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OCT firm Michelson Diagnostics sets up US subsidiary

15 Jul 2011

UK-based imaging company specializes in optical coherence tomography (OCT) equipment currently in clinical trials in the US.

Michelson Diagnostics, the UK-based medical imaging specialist that emerged from the now-defunct optics company Sira Technology in 2006, is expanding into the US market with a new subsidiary company.

Michelson Diagnostics, Inc. will be based in Massachusetts under general manager and VP of sales and marketing Karen Miller Gillis – who previously worked at the retinal scanner company Optos. Michelson's founder and CEO Jon Holmes said that Miller Gillis' background in pay-per-use billing of medical technologies would be important in the firm's US expansion.

According to Michelson, the increasing incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer in the US, where an estimated 3.5 million new cases every year are putting strain on Medicare costs, offers a major opportunity for the optical coherence tomography (OCT) scanners developed by the company.

Its “Vivosight” OCT scanner, which uses four laser beams to improve image resolution over conventional approaches to the technique, is cleared by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in the US, and is currently in clinical trials in both the US and elsewhere.

“We believe that Michelson Diagnostics’ product, the VivoSight OCT scanner, will provide dermatologists with new and very useful information about what is happening below the surface of the skin of their patients,” said Miller Gillis.

She adds that patients with non-melanoma skin cancers can be regularly checked with the scanner to check up on treatment efficacy, which in some cases will mean that a biopsy and the associated time delay and stress can be avoided.

OCT artery-imaging tool gets EU approval
Meanwhile, a new combination OCT technique allowing physicians to diagnose and treat coronary artery disease has just received European CE Mark approval. Healthcare giant St Jude Medical says that its “ILUMIEN” system, which combines OCT with a technique called fractional flow reserve (used to measure pressure differences in coronary arteries), will help identify lesions that cause ischemia – the artery-narrowing that obstruct blood flow to the heart.

St Jude says that by using OCT, the system provides physicians with precise measurements of lesion dimensions and vessel size and structure – important for deciding on the best course of action for each patient, and something that is said to be extremely difficult to establish using conventional imaging techniques.

Since its invention at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the early 1990s, OCT has mostly been used in ophthalmology applications – typically the entry point for optics-based healthcare technologies. According to James Fujimoto, who led the MIT research team developing the technique, the emergence of high-speed CCDs has been a key recent development, enabling fast three-dimensional OCT imaging that can assist physicians with real-time diagnostic information.

At the Laser 2011 event in Munich in May, Fujimoto estimated that OCT had been used in some 16 million ophthalmology procedures in the US in 2010 – with a typical cost of $48 per procedure suggesting that it now accounts for a worldwide market in excess of $1 billion.

The potential for vascular applications for imaging artery plaque “invisible” to other imaging technologies was first established in a landmark study of ten patients in 2002 by MIT, and the spin-out company LightLab Imaging that was formed to target this application in particular was acquired by St Jude in July 2010 for $90 million in cash.

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