Can EMVision's portable brain scanner disrupt stroke treatment as we know it?

Can EMVision's portable brain scanner disrupt stroke treatment as we know it?

Studies show the brain ages by about 3.6 years for every hour that passes without appropriate treatment after a stroke.

The disease is the world's second-leading killer after cancer worldwide, but to make a diagnoss for treatment the current solution comes in the form of stationary, complex and expensive imaging technologies like CT and MRI.

Brisbane-based EMVision (ASX: EMV), which successfully raised $6 million and listed on the ASX in December last year, may be able to give the health sector a better option.

As the result of more than 10 years of research into electromagnetic microwave imaging at the University of Queensland by a team of 30 researchers, EMVision's portable, cost effective, non-invasive brain scanner is on track towards commercialisation.

EMVision is led by Dr Ron Weinberger, who was the co-developer of Nanosonics' (ASX: NAN) trophon ultrasound probe and as CEO transformed the company from small R&D outfit to one of Australia's largest medical device companies with a market cap that's now almost $1.6 billion.

The device has potential for use in stroke wards, ICU, ambulances and remote locations and will bring stroke decision support and monitoring to the patient, regardless of where they are.

This could prove vital, as despite recent advances in life-saving treatments for acute ischemic stroke, less than five per cent of stroke patients qualify for intervention because they do not present early enough.

The portable solution won't just come in handy for remote areas, but could even be used for monitoring of stroke victims at their bedside while recovering, thus potentially reducing the amount of recurrent strokes which would greatly reduce hospital costs and the strain on the healthcare system.

Future versions of the device are expected to also provide rapid stroke decision support in ambulances, allowing patients to be identified and transported directly to specialist hospitals for intervention.

The device uses low-power electromagnetic signals and artificial intelligence to create 3D images of the brain in minutes.

When in use, an antenna crown sits on a patient's head and transmits low-power electromagnetic signals into the brain, relying on the differing electrical properties and contrast of healthy and unhealthy tissue, these interactions are picked up by innovative software, which reconstructs and displays the 3D image on a standard laptop or tablet.

In the case of stroke, 3D images from future regulatory approved devices could enable medical professionals to quickly identify if damage is a haemorrhage or clot and treat the patient accordingly, saving precious time and salvaging more of the brain.

In March 2019, EMvison was invited to joining The Australian Stroke Alliance, an extensive partnership network aimed at delivering disruptive technologies to transform pre-hospital stroke care for all Australians, especially within the first Golden Hour after stroke onset.

In the same month, the company received Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) approval from Metro South Health for its planned pilot clinical trial for the brain scanner program at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane. This is part of a $2.6 million CRC-P grant from the Australian Government to work with the University of Queensland, GE Healthcare and the hospital to advance the brain scanner program. 

Receipt of ethics approval followed the successful completion of healthy human volunteer trials, which demonstrated device safety and usability.

In April, EMvision signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") with Keysight Technologies Malaysia SDN BHD -  a wholly owned subsidiary of Keysight Technologies, Inc (NYSE:KEYS) -  to co-develop a critical hardware component that could further reduce the size of EMvision's device.

"'Keysight's leading VNA solutions and deep technical experience will help us accelerate the commercialisation of our breakthrough point-of-care imaging devices," Weinberger said at the time.

"By leveraging our decades of leadership in RF, microwave and millimetre-wave measurement sciences, Keysight is well-positioned to provide continuous test innovations and integrated solutions to ensure our customers are first to market," added Ee Huei Sin,  Keysight's General Electronics Measurement Solutions' vice president and general manager.

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