EMVision on track for portable brain scanner trial

EMVision on track for portable brain scanner trial

A Brisbane-based medical technology company led by the former CEO of ASX darling Nanosonics (ASX: NAN) is on target to start trialing its portable non-invasive brain scanner in the last quarter of this year.

Harnessing more than a decade of research into electromagnetic microwave imaging from the University of Queensland, EMVision (ASX: EMV) has the potential to address a gap in the market for stroke diagnosis.

The technology will soon be put under the microscope in a pilot clinical trial to take place at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, collecting data from patients with diagnosed ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke.

The data will then be cross-referenced with confirmatory CT and/or MRI images - the prevailing technology at the moment which the company claims is stationary, complex and more expensive.

"Our project team continues to make excellent progress against our project plan and the Company has now completed the design and development requirements for our clinical units," EMVision said in a release this morning.

The fabrication and assembly of the units has now started and is expected to take around six to eight weeks.

"To support procurement, clinical unit fabrication and testing, EMVision has established a dedicated smallscale prototype facility in Sydney," the company said.

"This facility will allow internal verification testing to be conducted in parallel and in collaboration with key suppliers, the University of Queensland research team and clinicians, as we prepare to deliver two clinical units to the Princess Alexandra Hospital for our forthcoming clinical trial."

EMVision listed on the ASX on 11 December 2018 after raising $6 million in an IPO, and its shares rose almost immediately from $0.31 each to $0.47 by mid-February 2019. They have dropped off somewhat since then and have trended around the 37-cent mark since June.

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

The group's CEO is Dr Ron Weinberger (pictured) 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.

"It has been an exciting start for EMVision as an ASX listed entity. Our vision is to be a global leader in point of care diagnostic imaging," Weinberger said in EMV's Annual Report released on Friday. 

"Microwave imaging is a truly innovative imaging modality that has disruptive implications for diagnostics, monitoring and the delivery of patient care.

"The development of a portable, safe and cost-effective brain scanner to rapidly diagnose and monitor stroke and traumatic brain injury provides an opportunity to penetrate the multi-billion dollar neurological imaging sector."

The executive said EMVision looked for large markets in which there were minimal or no identifiable competitors.

"Stroke is one of the largest killers in the world with an enormous economic burden globally. The need for a point of care brain scanner in hospitals is clear," he said.

"One third of stroke patients in hospital will have another stroke and stroke in patients who enter hospital for other indications, accounts for roughly 10 per cent of all strokes.

"The support for this in hospital device has been strong and there is opportunity for numerous devices to be located in multiple hospital wards."

For FY19 the company reported grant income of close to $1 million from a Cooperative Research Centre Program (CRCP) along with $183,333 from participants.

Overall, revenue was up 187 per cent year-on-year at $1.4 million with a result that was also supported by a $279,135 cash refund as part of the Federal Government's R&D Tax Incentive program.

With the ramp-up in its research as EMVision works towards what is known as a "pivotal clinical trial' in 2020, the group's cash outflows rose 225 per cent to $2.22 million. The statutory loss after tax ended up as $2.96 million more than a three-fold rise.

In addition to its brain scanner, EMVision is in the preclinical research and prototype development stage with a torso scanner to identify the severity and monitor the progression of liver disease.

"In addition to the brain scanner program, EMVision is exploring the feasibility of a non-invasive and cost effective torso scanner to identify the severity and monitor the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in conjunction with UQ," Weinberger said in the annual report.

"This also provides an opportunity to address a large unmet clinical need."

He said the UQ research team had undertaken tissue characterisation work with samples now collected from several patients with pathology results expected near term.

"The research team has also been bolstered with the addition of four experts to the project in the fields of machine learning, classification and antenna design," Weinberger said.

"An enhanced torso phantom has been fabricated to emulate different stages of fatty liver disease in a lab environment. This phantom is being used to assist in verifying algorithm development. A new generation of smaller resonance based reflector antennas have also been developed for testing."

EMVision shares were up 5.41 per cent at $0.39 at 11am AEST.

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