MRI examinations are vital for survival, but often expensive and only available in larger clinics. A Swiss start-up has developed an ultra-mobile device that could soon be used across the board.
In many cases, MRI sets the gold standard in medical imaging. If a doctor suspects that you’ve had a stroke or developed a tumor, they’ll likely prescribe an MRI. Despite this essential clinical role, it is estimated that 66% of the world’s population do not have access to an MRI scanner, especially due to the high investment costs of a conventional scanner – which can amount to USD 1.5 million or more.
Small-sized scanner vs. image quality
A standard MRI scanner employs a large, powerful superconducting electromagnet, creating radio waves that can precisely locate protons in the human body. For years, researchers have been trying to build scanners that use much smaller permanent magnets – but reducing the number of magnets in an MRI scanner results in a lower image quality. Now, the Swiss start-up Multiwave Technologies has launched an ultra-portable MRI scanner that is said to work just as well in practice, despite a magnetic field that is about ten times weaker than a conventional scanner.
Thanks to our technology, which is based on AI and algorithms we have developed ourselves, the images obtained by this MRI scanner can be used for diagnosis.
First test devices in use
In the summer of 2022, Multiwave delivered its first ultra-portable MRI devices to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York (US) and Brighton and Sussex Medical School (UK). It plans to deliver another ten devices to leading research institutions in Europe and the US by the end of 2023, by which time it also expects to receive the coveted FDA 510(k) approval, to be followed by CE marking.
A subscription model for easier access
The young research company is working closely with European partners such as the European Commission, the Aix-Marseille University and the Imperial College London to advance the MRI technology. The price tag of the new device is CHF 200,000, making it much cheaper than a conventional MRI scanner. Once this ultra-portable MRI scanner has been approved, Multiwave intends to offer a subscription model that will reduce the acquisition time for the customer and make it much more accessible, as stated in a recent media interview (available only in French). Offering the device via this type of model will give clinics the choice of using the scanner only on certain days of the week, or for seasonal usage such as at a ski resort or on an island, for example.