Struggling to reattach a severed hand during a late night surgery several years ago, orthopedic microsurgeon Greg Kolovich needed a better solution when it came to taking X-rays and images to guide him through surgery. So he invented one himself.
First introduced in 2017, Micro C is a handheld digital medical imaging solution that takes X-rays and photographs. The small device is aimed at replacing the current fluoroscopy equipment used in operating rooms, known as a C-Arm, which is similar in size to a hospital bed.
The X-ray detector used with the Micro C is thin, flat and lightweight and can be easily positioned and moved behind the arm, leg or other extremity that is being examined. The extremity is placed on top of the detector, and the Micro C is aimed at it. Radiation from the Micro C passes through the extremity and is received by the high-resolution X-ray detector. The images are then digitally processed and sent to a screen so the surgeon can view them in real time.
Kolovich, the chief medical officer, co-founded Micro C Imaging alongside Chief Executive Officer Evan Ruff in 2016, but the company’s growth and involvement in various other projects led to the creation of OXOS Medical, an umbrella company with the Micro C device being the alpha product of the corporation.
The OXOS lab is now in Atlanta, but the company still has a strong presence in Savannah, where Kolovich continues to practice.
“The majority of our investors are here, our marketing is done here and our manufacturing will likely be done down here, but our lab is in Atlanta just because of the proximity to Georgia Tech,” he said.
The device is awaiting clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, which should happen early next year, Kolovich said.
“That’s incredibly difficult to do in three years, but we’ve been able to do it. It’s a ton of paperwork and just a ton of stuff that you have to do, and all that requires expert advice, expert council, so we’ve been able to do that in Atlanta,” he said.
“We’ll be launching in 2020 and we’ll have 20 devices going out to sites all over America.”
The device will then be used in three different studies to obtain feedback, including comparing the radiation emitted from the Micro C to traditional devices, comparing image quality and a clinical test to gauge the efficiency of the device.
“Faster, safer, clearer — those are the three things we’re going to prove in the next six months, and then we’ll use all that information that we gain during that time to enhance our device for a larger launch next fall,” Kolovich said.
“And then the sky’s the limit from there.”
Kolovich said the company is already working on robotic devices and will also start working on devices for the shoulder, hip and spine, along with developing an artificial intelligence platform to interpret X-rays.
“The physician has priceless knowledge from their expertise and experience treating X-rays is going to interpret those X-rays and take that knowledge and incorporate it into a machine learning platform, so that our device can help triage and interpret X-rays,” he said.
Looking at the industry, Kolovich said the Micro C device can play a competitive role in three different markets: tier one, hospitals and surgery centers, which is about a $4 billion market; tier two, military and correctional facilities or on the sidelines or locker rooms, which is a $10 billion market; and tier three, nursing homes and home health care, which he said is at least a $12 billion market.
“That’s when you really open up the market, because you can build these triage and telemedicine platforms to help people remotely,” he said, adding that the device can also be brought on a plane and could be used in Third World countries or other places X-ray technology isn’t readily available.
Kolovich said the device virtually has no competition in the nursing home and home health care market, so that remains a large focus for the company.
“Without lifting a finger, day one you’re competing in three different markets at $25 billion plus, and that’s a good place to start with essentially no competitors in tier two and tier three,” he said.
The specific purpose of getting the device to market and making the customer and patient happy remains the focus of OXOS, Kolovich said, but they’re also exploring new ideas and purposes as they present themselves.
“In 2018 we were really keen on locking down our intellectual property so that we could start new projects without giving the secret sauce away,” he said.
Looking ahead, when Kolovich says the sky’s the limit, he means it. In October, OXOS was selected as a winner of the NASA iTech Cycle II Forum, which was held in Las Cruces, N.M.
A branch of the the Space Technology Mission Directorate, NASA iTech is working to identify cutting-edge technologies developed outside of NASA that solve problems on Earth but also address the challenges facing exploration of the moon and Mars.
The goal is to get to Mars in 20 years, but it takes about 400 days to complete the trip and Kolovich said it’s estimated that astronauts would lose about 1.5% of their bone density each month, so having the ability to monitor bone quality and density in space is hugely important.
“All things considered, you’re going to go from a healthy astronaut to a post-menopausal, osteoporotic person within a year, so NASA is afraid of an astronaut stepping onto Mars and breaking their femur,” Kolovich said, adding that a femur break in space is essentially a death sentence. “You can’t walk, you can’t have surgery and there would be no way to heal that in space. And secondarily you’d have to wait (400 days) to get back, so it’s the kiss of death.”
The company has also had inquires from industrial aerospace companies and veterinary medicine.
“We didn’t know about all of these applications when we started off. It was a device that I designed to make my life easier and make my colleagues’ lives easier, and now it’s sort of extrapolating into all these different things. These are things that we had to form strategic partnerships and alliances to do. We can’t do it all by ourselves,” Kolovich said.
“The goal is to change the face of the OR and remake the need for the C-Arm.”
No matter where the industry takes them, Kolovich said there is no better place than Savannah to continue the company’s growth.
“We were born here in Savannah and we would like to manufacture here on the coast. Maintaining that good relationship with the good people on the coast of Georgia is special to us, because we started here and we want to end here,” he said.