A BREATH OF FRESH AIR FOR MEDICAL IMAGE TECHNOLOGY

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4Dx was featured in an article in Australias national daily newspaper, The Australian today. Andreas Fouras, Founder and CEO of 4Dx is interviewed and the article discusses the new software for imaging lung function devised by 4Dx.

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR FOR MEDICAL IMAGE TECHNOLOGY

A “dream job” studying airflow through jet engines has led to an innovative lung imaging system that Professor Andreas Fouras is convinced will disrupt a $25 billion a year global industry and dramatically change healthcare outcomes.

The Australian father of five, who has relocated his family to Los Angeles to progress his venture, says he has found his opportunity to make a difference. With his team at 4DX, he has devised a new way of imaging the lungs by showing in real-time motion how air flows through them, pinpointing the areas that aren’t working well and those that are.

Professor Fouras says given the best technology for imaging the lungs is 50 years old, his innovation, which relies on computer software and four-dimensional imaging technology, is the next generation of care.

“We take X-rays of your lungs and look at how all individual parts are moving in very subtle detail with very sophisticated mathematics, which allows us to see accurately in fine detail how the air is moving through every part of the lung,” the 42-year-old says. “It gives clear insight into the trouble areas.”

A patient gets an X-ray — the X-ray machine would be used slightly different to how it is used now — and it is sent to the 4DX analysis cloud, which picks up every deficit in lung function. A detailed report is then sent back to the doctor.

Fouras initially took his mortgage to the maximum to start his company, 4DX, and later sold his house to pour every last penny he had into his new dream job.

“We are definitely on to something. 4DX is going to change healthcare globally — I’m convinced of that,” he says. Fouras says he had worked his way up the ranks at Monash University to build what he thought at that time was his dream career as a researcher, working on “fantastic” technology.

“While I was excited intellectually by the research, I wasn’t excited by the outcomes of, say, reducing drag on an aircraft by 1 per cent,” he says. “I realised that the mathematical discoveries I’d made could be useful in helping make better-informed decisions in healthcare and impact on people’s life.

So I pivoted my career down that path, and while it’s fairly common overseas, I think I’m a little bit of a trailblazer in Australia in terms of an engineer working completely in healthcare research.

“Initially it was bittersweet leaving a dream career behind but as a researcher, inventor and now a CEO, there is that common thread of ‘I’m just looking to make the world a better place through good ideas’.”

Lung diagnostics mostly relies on historic procedures. The most commonly used procedure is the pulmonary function test, which was designed in the 1860s. Then there are chest X-rays, which were developed in the 1890s, and the CT from the 1970s. “They are the mainstay of lung diagnostics and the best-case scenario is you are relying on technology that is almost 50 years old,” Fouras says.

There are 72 million lung diagnostic procedures performed in the US each year and about five million to 10 million scans per year in Australia. “All of those people are getting sub-quality information,” Fouras says. “Diseases are getting picked up later than they should, bad treatments aren’t being stopped right away and millions of people are having horrible health outcomes, or worse, dying, as a result of that.”

4DX is in the process of getting regulatory approvals and expects US support early next year. Scans using the technology are already being done in clinical trials in several hospitals in the US and Australia.

Fouras says while 4DX would remain an Australian company, he has moved its corporate headquarters to the US, given that is where the key market is. The professor says the movement in Australia to support innovation appears to be in the right direction but he says there are some zeros missing from the scale at which that movement is being proposed.

“Over the last 10 years, if you aggregate it, there have been significant cuts to the innovation budget. Any small increases proposed by the current government don’t get us back to where we were five to 10 years ago.”

His company has raised $5m and Fouras expects to reach $7m by year-end. “We have done well out of the Australian market but it took about 10 times more effort and three times longer than what it would’ve taken overseas.”