Delphinus Medical Technologies Inc. has received $8 million in funding commitments to further develop an ultrasonic breast cancer detection device that could become an alternative to mammograms.
The funding means that Delphinus can finally begin the process of commercializing its SoftVue device, which has undergone about 10 years of research and development.
Unlike mammography, which is traditionally used to detect breast cancer, the SoftVue doesn’t use radiation or compression. Instead, the device employs ultrasound and computer algorithms to detect breast cancer, including in breast tissue that is too dense for effective use of mammography. With SoftVue, the breast is submerged in warm water and an ultrasound ring surrounds the breast, capturing images through the use of sound waves.
The SoftVue exam takes about a minute and is a “fraction” of the cost associated with a breast MRI, according to the company.
Delphinus is a spin-off created last year by the Detroit-based Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, whose researchers created the device. The Karmanos Institute held all of Delphinus’ equity until the $8 million round, which was led by Arboretum Ventures of Ann Arbor, Mich. Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Beringea LLC co-led the deal and was joined by North Coast Technology Investors, according to a statement from Karmanos.
More than 300 women were involved in initial clinical studies of the device. Delphinus has received sale commitments for the device from “several” health institutions that have agreed to be part of the clinical studies, according to the statement.
Right now, the Karmanos Institute has the SoftVue’s only working prototype, but the funding will allow it to design and build the first 10 machines used in clinical studies. Those studies are expected to pave the way for Food and Drug Administration approval of the device, which is necessary before it can be sold in the U.S.
The funding will also allow Delphinus to hire about 20 staff — always welcome news in a foundering economy like Michigan’s.
The word “delphinus” is Latin for dolphin, according to the statement.