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3-D ultrasound firm Life Imaging shifts focus from end users to OEMs


Company hopes modular offerings will draw businessInterest in 3-D ultrasound continues to rise, bolstered by new scanners and add-on modules hitting the market. One of the companies developing 3-D ultrasound technology is Life Imaging Systems,

Company hopes modular offerings will draw business

Interest in 3-D ultrasound continues to rise, bolstered by new scanners and add-on modules hitting the market. One of the companies developing 3-D ultrasound technology is Life Imaging Systems, which is shifting its corporate focus to match the market's emphasis on Windows NT and OEM distribution. The company plans to use this month's Radiological Society of North America meeting to highlight a new line of 3-D products targeted at OEMs.

Life Imaging of London, Ontario, was formed in 1994 from research conducted at the John P. Robarts Research Institute in London. The company's first offering was an Apple Macintosh-based stand-alone 3-D workstation called Sirus 3-D Add-On System. The company originally tried to sell Sirus to end users through distributors, like Cone Instruments of Solon, OH. But the domination of the ultrasound market by large firms and growing questions about the longevity of the Macintosh platform led Life to shift its focus to emphasize relationships with OEMs.

Life's new L3D line of products reflects this change. The products include 3-D software developers' toolkits to enable OEMs to develop their own 3-D technology more quickly. Life believes its modular approach to 3-D will enable it to offer a flexible line of products, therefore giving it increased cachet with OEMs looking for integration options, according to Denis O'Connor, president and CEO.

"Our expertise has been with clinically based medical software," O'Connor said. "What we've done is take key pieces of our integrated product (and packaged them). Some OEMs have visualization, but they want acquisition, or vice versa, so they buy our toolkit."

Life Imaging's software toolkit, 3-D Visualization Software Developer's Kit, allows OEMs to combine their 2-D technology with 3-D ultrasound visualization algorithms. It includes modular plug-ins for such applications as rendering, segmenting, and measuring images in a variety of ultrasound modalities. Life sells the toolkit to OEMs for about $7500.

Although the Sirus brand name has been retired, the company continues to refine a 3-D workstation, L3Di, that can be integrated with 2-D scanners from OEMs. It has shifted from Macintosh to the Windows NT platform. L3Di includes software, a computer, and a probe, and is a 2-D/3-D product that can acquire a volume of images in three to 10 seconds and reconstruct them in less than a second. The system boasts streamlined mechanical movers on the probe, as well as technology for external imaging that doesn't require movers at all but uses magnetic tracking to allow freehand scanning.

Life developed a prototype of the system in conjunction with B&K Medical of Denmark (SCAN 4/1/98), and B&K will sell L3Di directly in North America, Europe, and Asia. L3Di will begin shipping this month to OEMs, with a price of about $75,000 for the integrated system.

In addition to its contract with B&K, Life Imaging has established contracts with Nucletron of Veenendaal, the Netherlands, to develop a real-time brachytherapy planning and guidance system, and Miravant Medical Technologies of Santa Barbara, CA, to develop a photodynamic therapy planning and guidance system.

After a third financing round last month, Life Imaging received another cash infusion from four prominent Canadian investors, including the Society of Finance and Innovation, or Sofinov (SCAN 10/28/98). The firm intends to apply the funds to its sales and marketing effort, as well as use the money to prepare for an initial public offering. The investments should give Life the financial wherewithal needed to attract OEM customers. Life Imaging currently generates about $2 million (Canadian) in annual revenues.

"We want to partner with major OEM corporations, and they want to partner with companies with some balance-sheet strength," O'Connor said. "We expect that this financing will carry us through our operational break-even point, which we anticipate in about 18 months. We are preparing for an initial public offering in the future, and the purpose of this round (of financing) was to get enough money to ramp up and be prepared for an IPO."

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