Over the years, covering and working in the Israeli technology sector, I have seen my fair share of remarkable innovation. In fact, it is by now a global consensus that Israel is a force to be reckoned with in the global tech ecosystem. In just the first quarter of 2019, Israeli companies raised over $1.5 billion in investments.
Having the opportunity to see much of the amazing breakthrough innovation that comes out of Israel – whether it involves autonomous drones or cars, walking printers, massive Internet-content recommendation engines serving billions of people, or countless other things – it is not often that a new technology has me truly speechless.
However, when OurCrowd
founder and CEO Jon Medved posted an article on Facebook last week with the title “Israeli Firm’s Holographic Imaging Tech Used in 1st Live Medical Procedure,” I had to know more. 10 minutes later and I had an email in my inbox from Jon introducing me to the cofounder and CEO of RealView Imaging
, Aviad Kaufman.
A week later, after having studied this company and what it has built, truth be told, I am still trying to wrap my head around it.
How about we start from the end? On April 2, 2019, President Reuven Rivlin unveiled RealView Imaging and the company’s technology, which had been used for the first time ever at the Peter Munk Cardiac Center in Toronto General Hospital in Canada. He called it “One of the most exciting and innovative joint projects between Israel and Canada.” It was the first time RealView’s tech was used “in the field.”
The center’s medical director, Dr. Barry Rubin, said, “This unique and unprecedented event represents a breakthrough in our ability to see inside the heart without making an incision, and will allow our physicians to treat heart disease with exceptional confidence and accuracy.”
The first procedure for which they used the holographic imaging system was a valve-in-valve mitral valve replacement, a minimally invasive procedure that replaced a worn-out surgical valve. Instead of removing the old diseased valve, the procedure replaces the valve without making an incision in the chest.
Here’s how it works: The hologram appears as a life size, 3D image of the heart at close range, floating in space above the patient, and allows the operating physician to explore, rotate and slice the hologram of the heart, in real time, during the procedure.
Sometimes, a product speaks for itself. The potential of a real time 3D hologram of the heart? Well, it is quite endless.
RealView Imaging was founded in 2008 by Aviad Kaufman, Shaul Gelman, and Prof. Carmel Rotschild. Dr. Shimon Eckhouse is the founding investor and chairman of the board of the company. The basic idea in establishing the company was to support physicians with perfectly visualized and usable 3D medical information in real time.
To allow the creation of real 3D holograms, as well as the capability to interact with them, the team had to invent and develop a totally new technology to create the first true product based on interference-based holography (Digital Light Shaping™ technology).
Simply put, RealView creates the only true 3D interactive holograms within hands’ reach, which enables ultimate 3D visualization – seeing true volumes floating in the air or accurately positioned inside the patient, close-range precise interaction – directly exploring, touching and manipulating real-time medical holograms, and the ability to experience prolonged use without any fatigue or nausea (which is the key limitation with all the other 3D technologies), to name a few of its advantages.
THE MARKET opportunity for the company is the gap between the outstanding quality of 3D medical data, which is today acquired and used with imaging technologies like 3D-CT, 3D ultrasound, 3D angiography, and 3D navigation and the relatively poor means which is currently used to present this valuable data in real 3D and in real time (currently performed only on 2D displays).
By “printing” all of the 3D data in light in the operator’s hand, a 3D hologram is created, therefore “freeing” the data from the confines of a 2D screen and allowing the operator to literally hold the image of the patient’s heart in his hand while the organ is being treated. The surgeons can then not only perfectly see the anatomy, clinical situation and precise tools’ location with reference to the tissue, but they can also manipulate the digital-hologram barehanded to move, cut, mark, measure and any other exploration into the real-time image per their clinical need at that very moment.
The interventional cardiology global market is projected to reach $33.3 billion by 2025. The growing demand for minimally invasive structural heart procedures will be among the key growth drivers for the 3D imaging market, as these procedures are heavily dependent on high quality 3D imaging.
RealView Imaging has built this groundbreaking technology with only 12 employees and a headquarters in Yokne’am in the Galilee. The company has raised over $20 million to date, including a recent investment from OurCrowd.com, as well as from the Israeli Innovation Authority, previously known as the Chief Scientist.
After eight years of developing the technology and product, the company is now entering the commercialization phase.
As far as the actual product, the HOLOSCOPE™-i holographic system is initially intended for use during minimally invasive structural heart procedures, to enable intuitive 3D visualization of the currently treated heart, surrounding structures and the tools used during the procedures, potentially enhancing confidence and performance.
By providing the operators with the patient’s actual anatomy and navigation tools in the palm of their hands, and with superb visualization, they can intuitively carry out the procedure quicker and more effectively.
Being one of the earliest players in this market, the company has a strong global IP (investigational product) portfolio (over 35 patents) in the fields of Holographic visualization and interactions with holograms. While the company’s first product is targeted for the Medical Imaging market, the company’s IP and technology are relevant for visualization and interactions with any 3D data in a multitude of potential future markets including engineering, scientific visualization, education and more.
So what’s next?
Within the next few years, RealView Imaging plans to commercialize and sell HOLOSCOPE™-i holographic systems to leading medical centers, significantly impacting the world of interventional cardiology. In parallel, they plan on developing the next generation product – the HOLOSCOPE™-x – providing the holographic image registered to the actual anatomy inside the patient for interventional oncology procedures (as opposed to the “in-air” view of the current product for interventional cardiology).
This proprietary next-generation holographic system is based on the same core capabilities and is the only technology in the world that basically provides the operators with accurate “X-ray eyes”, allowing them to literally see the treated organ through the patient, without making any incision, and directly access the target while avoiding damage to surrounding tissue. This product concept has been generating major interest within some of the most prestigious oncology centers and leading medical companies in the world.
We have all heard about 3D holograms becoming a reality. Some of us have even watched “so called” holograms in action at concerts, but I have to admit, the thought of using a 3D hologram to operate on a human heart was not something I thought I’d see in my lifetime. I have never been happier to have been wrong about something.
RealView Imaging, remember that name.
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