Medical imaging startup Nanox hopes to reinvent the X-ray with hardware inspired by Star Trek‘s biobed. The company today announced that it has raised $20 million in a deal led by SK Telecom, which will partner with Nanox to deploy 2,500 of the startup’s systems in South Korea and Vietnam next year, subject to regulatory approvals. The bulk of these will be manufactured by Nanox’s newly established Korean subsidiary focused on mass production.
According to the World Health Organization, roughly two-thirds of the world’s population lacks access to medical imaging. As a result, many are forced to wait weeks or months for access to systems and diagnostic results, which impacts the health of patients with diseases where early detection is the key to positive outcomes. Nanox — which crucially doesn’t yet have regulatory approval for its system, Nanox.Arc (Arc) — claims its X-ray source technology can lower the cost of imaging hardware from millions of dollars to $10,000, making it more accessible.
Arc is designed to promote the early detection of conditions discoverable by computed tomography (CT), mammography, fluoroscopy, angiogram, and other imaging modalities, and it will be offered under a pay-per-scan business model at prices “competitive” with alternatives. A planned cloud-based software dubbed Nanox.Cloud will complement the Arc with several value-added services, including a scan repository, radiologist matching, online and offline diagnostic review and annotation, connectivity to diagnostic assistive AI systems, billing, and reporting. (Earlier this year, Nanox began laying the groundwork for Nanox.Cloud, announcing collaborations with Qure.ai and CureMetrix to integrate the companies’ digital health solutions.)
The Arc’s underlying technology is the product of over 15 years of development and is based on silicon micro-electromechanical systems (MEMs), or semiconductors with both mechanical and electronic components. As opposed to legacy systems, which heat a filament to over 2,000 degrees Celsius to create an electron cloud that produces X-rays when pulled toward a metal anode, the Arc employs a field emission array of 100 million molybdenum nano-cones that generate electrons at low voltage.
An added advantage of this design is reduced weight. The Arc weighs in at around 70 kilograms (about 154 pounds) versus the 2,000 kilograms (about 4,409 pounds) most traditional CT scanners weigh. The lighter weight ostensibly makes it easier to install and wheel around clinic settings.
Beyond the strategic deployment with SK Telecom, Nanox plans to make the Arc available globally in 2021. To this end, it’s announced agreements with Hadassah Hospital in Israel for the development of early detection protocols; a Gateway Group for 1,000 Arc units in New Zealand, Australia, and Norway worth a combined $174 million; and teleradiology company USARAD for 3,000 Arc units in the U.S.
In the next two years — ahead of an initial public offering on the Nasdaq that would value the company at more than $500 million — Nanox CEO Ran Poliakine hopes to onboard more than 15,000 customers and with service fees in the “hundreds of millions” of dollars. “COVID-19 has taught us that we are all connected,” he told VentureBeat via email. “SK’s vision is to reach every corner of earth and connect us all with 5G and other advanced technologies, whether for human interaction or for medical-information sharing. This deal is a direct representation of that vision.”
Nanox was founded in 2016 by Japanese venture capital tycoon Hitoshi Masuya as part of a joint investment with Sony. After Sony dropped out, Masuya joined forces with Poliakine, and the two decided to split the company’s operations between Japan and Israel.
This latest investment round in Nanox — an expansion of its series B — saw participation from previous investors Fujifilm, SK Telecom, and others. It brings the 50-employee company’s total raised to $80 million, following a $26 million raise in January 2020.