Elscint forms alliance with SGIto develop 3-D ultrasound scanner

August 2, 1995

$13 million budgeted for joint R&D effortMedical imaging vendor Elbit and several of its subsidiaries willjoin with Silicon Graphics Biomedical, an Israeli subsidiary ofSilicon Graphics, in a four-year effort to develop a low-cost,real-time

$13 million budgeted for joint R&D effort

Medical imaging vendor Elbit and several of its subsidiaries willjoin with Silicon Graphics Biomedical, an Israeli subsidiary ofSilicon Graphics, in a four-year effort to develop a low-cost,real-time 3-D ultrasound scanner.

About $13 million has been set aside for the project. Of thatamount, $5 million will be funded by the U.S.-Israel Science andTechnology Commission, a joint program between the U.S. and Israeligovernments that promotes cooperation in areas of science andtechnology. The commission earlier this year awarded a multimilliondollar grant to GE Medical Systems and several other companiesto develop a solid-state digital gamma camera (SCAN 2/15/95).

The Israeli government has approved its $2.5 million share, accordingto Dr. Thomas Spackman, president of Elscint's U.S. subsidiary.The matching $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Commercerequires a Congressional okay.

The joint R&D team will attempt to solve one of the toughestproblems in medical imaging: the relative difficulty in interpretingultrasound images because of the 2-D nature of their presentation.

"One reason ultrasound is done at many institutions witha physician present with the technologist is because images arenot presented in a rational fashion," Spackman said.

The joint Elbit/SGI project aims at breaking price barriers whenit enters the 3-D market. The high-performance machine scheduledto emerge from R&D in 1999 will be positioned in the uppermidtier in terms of pricing. It will feature real-time display.

Elscint has subcontracted Elscintec, its Israeli-based ultrasounddivision, to handle beamformer design and system integration,Spackman said. Diasonics, an Elbit subsidiary in Santa Clara,CA, will develop 3-D real-time probes, and SGI will design 3-Dsoftware and computer hardware.

The agreement grew out of existing joint efforts between Elscintand SGI to develop a common computer platform for Elscint CT andMRI scanners, according to Spackman. Elscint CT products are equippedwith SGI Indy workstations. Its 2-tesla Prestige MRI scanner operateswith an SGI Onyx.

SGI's involvement in Elbit's 3-D ultrasound project is consistentwith its strategy to bring off-the-shelf technologies to medicalimaging, according to John Flynn, SGI's medical applications managerin Mountain View, CA.

The arrangement also advances SGI's aspirations in medical imaging.Flynn disclosed in 1994 that SGI plans to pass Sun Microsystemsas the leading supplier of medical imaging workstations.

There is evidence that SGI's medical applications group is makingprogress toward that end. Medical imaging at SGI is the fastestgrowing unit of an extremely fast-growing company. Overall, SGIreported 45% revenue growth for the fiscal year ended June 30.Revenues were $2.2 billion.

The joint Elbit/SGI research effort will need that momentum tocatch up to the competition, which had a head start in the pursuitof practical 3-D diagnostic ultrasound. Acoustic Imaging, TomTecImaging and Kretz all have developed near-real-time systems. AcousticImaging and TomTec received Food and Drug Administration clearancefor their products earlier this year (SCAN 2/15/95 and 3/15/95).ATL, GE and Diasonics displayed experimental 3-D probes at the1994 Radiological Society of North America meeting.