, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Australia and Taiwan and applied for regulatory approval in Europe. The company is also working on plans for Canadian distribution.

EAHN’s program will help that process. At the conclusion of each EAHN™ study, the hospital partner provides a Determination of Value and Recommendation for Procurement. The document details the outcomes of the evaluation, the value the technology offers to patients, clinicians and the system, and whether the organization recommends the technology for procurement. KA Imaging believes a recommendation from a well-known hospital like UHN will make an impact as the company builds its market. The company also values OBIO’s advocacy for Ontario health technology companies. Partnering with EAHN™ allows early-stage companies to showcase their technologies to hospitals and to government, ensuring a broader audience for their products.

In Canada we don’t have widespread CT units. There are areas that are underserved, where the only diagnostic equipment is an x-ray unit and patients have to be flown out to another facility to get a CT scan. Think about how much we could do in those areas.

Patrik RogallaRadiologist, University Health Network

We’ve got amazing technology in Canada. We’ve got innovators that are creating game-changing products. Yet Canada is slow when it comes to adoption. The early adoption network really helps to overcome some of these initial challenges.

Amol KarnickPresident and CEO, KA Imaging

The work OBIO® is doing really helps start-up companies get their messages amplified to different channels, whether it be the hospitals or the government.

Amol KarnickPresident and CEO, KA Imaging

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