MedVR tech adds new dimension

17/12/2019 - 12:14

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A WA-based startup is pioneering multidimensional software to give surgeons better information for complex procedures.

MedVR tech adds new dimension
IN OPERATION: Thomas Hanley (left) and Jamie Hill demonstrating the MedVR technology. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

A WA-based startup is pioneering multidimensional software to give surgeons better information for complex procedures.

For all modern medicine’s innovation and high-tech precision, surgeons still must contend with the inherent limitations of two-dimensional CT scans, which cannot reveal a complete picture of the patient’s body.

Overcoming that information gap was the driving force behind MedVR, a multidimensional and interactive platform created by Western Australia-based med-tech startup Singular Health for clinicians and surgeons to visualise scans ahead of surgery.

Using widely available gaming hardware, MedVR enables surgeons to see multidimensional models of each patient’s body, and plan operations accordingly.

Singular Health chief executive Thomas Hanly admits that, while surgeons and clinicians can be wary of medtech startups, MedVR has inspired the confidence of medical professionals because their feedback had been incorporated into the software’s ongoing development.

“There’s a whole string of ancillary items that need to be taken care of to make sure you’re doing it properly … a lot of quality control, system testing and trial procedures we’re able to do with a range of medical professionals that work with the team,” Mr Hanly told Business News.

“We have dentists and neurosurgeons who work with us who can provide us with that feedback.”

Those individual clinicians have so far delivered the bulk of Singular Health’s client base, with demand largely made up of younger surgeons and dentists.

While doctor-patient confidentiality has precluded the company from receiving feedback regarding the technology’s usefulness in specific cases, chief operating officer Jamie Hill said general feedback had pointed to it giving clinicians critical information that two-dimensional scans might otherwise have missed.

“We do know that dentists have been using this to avoid unnecessary surgery in wisdom teeth removal and root canal treatment,” Mr Hill said.

“We also know other dental professionals have been able to identify where patients need additional help, and the reason is that because you can view it in 3D space and strip away things you normally can’t strip away.

“When a dentist looks at your gum line, he’s making assumptions about what’s underneath, whereas when you can strip that away and look at the bone, you’ll see from a periodontal point of view certain gum infections manifest themselves in bone reduction.”

The ability to provide large quantities of information to clinicians has informed The University of Sydney’s use of the technology for training purposes in its dental school.

Collating scans of patients with specific diseases and conditions, students can view the model alongside surgeons and specialists through the VR headset, going through the clinical case step-by-step.

“Cadavers are an expensive process; this doesn’t necessarily replace them, but what it does is provide the ability to look at hundreds or maybe even thousands of people with cancer on their kidney, tumour on their brain or a lesion on their tooth,” Mr Hanly said.

Singular Health’s success in demonstrating its MedVR technology comes as investment into medical research and innovation has become a priority for the state government.

That was evident when Health Minister Roger Cook, appearing at an event earlier this month hosted by the Australian Information Industry Association, touted the largesse of the government’s recently legislated Future Health Research and Innovation fund.

With the Bill having passed the Legislative Assembly in November, the fund will be financed by annual interest earned by WA’s $1.3 billion future fund, adding another $40 million to existing government investment by 2021.

Despite government attention to the space, Mr Hanly said Singular Health had not applied for grant funding, instead raising a total $700,000 through two capital raises.

With Mr Hanly and Mr Hill confirming to Business News that they would be seeking to list the company on the ASX in the next six months, Mr Hanly said private investment would be better for Singular Health’s growth, as it would encourage the company to be responsive to the market.

“It distracts you from the commercialisation of the product if you focus on where the next grant is going to come from instead of where the next sale is going to come from,” he said.

“Our focus has been on getting this product ready for sale and avoid as much of that distraction as possible. If we looked too long and hard at grants it would stop us from focusing on the real goal.”

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