Women getting mammograms in Chennai, India, will have a better chance of their doctors spotting problems, thanks to a deal with Newhallville inventor Fitz Walker.
Walker (pictured) Thursday announced that his company, Bartron Medical Imaging, has signed a multimillion-dollar deal with a university hospital in Chennai.
The contract allows for the first real-life application of NASA-inspired medical imaging technology Walker has been developing for over a decade. He started out in his garage on Blake Street, wiring together discarded desktop PCs into a supercomputer. Now he works out of a lab on Shelton Avenue.
The India deal is just the beginning, Walker said. His Bartron firm is already in talks with hospitals all over the world and is about expand rapidly. Walker said he could add as many as 100 more employees to his 10-person company.
The deal also represents a reversal of the outsourcing trend in the medical industry. Instead of Indian doctors looking at American radiology images remotely, American computers will be working remotely on Indian images.
“We’re doing ‘insourcing,’ rather than outsourcing,” said Jit Mitra, a Bartron staffer who has been working on the deal.
MED-SEG, Walker’s medical imaging breakthrough, adapts technology developed to allow NASA to scrutinize heavenly bodies, and uses it to examine human bodies. MED-SEG allows doctors to enhance traditional medical images—mammograms, MRIs, CT scans, and dental scans—to detect abnormalities that might otherwise go unnoticed.
NASA earns a royalty from Bartron’s use of its technology. Walker said Bartron is the first company to develop a commercial application of this technology.
Bartron is also a pioneer in “cloud-based medicine.” MED-SEG relies on high-speed internet to process images from anywhere in the world.
Starting in about six weeks, doctors at the hospital in Chennai will be able to upload images to a “supercomputer” in Walker’s lab on Shelton Avenue. The images will be processed with Walker’s proprietary technology, then beamed back within minutes for doctors in Chennai to inspect.
Walker said Bartron will quickly get up to 100,000 processes per month. All of which will be protected by encryption and a custom built firewall, Walker said.
“This is an enormous opportunity for our industry,” Walker said.
Even 100,000 processes is just a tiny portion of the market in India, said Mitra (at left in photo).
“This is the first of many contracts,” said James Rawlings (at right), an associate medical director at Bartron. Rawlings said Bartron has been talking with people in Nigeria, Canada, China, and the Caribbean: “This is going to bring jobs.”
Walker said he’ll need skilled information technology workers, whom he hopes to hire locally.
All the international attention came out of a 2010 event at University of Connecticut, Walker said. A Japanese website picked up on coverage of the event; Walker soon found his web servers overloaded with people visiting his website.
Walker said his technology is inexpensive but could be very lucrative, because of the possibilities to scale it up. Simply by adding computing power, Walker can process more and more images from all over the world, each of which earns Bartron a fee.
While it’s making Bartron money, it could be lowering medical costs for patients. MED-SEG is so efficient and inexpensive that insurance companies have already come calling, looking for ways to save money, Rawlings said.
MED-SEG has the “potential to drive down the cost of health care” and lower the number of biopsies women need to have during breast cancer screening and treatment, Walker said. Meanwhile, it could be driving up employment in Newhallville.