Often, large corporations – which may dominate a market sector like the medical imaging field, which includes computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and radiography – are so large they are not able to adapt to new, even disruptive, technologies. Sometimes these are spun off into other companies, as is the case with Harris Corporation and AuthenTec, which developed the fingerprint technology used on Apple phones. Other times, a smaller, nimbler company may emerge that introduces something transformative. Such may be the case with Central Florida’s Omega Medical Imaging led by Brian Fleming, which recently received FDA approval for its FluroShield system.
EW: I want to talk about how you became CEO of Omega, but first, explain the FluroShield system.
BF: Radiological imaging equipment is used to do very exacting procedures, in cardiac cath labs, electrophysiology labs and in other interventional endoscopy procedures. Our technology, powered by AI (artificial intelligence), uses an ultrafast collimator and the world’s most advanced image processing, which has shown to reduce radiation by up to 80%.
EW: Explain, for a layman, how it works.
BF: During an interventional case, where x-rays are being used to guide a surgical procedure – in other words, serve as the eyes of the doctor – AI-enabled technology detects the Region of Interest (ROI), or where in the anatomy, or the place on the patient, say over the heart, the interventionalist is primarily focused. What we call the Our system, automatically collimates to the ROI, which is a narrow focus and only takes full Field of View (FOV) images – which is the larger surrounding area – every so many frames.
EW: So, the larger area, what you call the full Field of View images, appear clear, because they are enhanced, much like how you don’t see the individual frames clicking by when watching a film?
BF: That is the basic idea. It merges the ROI and the FOV into one seamless image. The advantage is that the amount of radiation that both the patient and the medical team are being exposed to is dramatically reduced.
EW: So why isn’t every hospital getting one of these?
BF: The medical profession is very conservative, and we don’t have the advertising budgets of a GE Healthcare, Philips Medical or Siemens Medical, but we are doing all we can to get to both the clinicians and the administrators to understand our product. Currently, it is being demonstrated at AdventHealth in Orlando (formerly Florida Hospital). We have even considered doing a direct to consumer campaign, so that the patients can inquire if our technology is available as an alternative to the high exposures that are involved with equipment in common use.
EW: I would think, if I was a radiological interventionalist who did these procedures on a regular basis and was getting some exposure, sort of on an ambient basis, I would be very interested?
BF: I agree, these are not short procedures like a typical dental or fracture x-ray, they may take an hour or more.
EW: So where is your equipment manufactured and what is the connection to the Space Coast??
BF: We are based in Central Florida. All of our engineering and design work is done here, and our manufacturing facility is in Sanford. Actually, it is a Melbourne-based firm. Venture Management Group (VMG) and Skip Hauer are our partners and initially contacted me about Omega back in 2010.
BF: I started in the defense industry and ended up at GE. They had a spinout company; it wasn’t GE owned, but they developed the technology that was used in a health care application. Eventually, I ran the company. While there, I was introduced to Omega as one of our customers. We looked into acquiring it, unsuccessfully. Then, when I was on my own, I tried to buy it, but I wasn’t able to put the deal together.
One day I got a call from Skip Hauer with VMG and, believe it or not, I almost hung up on him. He said they were approached about an acquisition of Omega, but he said they don’t buy companies unless they have a CEO partner to run them. He asked if I would be interested. That was back in 2010. Since then we have enjoyed double digit annual growth. Skip and his team not only have an amazingly innovative business model, they also are great personally, and have had an incredible impact on a lot of people, like me.
EW: What are the differentiators of Omega?
BF: Many of these larger companies – and I know because I was part of one – won’t focus on an innovation that doesn’t move the needle a billion dollars … it isn’t significant enough for them. Because we are smaller, we are nimbler and can bring new technologies to the market much quicker. Plus, in most cases our equipment is more durable and cost effective. It is just a matter of getting the word out.