Israeli start-up develops GPS for the body

Navigating the body: MediGuide’s new MPS imaging technologyGera Strommer likens MediGuide’s tracking and imaging technology to GPS (global positioning satellite). “The difference is that GPS locates your position on a map, while we locate it in the human body,” explains …

Navigating the body: MediGuide’s new MPS imaging technologyGera Strommer likens MediGuide’s tracking and imaging technology to GPS (global positioning satellite). “The difference is that GPS locates your position on a map, while we locate it in the human body,” explains the company’s president and CEO.

And just as GPS technology has changed the way we navigate our way about the world, so the developers of MediGuide’s medical technology, the Medical Positioning System (MPS), hope it will do the same for doctors and physicians carrying out minimally invasive surgical procedures in the body.

MPS is a highly sophisticated navigation system that lets doctors undertaking a variety of less invasive procedures, track the progress of therapeutic and future diagnostic medical devices (MPS-enabled devices) such as catheters, wires, needles and stents equipped with miniature MPS sensors. These tiny sensors provide doctors with real time 3D information about the body.

The first application of this technology is an MPS enabled Guided Measurement Catheter (GMC), which is to be used with a conventional X-ray angiography system equipped with MPS. The catheter is designed for patients with heart problems – specifically those who are candidates for coronary angiography, and gives an intravascular evaluation of the structure of the coronary arteries. Doctors can track and position the MPS device in real time inside these vessels, either with live fluoroscopy or a recorded background.

The MPS-enabled GMC received European CE certification in December alongside the MPS platform technology.

Today doctors undertaking these procedures often use X-ray systems that require radiated ink to be injected into the blood vessels. “This isn’t a particularly healthy practice,” Strommer, MediGuide’s co founder, tells ISRAEL21c. “The amount of dye you can use has to be limited. There’s a big incentive to reduce the amount of dye.”

Strommer believes that MediGuide’s technology will be able to operate with far less dye than conventional systems. “Nothing has yet been proved, but we assume we will be able to,” says Strommer.

Another problem with traditional systems is that they do not provide a good 3D perspective, but instead offer only a 2D projection of a 3D structure. “Doctors have problems with seeing, the mismatch and foreshortening causes problems,” says Strommer.

“We provide the physician with good 3D perspective, eliminate problems of foreshortening and enable physicians to use real markers to identify and mark various areas of interest during the process – like a lesion or a bifurcation,” explains Strommer. “MediGuide combines very good accuracy with very small sensors that can be integrated on the tiniest of devices.”

Today MediGuide, which employs 60, is collaborating with a number of leading imaging companies including Boston Scientific, Philips, and Siemens, the latter of which has integrated MediGuide’s system into the GMC catheter and X-ray machine.

Yesterday, the company also announced that it had signed a collaborative agreement with Minnesota-based giant Medtronic. The companies will co-develop MPS-enabled navigational products using Medtronic products combined with MediGuide’s technology. As part of the agreement Medtronic has an option to invest an undisclosed sum in MediGuide.

Haifa-based MediGuide was founded in 2001 as a spin-off from Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s major defense technology companies. Strommer had worked at Elbit for many years in various roles. The company was given an exclusive license to use various technologies developed at Elbit for medical applications. The MPS was developed using technology originally applied to the field of avionics.

The company is privately held and received investment from venture capitalists and strategic partners including Elbit, and Vitalife.

The MPS technology is a platform technology that can be used in many different areas. The company’s goal is to start in the field of cardiology, and then move into other fields.

First clinical trials of the technology took place in August last year on 20 patients at Regensburg University Hospital in Germany, in collaboration with Siemens. The trials went well and afterwards the company received CE approval. The company now plans to start new clinical trials at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, and is in discussions with the FDA.

The first sales in Europe and the US are likely to begin in early 2009.
“We have big dreams. We aim to establish our position in cardiology but we believe that we have a strong infrastructure technology and know-how that can be adapted to many different applications,” says Strommer. “Our goal is to make our technology the GPS of the medical world.”

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About Nicky Blackburn

Editor and Israel Director, Nicky Blackburn has worked extensively as a journalist and editor both in Britain and Israel for a range of national and international publications including The Cambridge Evening News, London News, Travel Weekly, Israel High Tech Investor, and The Times of London. She was the Associate Editor at LINK Israel’s Business and Technology Magazine, and the High-Tech Correspondent for The Jerusalem Post.