July 21, 2016 KITCHENER — A startup developing a low-cost, high-resolution digital X-ray imager to detect lung disease in developing nations has received a $1-million boost.
The new money from federally funded Grand Challenges Canada will help KA Imaging build a prototype and test it in the field in Zambia by the end of the year.
"We can do less radiation. We can do higher resolution," said Amol Karnick, president and chief executive officer of the Kitchener firm.
Access to medical imaging is limited or not existent in much of the developing world, which is a big problem because it's essential to diagnose rampant and deadly diseases there such as tuberculosis, cancer and child pneumonia.
KA Imaging's digital X-ray imager will cut the need for costly infrastructure that requires specialized staff and maintenance, and could even be used in a mobile clinic with images sent electronically to a centre to read.
"They like the low cost, they like the durability," Karnick said of Grand Challenges Canada.
The new funding builds on $100,000 the agency provided in 2012 to prove the new detector developed by chief technology officer Karim S. Karim, an engineering professor at the University of Waterloo.
The $1 million is being matched by two companies, split between Christie Digital Systems Canada and an LCD manufacturer in Asia that's producing the first prototype.
"We're really just getting off the ground," Karnick said.
The X-ray sensor is built on glass, taking advantage of television LCD technology and manufacturing. It's more cost effective while producing a better image with less radiation.
Selling units for low-cost screening in developing nations is just the start of the firm's plans. That will be a low-volume market. It's the huge Western market that will make the fledgling company sustainable and support work in developing countries.
"That's a critical component," Karim said.
The company already has a few projects in the pipeline using the platform technology.
"It's going to help solve a lot of problems here," Karnick said.
Remote communities in Canada could benefit, especially considering tuberculosis remains an issue in aboriginal settlements. The lower radiation and flexibility would also be a boon to emergency rooms for quick detection and in the operating room for surgeries requiring imaging.
In January, the company had three employees — the three founders. Now it has 12, including part time staff and contractors.
"We've got visions of being a very huge company," Karnick said.
KA Imaging was one of six Canadian innovations showing promising results in improving global health that received an additional investment to further develop and deploy their technologies.
The new funding, totalling $5 million, will be doubled by partners in the six projects.
Since its launch in 2010, Grand Challenges Canada has supported more than 700 innovations in more than 80 countries.
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