Who we are and what we do...
FUJIFILM VisualSonics specifically focuses on developing ultrasound technology that has been scaled to much higher frequencies than commonly found in many of the conventional ultrasound systems on the market today. As a result, our ultrasound platform provides images at resolutions that far exceed any other system available on the market; as fine as 30 micrometers, clearly differentiating our company from our competitors.
We originally introduced our technology in the area of preclinical research as micro-ultrasound, specifically in small animal models of human disease (e.g. mice or rat models). This coincided with the explosion of the human genome project (circa 2000), where numerous genetic models of human disease were developed in small animals.
Study of these disease models benefited from the use of imaging techniques to follow the disease progression in vivo, as opposed to using ex vivo methods such as histology. By using ultra high frequency, researchers were able to use our technology to study their live animals in real-time, longitudinally, and with no issues of safety or side effects.
Our preclinical customers are mostly academic researchers, often involved in the fields of cardiovascular and cancer research. Neurobiology and developmental biology are other key areas that are among an ever growing number of applications. For these customers, funding for purchasing capital equipment comes mainly through grants. Obtaining funding is often a challenge and sources of funding may change from time to time so we constantly need to be aware of these dynamics and help potential customers navigate through this.
Early in 2016, we launched a new ultra high frequency ultrasound system for clinical use. The clinical space is new to us and therefore we are creating a whole new market. This is an exciting time for us as we are at the forefront of this new field. Initial applications for clinical use of our ultra high frequency ultrasound system includes neonatology and pediatrics, vascular, small parts, MSK and dermatology.
Beyond ultrasound, we have also developed a unique photoacoustic technology to expand on the capabilities of our imaging solutions. Photoacoustics is the combination of optical and acoustic imaging, and provides additional and complementary information to what can be seen with ultrasound alone. Examples of this include assessment of blood oxygenation levels, detection of other tissues such as melanin or lipids, or visualization of optical dyes or contrast agents not detectable with ultrasound.
A little history...
VisualSonics was founded in 1999 by medical physicist Dr. Stuart Foster, a Senior Scientist at Sunnybrook Research Institute, who had been involved in the development of high-frequency ultrasonic systems since 1983. The company’s intellectual property was based on research supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund (ORDCF), the Terry Fox Foundation, and venture capital investment, with infrastructure support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and Ontario Research Fund.
Originally, Dr. Stuart Foster and his team started using this technology in preclinical research, in small animal models of human disease (e.g. mice or rat models of cancer and cardiovascular disease). By using high frequency ultrasound, researchers were able to study their live animals in real-time, longitudinally, and with no issues of safety or side effects. “From the inception of the company, we always envisioned that the technology would eventually find a home in human clinical applications and it is exciting that that day has finally arrived,” says Dr. Foster. In June of 2010, VisualSonics was acquired by SonoSite, Inc. (based in Bothell, US), a leader in hand-carried and mountable ultrasound. SonoSite, Inc., was then subsequently acquired by FUJIFILM Holdings in March of 2012.
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The MgSafe project has received funding from EU Horizon 2020 and will create opportunities for 15 young researchers while bringing together universities, research institutions and tech companies that will push the boundaries of biodegradabe magnesium implants.