Toronto-based Ventripoint Diagnostics Ltd. is on the verge of revolutionizing how heart patients receive cardiology care. Its Ventripoint Medical System (VMS) is the first cost-effective and accurate AI tool for measuring whole heart function using conventional ultrasound. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, Ventripoint can offer the global medical community a revolutionary device that makes diagnosing and monitoring heart diseases faster, less expensive and with equivalent accuracy to MRI.
In his recent discussion with The Canadian Business Quarterly, CEO Dr. George Adams shares how Ventripoint’s novel system has the potential to transform the multi-billion dollar cardiac care industry. As the VMS product line enters the international market, Ventripoint is attracting widespread attention from top cardiologists, investors and distributors.
“The company is focused on precise, rapid, inexpensive ways to get information on what is happening in all parts of your heart,” explains Dr. Adams, who is a pioneer in developing life-improving tools as well as a serial entrepreneur and financier. “Changing standard medical practices is difficult, but we have leading cardiac centres purchasing our current system, a number of key sites promoting it, regulatory approval and scientific publications saying it works. Now we are in the pre-launch awareness campaign stage bringing our next-generation VMS+ system into the market.”
Revolutionizing the heart imaging industry
According to Dr. Adams, there is a huge need to shake up how heart patients receive care. While the cardiology community has numerous tools to assess the volume and function of a patient’s heart, none can easily provide information about the whole heart. Additionally, the American Heart Association recommends MRI scans every three months for significant heart conditions, but he says MRI is not realistic for several reasons.
Imaging methods including CT scans, ventriculography and angiocardiography expose patients to radiation. MRIs require patients to stay completely still for up to two hours at a time, which is difficult for adults and impossible for children without requiring sedation. Sedation introduces new risks, plus doctors spend at least an hour analysing the results. “That’s both inconvenient and very expensive, so they don’t do it,” he says. Insurance plans, he added, may only pay for one MRI every two years.
As a result, most cardiologists rely on echocardiography equipment to reveal the severity of the disease and track treatment effectiveness. While this non-invasive ultrasound procedure is safer and faster for the patient, it only generates two-dimensional images. Physicians make a visual diagnosis based on their knowledge of deformities to the heart’s shape. Chest anatomy characteristics, image quality and skill of the sonographer can all affect the doctor’s ability to make an accurate diagnosis.
“Ventripoint’s VMS+ system is focused on a better way to look at all four chambers of your heart with the convenience of 2D ultrasound,” explains Dr. George Adams, who describes the VMS+ technology as absolutely transformational. “There’s no need for children or adults to be traumatized by going for an MRI or having to wait months to get another MRI.” With this system, patients can see their doctors every three months for a quick analysis of what is actually going on with the heart.
The science behind the technology
Ventripoint’s technology is a leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) approach known as Knowledge-Based Reconstruction (KBR). The breakthrough device builds a complete 3D model of the heart using the KBR algorithm from standard 2D ultra sound images. This is done through an expansive MRI database, which contains data for all four chambers of the heart with a variety of normal and diseased states. The precise image is used to show volume, shape and how much blood the heart is taking in and pumping out.
The innovative concept here, notes the company’s website, is using AI to harness the collective knowledge about heart size and shape. The patented AI technology used in the VMS+ is based on an invention created at the University of Washington in Seattle, which has granted an exclusive use license to Ventripoint. After obtaining regulatory approvals worldwide, numerous clinical studies, and two dozen reviews in scientific publications, the VMS+ method is producing results that are equivalent to MRI without any of the costs or risks associated with MRI. The ultrasound imaging takes just five minutes, and the analytics provide answers within 15 minutes.
The much-needed technology can be used in a wide range of applications, including pediatrics, heart diseases and currently being evaluated for use on patients undergoing cancer treatments, and is readily accessible. “Every cardiologist in the world has a 2D ultrasound machine, even in Third World countries, because that’s what you need to look at hearts. So, everybody has the core technology,” Dr. Adams says. “We can give them the analytical techniques to take that same information and actually get answers.”
Founded in 2005 in Seattle, Ventripoint is now headquartered in Toronto, Canada, and led by an impressive group of experts in commercialization of ultrasound inventions. The executive team consists of President Desmond Hirson, CFO Ellen Briant and Regulatory Affairs/Quality Assurance Director Dr. Alvira Macanovic. Dr. Adams joined the team as CEO in 2010 to share his dual expertise in developing cardiovascular devices and global investing relations.
With degrees in mechanical and biomedical engineering, along with a Ph.D. focused on blood and cardiovascular diseases, Dr. Adams has spent his career pushing the current boundaries of medical knowledge. His experience spans serving as the CEO, director or chair for more than 30 public, private and start-up companies that have raised over $100 million.
Under this dynamic leadership, Ventripoint has grown rapidly. The VMS+ system is already being used in many of the top cardiac centers throughout North America and Europe. Last summer, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, became the first U.S. customer. They are using the system to assess cancer patients, as it is well known that chemotherapy agents are cardiotoxic and lead to a significant number of chemotherapy patients acquiring heart dysfunction.
Spearheaded by Dr. Roberto Lang, the University of Chicago Medical Center in Chicago will be installing the VMS+ system to be used for 3D volumetric analysis of the whole-heart. St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto purchased the system in December 2018, and the University of Ottawa Heart Institute will be receiving a system soon. Dr. Leong-Poi of St. Michael’s Hospital notes “Artificial intelligence holds a great deal of promise for many clinical imaging applications and we are very excited to participate with this leading-edge technology to more accurately assess cardiac chamber volumes and function by echocardiography.”
The prestige that comes with working with the preeminent cancer hospitals and echocardiographers in the world is rapidly opening new doors for Ventripoint. “We are in full commercialization mode now, booking onsite demonstrations for clinical evaluations at major centers across the U.S. and Europe,” Dr. Adams shares. “Our marketing team is working to build awareness within the cardiology community to tell doctors it is now possible to get additional information to figure out what’s wrong with all of the different chambers of the heart. No one else has been able to achieve this. We have no competition in the marketplace.”
Continued innovation and expansion into the world market
In the meantime, the team continues to innovate the equipment, finalizing the patent-pending position sensors that allow patients to move during the imaging exam. They have also added an interactive workflow to guide clinicians through the imaging procedures. Although it is not yet commercially available for sale, the next-generation VMS+ 3.0 made its public debut at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session & Expo in mid-March. This global marketplace for cardiovascular innovation attracts more than 20,000 heart specialists, providing an opportunity to give live hands-on demonstrations in the Ventripoint booth to a highly captivated audience.
Ventripoint’s forward-thinking leadership team aims to develop a suite of applications for all major heart diseases and imaging modalities using the VMS technology platform. The company is also exploring ways to expand its business model beyond device development. “It’s a multibillion-dollar opportunity that we have to sell the equipment and move into a SaaS model,” Dr. Adams explains, “where we actually do the reconstructions for the doctors and give them back the results and charge them for that service.”
As a publicly traded company on both the TSX Venture Exchange (VPT) and OTCQB Exchange (VPTDF), investors can buy and sell shares every day. The $10 million market cap company landed on the 2018 TSX Venture 50 due to its tremendous 384% market capitalization growth, 258% share price appreciation and trading volume of 206 million shares in 2017.
“Heart diseases are still the number one problem worldwide, so we look forward to growing all over the world,” Dr. Adams says. “We will continue into Europe and North America with direct marketing and signing up distributors. We are open to looking at global strategic partnerships to bring this system to everyone.”
The March news that Ventripoint is now cleared to sell the VMS system (QAS-R in China) for analysis of the right ventricle in the Chinese market opens up a $77 billion market that is rapidly growing. Dr. Adams explains that hospital admission rates for cardiac issues are almost twice as high in China than in North America and echocardiograms are routinely given before any surgery.
“Not only is the market huge,” he notes, “but they have a much higher prevalence of heart disease in China. It’s going to be a very interesting year in China. The Chinese market can open very quickly because of the way it’s structured and our joint venture partner is very well connected there.”
Find out more about Ventripoint Diagnostics (TSXV:VPT) by visiting www.ventripoint.com.