Madison, Wisconsin-based Echometrix expects to offer EchoSoft, software to improve ultrasound diagnosis and management of tendon and ligament injuries, by year’s end, said CEO Sam Adams. Last week, the four-year-old startup filed Securities and Exchange Commission documents seeking to raise $1 million toward that goal. Adams said in a phone interview that most of the money would pay for product engineering, regulatory work and clinical studies, and marketing and business development.
Echometrix has generated local buzz ever since it was spun off from research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007. Ultrasound has been an unreliable tool for monitoring soft-tissue injury, leaving MRI as the very costly default option in what Adams estimates to be a $1.4 billion market. In prior reports, Adams has said EchoSoft will fill a growing need for low-cost diagnostic methods for strains, sprains and partial tears, which account for 38 percent of the 16 million musculoskeletal treatment episodes annually.
Likewise, the technology just sounds cool: By processing ultrasound waves, the software will identify stress to a tendon or ligament by its changes in pitch, like a stretched guitar string. It will then display that stress in full color, making damage to and healing of ligaments and tendons as easy to read as a broken bone on an X-ray.
In mid-December, Echometrix’s technology received a national boost with a $148,482 National Science Foundation grant (part of the federal Small Business Innovation Research program). “We’re really excited as it’s the first time we’ve had a government organization validating the transferability of our technology,” Adams said. “This grant shows its potential for commercialization, and we think we have a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
Echometrix sees its primary niche as offering an opportunity to measure the effectiveness of musculoskeletal rehabilitation. “That’s a market that is currently not penetrated by MRI, because it’s so expensive people simply don’t measure it,” Adams says. EchoSoft will also provide an opportunity to lower the cost of diagnosis. “We’ve read in some papers that 45 percent of initial diagnoses of musculoskeletal conditions (by MRI) could be substituted for by diagnosis by ultrasound,” he says. “Our goal is not to replace MRI, but we have demonstrated that our product has clinical utility to help with quantitative evaluation of soft-tissue injuries.”
Clinical trials are in progress for the device, with approximately 100 patients total at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Pan Am Clinic in Winnipeg.