NovaSignal – Managing Health

By combining artificial intelligence, robotics and automated cerebral ultrasound, NovaSignal is revolutionizing how real-time blood flow data are utilised for brain health.

California-based NovaSignal was founded by Dr Robert Hamilton in 2013 with the mission of providing greater access to the critical data needed by physicians to improve the lives of their patients. Now, in times of a global pandemic, this mission has gained unexpected urgency.

NovaSignal is a medical robotics and data company specialising in assessing cerebral blood flow. In 2019 the company launched its ground-breaking solution, the FDA-cleared NovaGuide™ Intelligent Ultrasound, the only fully automated, robotically assisted ultrasound system for brain health assessment. NovaSignal’s technology integrates non-invasive ultrasound, robotics, and artificial intelligence to empower physicians with critical information about cerebral blood flow to make clinical decisions and improve patient outcomes.

Under new management

The company is ready to embrace increasing demand under the management of Ms Diane Bryant, a new CEO appointed in early 2020. Ms Bryant is a global technology leader with more than three decades of executive leadership in the global semiconductor industry, enterprise IT solution development and deployment, and cloud computing services. She served as the Chief Operating Officer of Google Cloud, prior to which she spent over 30 years at Intel, the last five years as Group President of Intel’s Data Center Group.

For her professional achievements, Ms Bryant was named among Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in 2015 and 2016. Business Insider ranked Ms Bryant number 6 among the Most Powerful Female Engineers in 2018, and in 2020, Becker’s Healthcare named Diane one of 7 “mover and shaker” leaders affecting health IT. Ms Bryant is the holder of four U.S. patents in mobile computing.

Answering the obvious question of why move from a rapidly growing world of technology into the medical field, Ms Bryant said: “I wanted to get involved in something bigger than financial success. I was fortunate to get to know the founder of the company and was mesmerised by the technology and what it could do.”

“The combination of technology and healthcare is truly magical, and this is where we can make a real impact. Through the application of technology, we have the opportunity to transform brain health care management. By applying machine learning, the NovaGuide enables physicians to quickly recognize and diagnose critical brain conditions to tremendously improve patient care.”

Ground-breaking discovery

Ms Bryant affirmed that the company’s vision is to change brain health care management, and end diseases of the brain and diseases that present themselves in the brain, such as stroke, dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. But NovaSignal’s robotic device offers more far-reaching benefits – monitoring blood flow in the brain is becoming crucial in the treatment of patients with Covid-19, as a recent ground-breaking study demonstrated.

In April, as it became evident that patients with Covid-19 may emerge from ventilation with impaired speech, immobility, loss of memory, and in some cases not surviving at all, the company was requested by several renowned medical institutions to use the NovaGuide to continuously monitor the blood flow of patients with Covid-19. The NovaGuide has the advantage of conducting automated patient assessments, decreasing the amount of direct patient contact and allowing medical staff to maintain strict infectious disease protocols.

“Critical care teams at Mount Sinai Health System used our system to monitor the cerebral blood flow of 18 mechanically ventilated patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms. While monitoring these critically ill patients with the NovaGuide, physicians discovered an excess of pulmonary shunting, a physical dysfunction whereby deoxygenated blood bypasses the normal circulatory system resulting in lower levels of oxygen in the blood and contributing to respiratory distress in patients. This was an important discovery as it became evident that, as a result of shunting, ventilation is not necessarily an effective protocol and may be actually causing more damage,” Ms Bryant noted.

NovaSignal’s autonomous robotic device may have thus uncovered a possible breakthrough in the treatment of patients infected with Covid-19. Not surprisingly, the discovery has raised considerable interest and following the publication, other hospitals immediately reached out to conduct further studies with a larger number of patients.

 Raising awareness

Ms Bryant acknowledged that the company now numbers over 80 people and with its unique offering is finding no barriers to growth. “We are one of a kind and the key to success is simply awareness. It is now about getting the solution in the hands of professionals. Once the pulmonologist, cardiologist or neurologists become aware of our product, there is no limit to our growth. Our solution is also very affordable, so the price is not a limiting factor. Neither is capacity, as we have expanded our facility during March and April and can run 24/7.”

“We are aiming to make a brain health check-up a routine procedure in general practitioners’ offices, and our robotic device a standard piece of equipment just like a stethoscope. I find it shocking that in our annual physical exams our general practitioner informs us of the health of our heart and lungs, but provides no insight into the health of our brain, an organ of equal importance. We are striving to make brain blood flow the fifth vital sign.”

NovaSignal now has 135 systems in hospitals in the US and Europe and as Ms Bryant explained, expects the number of its robotic systems deployed around the world to increase four-fold by the end of the year. “We are aiming to achieve business profitability in 2021-2022. We expect to IPO within about a year of that, have a multibillion-dollar market cap, and move into an exciting and fun future.”

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