One day, Butterfly’s platform will replace the stethoscope on the doctor’s neck.
In 1956, for the first time, an ultrasound machine was installed at a hospital for medical use. Since then, ultrasound has become a popular diagnostic tool for doctors. You can catch an ultrasound machine in any hospital or clinic – at least in developed countries.
Even so, ultrasound technology itself doesn’t have many breakthroughs. Generations of ultrasound machines often use quartz crystal probes, vibrating to produce sound waves. They cost between $ 9,000 and $ 20,000, and the cost of a scan can be as high as $ 250.
But now, a US start-up named Butterfly claims to pioneer to revolutionize medical ultrasound procedures. They created a portable, compact device with a razor, but could scan the entire body ultrasound.
Butterfly said this is the first machine in the world to do this. And it costs only $ 2,000. The device, named Butterfly iQ, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October 2017, with abdominal, cardiovascular, fetal, gynecological, urological, and ultrasound capabilities. Musculoskeletal and 7 other clinical applications.
In fact, conventional ultrasound machines now use electric current to affect one or more crystals, causing them to vibrate from there to produce sound waves with high frequency thanks to the piezoelectric effect.
Sound waves move through the body until they touch the boundary between tissues or organs. Some waves then reflect back to the crystal and generate an electric current recorded by the machine. Because the sound speed in the body tissue remains constant and we can measure the response time of each wave, the ultrasound machine algorithms can measure the distance between tissue boundaries and organs, then recreate into the final image.
In the hand-held Butterfly iQ ultrasound machine, the crystals are replaced by capacitive ultrasound probes – basically, they are blank sheet metal shapes, suspended between two electrodes. There are 10,000 channels of probes that can resonate with frequencies of different types when the voltage is supplied.
Butterfly calls this a smart “butterfly” structure, with independent processing channels that can perform about half a trillion calculations per second during the scan – enough to provide three-dimensional ultrasound images of any any area on the body.
The company claims that Butterfly iQ is the first ultrasound machine in the world to be able to take full-body pictures. The crystal detectors at traditional ultrasound machines must be adjusted to produce ultrasound waves to capture the body at individual depths. But the metal plates of the Butterfly iQ have overcome this drawback.
By adjusting the electromagnetic field of the capacitive probe, the wave frequencies can change continuously during the scan. “We can make them vibrate at 1 megahertz if we want to capture deep, or 5 megahertz if we want to capture shallow,” said Dr. Jonathan Rothberg, founder of Butterfly.
Real-time ultrasound images can be uploaded to the cloud system
And this improvement is only half the story. Butterfly also built for its portable ultrasound device a powerful software ecosystem. Butterfly iQ can be connected to smartphones via an artificial intelligence extraction application (AI).
While performing ultrasound, the AI algorithm determines the position of the transducer and image output along with virtual reality enhancement technology (AR), allowing users to visualize where they are looking in the body. me Another AI system is used to check image quality and to provide simple, pending diagnostics and diagnostics approved by the FDA.
Ultrasonic data collected by the machine can be uploaded to the cloud storage service with AES 256-bit standard images and SOC II certified, fully complying with US law on fish information protection. Human collected from medical records. The application also has integrated sharing tools that allow users to comment on images or send it to doctors, or between doctors together for consultation.
Revolution in health
Founded by Dr. Jonathan Rothberg, who was awarded the US National Innovation and Technology Medal in 2015 by former President Barack Obama, Butterfly announced that he has continued to call for a successful capital of $ 250 million for the Series growth phase. D, organized by Fidelity financial company, with the participation of Fosun Pharma, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Jamie Dinan and other investors.
“This is an important step in realizing the promise of bringing ultrasound to millions of people without access to this essential medical technology,” Rothberg said. “I set the goal of universalizing ultrasound imaging techniques like what I did with DNA sequencing. The two thirds of the world today do not have the opportunity to use this medical imaging technique, and now both in developed countries, the cost and lack of expertise also limit its accessibility. “
It seems like investors as well as we have reason to put faith in Butterfly. Rothberg, the company’s founder, was also the inventor of the world’s first DNA sequencing chip (Ion Torrent) and a treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
Rothberg said the idea of developing new ultrasound technology was inspired by a lecture by physicist Max Tegmark from MIT.
Tegmark hypothesized that a system with thousands of antennas could measure energy more efficiently than any other converter. Meanwhile, Rothberg has a daughter with sclerosis, and he can apply this idea to make a portable ultrasound machine for her.
Encouraged by Tegmark with the help of Nevada Sanchez, one of the students of the physicist, Rothberg formed a team of about 50 scientists, developers and engineers to build the technology. ” Butterfly “for Butterfly iQ – combined with research by Professor Pierre Khuri-Yakub from Stanford.
It took 8 years of research and development, but John Martin, Butterfly’s medical director, insisted that it was worth the wait. And he has his own reasons for that. Three years ago, during a test of Butterfly iQ on himself, Martin discovered a tumor under his tongue – a type of squamous cell cancer that he previously thought was only an active lymph node. exceed.
After the previous round of capital calls, Butterfly now has tens of thousands of orders. Now, the company started delivering products to consumers. Rothberg hopes to work with non-profit organizations and universities to bring their equipment to developing countries.
In April, the company and a team of ultrasound doctors from Brown University tested Butterfly iQ at many hospitals in Kenya.
The plan after Butterfly’s capital call is to sell more than 250,000 devices in 18 months. In addition, the company is working to develop two new products: a sticker that uses ultrasound to monitor disease and an oral pill that can monitor cancer from inside the body.
Rothberg believes that, one day, Butterfly’s platform will become popular, even replacing the stethoscope on the necks of all doctors.