After years of building high-quality magnetic resonance imaging phantoms for research, a team from UW Radiology enlisted the university’s startup incubator Discovery to Product (D2P) to help bring the discoveries to market, establishing a company called Calimetrix. Imaging phantoms are specially-designed objects used to assess the performance of MRI devices. Such testing is frequently performed by individual academic institutions or in multi-center clinical trials.
Founded by Professor Scott Reeder, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor Diego Hernando, PhD, Senior Scientist Jean Brittain, PhD, and former Assistant Scientist Samir Sharma, PhD, the company started selling its first phantom, the Calimetrix Fat Fraction Phantom, in the fall of 2016.
Calimetrix is the latest in a long line of startups with roots in UW Radiology, following in the footsteps of NeuWave Medical and Standard Imaging. These ventures are a testament to the entrepreneurship resources at UW-Madison, including the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the School of Business’ Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship, and the aforementioned D2P. The wheels for Calimetrix were set in motion in April 2015, when Invention Disclosure Reports (IDR) for two phantoms were submitted to WARF. Intellectual Property Manager Stephanie Whitehorse saw both applications, and quickly contacted the team, suggesting they submit an entry into D2P’s Igniter Program even as the deadline was fast approaching.
“We needed to give a presentation as part of the application for the Igniter Program, and we were scrambling to put the slides together in under a week.” said Sharma.
Thankfully, their mad dash paid off when they were selected for the Igniter Program. Throughout the next year, D2P walked the founding members through the process of starting a company; building a business plan, connecting them with accountants and lawyers, and adapting the phantom technology to be consumer friendly. “That’s an area where we didn’t have a lot of experience, but D2P has been extremely helpful,” said Hernando.
One of the biggest differences between making phantoms for in-house research and making them for sale was shelf life, according to Hernando. Some phantoms made for UW research were scanned only once, so oxidation or deterioration wasn’t a large concern. However, selling them to the public requires Calimetrix to ensure consistent readings over time.
Another focal point in the development process was ease of use. To ensure reproducibility and usability, the team has been working with Hippo Engineering, a mechanical engineering firm based in Rice Lake, WI. “It needs to be intuitive, with only one way to operate it so users don’t struggle,” said Sharma.
Today, Calimetrix is in the final stages of bringing their phantoms to market; seeking out production and office space and recruiting employees. They are initially offering a fat [WDD4] phantom, that will calibrate MRI-based fat measurement in scanners. Importantly, this phantom builds on the group’s expertise in the development of MRI-based fat quantification. This phantom is useful for endeavors like multi-center clinical trials, where researchers will want to ensure consistency across multiple sites. This phantom will be followed by iron and diffusion models over the following year. The fat and iron phantoms are the only ones of their kind available to the general public, and the diffusion phantom is a significant improvement over the models currently available, according to Hernando.
Visit www.calimetrix.com to learn more about the phantoms or to contact the team.