A startup approach to improving MRIs
Undergoing a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan — a procedure that involves lying motionless inside a cylindrical machine while images are taken with a loud magnetic pulse — can cause anxiety in the best of us. A business startup from Concordia is hoping to make the experience a little less daunting.
Concordia-based Motion Correct is competing in the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Neuro Startup challenge. The competition invites groups to develop business plans around 16 patents for inventions currently available for licensing. Teams compete for the chance to take them to market.
Motion Correct chose to work with Invention 14 — a device that improves MRI imaging.
The startup includes two John Molson School of Business MBA students, Alina Parapuf and Motion Correct co-founder Andy Chang, who is also a software programmer and biomedical engineer.
The invention: come correct
An MRI allows doctors and technicians to look at the structure of soft tissue in the body using magnetic pulse imaging. It is the preferred and least invasive imaging method. However, patient movement can prolong the exam time or make a rescan necessary.
It’s estimated that nearly 20 per cent of all MRI exams are negatively affected by patient movement, resulting in rescans that cost more than one billion dollars per year across North America.
Invention 14 uses a visual tracking system to compensate for movement during an MRI scan in real-time. Motion Correct moves with the patient to create a clear image — tracking 100 times per second.
“It’s like a sports photographer shooting a Formula One race,” says Chang. “The cars move very fast. If the photographer is skilled, he moves the camera with the speed of the car to get a clear shot.”
The benefits: saving time and money
According to Chang the team spent a lot of time at the Montreal General Hospital conducting interviews and observing MRI technicians and patients.
“Imagine you have to bring an elderly parent with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or claustrophobia in for an MRI and they have to stay relaxed and still,” Chang says. “It’s especially problematic for young children where a half-hour scan becomes a four-hour procedure.”
At the Sainte-Justine Hospital, children under the age of seven need to fast for eight hours beforehand and then be sedated for their scan, often requiring an anesthesiologist and two nurses. The longer process and prep can make the procedure more traumatic. The Motion Correct team believes that faster scans could improve the patient’s experience and reduce healthcare costs.
The home stretch: lucky number 14?
The Neuro Startup Challenge is nearing the end of the second phase. At the end of March, Motion Correct will submit their comprehensive business plan, and then in April, they’ll do a live pitch for the judges.
“Winning the competition is not a guarantee that the NIH will grant you a license,” says Chang. “But it does give you an advantage — if you win, it means your business plan is quite solid.”
The team feels that the time they spent on the front line will give their pitch a leg up. “It happens a lot in hospitals that products are created that aren’t viable in the real world,” Chang says. “You need to spend time with the people who are using it every day.”
Finalists will be announced on April 17, with winning teams moving ahead to launch their startups, raise capital and apply for their license.
Learn more about Motion Correct and The Neuro Startup Challenge.