Techniscan creates prototype for ultrasound-based CT system

July 24, 2002

Small firm builds team composed of top managersA new weapon in the fight for breast cancer detection has taken shape in the engineering lab of Salt Lake City start-up Techniscan. The company has completed the prototype of an

Small firm builds team composed of top managers

A new weapon in the fight for breast cancer detection has taken shape in the engineering lab of Salt Lake City start-up Techniscan. The company has completed the prototype of an ultrasound scanner that produces computerized tomographs similar to ones made from CT and MR data. The clinical trials needed to prove the value of this technology--and pave the way for marketing in the U.S.--are scheduled to begin this summer.

Software is the cornerstone of this new product, dubbed SafeScan. The algorithms make sense of data describing the breast obtained using ultrasound inverse scattering and reflection.

"Conventional ultrasound gives you a flashlight look into the breast," said Bill Varley, vice president of marketing. "This technology takes multiple images of the breast and reconstructs the entire breast in 3D."

Positioned by the company as a screening device secondary to x-ray mammography, SafeScan is designed to produce a series of tomographic images using quantitative tissue characterization (QTC). This technique measures the speed and absorption of ultrasound. Measurements are matched with data obtained from reflected ultrasound waves. Together, they provide images that may be useful in distinguishing cancers from other lesions and tissue structures, said David Robinson, CEO of the company.

"Unlike other imaging modalities, where you're getting fair to good visual information about anatomy, we provide underlying information about the physiology itself," Robinson said.

Company executives believe the technology is especially suited to women with dense breasts and others who are not easily examined using x-ray mammography. Particularly appealing is the relative independence of the technique from operator skill compared with conventional ultrasound. SafeScan uses two large-aperture transducers positioned to image breasts suspended in the perfect medium for ultrasound--water.

The credibility of any young company with a clinically unproven idea depends heavily on its ability to attract talented management. On that score, Techniscan has done well.

Varley was one of the top executives at Acuson, a pioneer of modern diagnostic ultrasound and leading provider of radiology systems before its acquisition by Siemens Medical Solutions. He has an extensive background in marketing, business, sales, management, and product development.

Barry Hanover, Techniscan's chief operating officer, served previously as vice president of engineering for OEC Medical Systems, a provider of high-performance digital intraoperative/interventional x-ray imaging systems prior to its acquisition by GE Medical Systems.

Steven Johnson, the company's founder, chief scientist, and board chairman, is listed on 13 U.S. patents in fields ranging from ultrasound imaging to inverse scattering and x-ray imaging.

"The key to success is the people you have planning, researching, implementing, and working to accomplish a goal," said Robinson, who previously founded and served as CEO of PhatPipe, a provider of broadband technology. "The management team is paramount in terms of our success."