February 9, 1999
Supported by private investors, a group of Johns Hopkins radiologists, biomedical engineers and cardiologists have formed a company, Surgi-Vision, to develop, manufacture and sell new devices for imaging the human heart, blood vessels and other organs.
Among the first products in Surgi-Vision's pipeline is a new type of flexible MRI catheter coil that permits high-resolution images of such internal regions as the heart, ear, nose, esophagus, prostate, lungs and urethra. All of the company's technologies originated from research over the past four years by Hopkins scientists and biomedical engineers.
All MRI units use coils as radio receivers that pick up signals from the body and transmit them to the MRI device to produce images. But the tiny coils developed by Surgi- Vision go inside the body to provide clearer, more localized images, say developers.
"Our coils eliminate the background noise of strong signals from the rest of the body that occurs in conventional MRI," says Paul Bottomley, M.D., professor of radiology and biomedical engineering, and one of the Hopkins founders of Surgi-Vision. "Better performance results because the coils can be positioned right next to the region of interest, rather than remote from it, as is the case with conventional coils."
Surgi-Vision also plans to develop and market coils that can be inserted into blood vessels to permit high-quality imaging of vessel walls, showing atherosclerotic plaques or other cardiovascular problems. "The Surgi-Vision probes are less than 0.035 inches in diameter so they can go inside standard catheter devices such as those used for balloon angioplasty, potentially enabling very accurate guidance of interventional procedures," says Ergin Atalar, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology and one of the founders of Surgi- Vision.
Other founders include Elias Zerhouni, M.D., chairman of the Hopkins Department of Radiology, Ergin Atalar, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology, and Ogan Ocali, M.D., former Hopkins research radiologist. Instrumental in developing Surgi-Vision were Bart Chernow, M.D., vice dean for research and technology and corporate relations, and Howard Califano, JD, assistant dean for technology licensing.
In addition to helping diagnose cardiovascular conditions, this technology could be used to monitor the progress of treatments for heart and vascular diseases.
"This coil technology takes MRI into a new phase of development -- microscopic imaging deep inside the body," says Elliot McVeigh, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering and radiology. "The quantum jump in sensitivity in the region around the Surgi-Vision probe will give the physician online, minimally invasive vision beyond the boundaries now encountered with optical imaging techniques."
"Surgi-Vision represents another example of the Hopkins tradition of bringing the latest medical advances from the research bench to the bedside in the shortest possible time," says Zerhouni. "With organizations like Surgi-Vision, we can speed the introduction of life-saving technologies to patients all over the world."
Established with $10 million, Surgi-Vision will be headquartered in Columbia, Md. Some developmental work will stay at Hopkins.
Nancy Taylor, an attorney with Greenberg and Taaurig law firm, is president and CEO of Surgi-Vision. According to Taylor, "Surgi-Vision is committed to advancing the pioneering work Johns Hopkins researchers have done with magnetic resonance imaging coils. We want to bring these exciting new technologies to the medical community as soon as possible."
Taylor has more than 16 years of legislative and regulatory experience in a variety of health care and regulatory issues and has served as minority health policy director for the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. In that role, Taylor was instrumental in most major health care laws enacted during the 1980s, including the Safe Medical Devices Amendments of 1988, the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act of 1990, the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act of 1988, the Orphan Drug Amendments of 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act and others. Taylor is an expert in Food and Drug Administration rules and other aspects of health care law.
Bottomley will serve on the board of directors as a representative of the Hopkins founders of the firm. His appointment was approved by The Johns Hopkins University Conflict of Interest Committee.
According to Bottomley, Surgi-Vision hopes to file its first 510k application with the FDA by the spring of 1999.
Under the terms of a licensing agreement between the Johns Hopkins University and Surgi-Vision, the University and Drs. Bottomley, Zerhouni, Atalar, McVeigh and Ocali, among other faculty, own Surgi-Vision stock, which is subject to certain restrictions under University policy. Dr. Bottomley is a member of the Surgi-Vision board of directors, Dr. Bottomley and Dr. Zerhouni are members of its Scientific Advisory Board, and they and other faculty members serve as consultants to the company. The terms of this arrangement are being managed by the University in accordance with its conflict of interest policies.