Norway, known more for its expertise in oil and gas and marine biology than in health innovation, is home to increasing numbers of innovative medical technology start-ups. Here are five of the most exciting such companies, as selected by Kathrine Myhre, founder and CEO of Oslo-based innovation cluster Norway Health Tech.
Treatment and transportation solution for patients with highly infectious diseases.
Established in 2015 by a group of doctors at Oslo University Hospital, Epiguard’s flagship product is the ‘EpiShuttle’, a single-patient isolation and transportation system specially designed for the advanced treatment and transportation of patients with highly infectious diseases.
Epiguard CEO Ellen Andersen explained to Health Europa in July 2020 how the EpiShuttle represents a revolution in patient transportation and how it has become especially useful for COVID-19 patients. “The EpiShuttle allows personnel to perform patient monitoring and treatment – including emergency procedures like intubation, if they become necessary during transport – and provides the patient with a lot more comfort… In addition to the comfort aspect, the EpiShuttle provides two layers of protection, creating negative pressure. Not only does this prevent any contaminated air from escaping from the shuttle, it is also able to prevent contaminated air to get into the isolated patient space.”
She added, “The EpiShuttle makes patient transfer safe, reduces costs, and increases operational efficiency. An ambulance will usually require two to four hours of disinfection between each transport of a contagious or potentially contagious patient; while it can take up to a day to complete a full disinfection of a medical helicopter. However, because the EpiShuttle is airtight and equipped with negative pressure, this reduces the need for disinfection of the vehicles and thereby saves valuable time and resources. It will avoid the disruption of vehicles from service – the EpiShuttle itself can be disinfected later, while the helicopters and ambulances can return to service immediately… Another significant feature of the EpiShuttle is that, since the shuttle is essentially airtight, the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) among medical staff is lowered.”
Ultrasound technology for continuous direct monitoring of blood flow to the brain
One area of healthcare in which Norway holds particular expertise is ultrasound technology, largely concentrated at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and St. Olavs University Hospital (St. Olavs), both located in the city of Trondheim. Cimon Medical, which was spun out of this research base, develops and manufactures the novel Doppler ultrasound technology for healthcare and has the stated aim of becoming the market leader in continuous direct monitoring of blood flow.
CIMON Medical plans to launch its first regulatory approved product in Q4 2021. NeoDoppler, a non-invasive, simple-to-use and affordable product for the continuous measurement of cerebral blood flow aims to help the 15 percent of children that require intensive care in their first months of life and reduce the risk of brain injury from impaired and/or variable blood flow to the brain.
Neuro-ophthalmologic analysis device based on eye tracking technology
Established in 2015, Bulbitech aims to provide neuro-ophthalmologists, ophthalmologists and optometrists with a neuro-ophthalmic diagnostic support device for the early detection of neuro-ophthalmic disorders, based on eye tracking technology.
Bulbitech’s key product, the ‘BulbiCAM’ offers offering multiple examinations in one neuro-ocular diagnostic device with outcomes assessed in integrated software, meaning that eyecare professionals are able to quickly and objectively add the neurological part of the eye examination to their diagnostic workflow and more fully assess the patient’s neuro-ophthalmic condition.
In addition, the results of the analysis can be shared amongst clinicians through the company’s telemedicine functionality, which means that the patient can undergo the examination at a physical location while the neuro-ophthalmologist is working remotely.
All-in-one timesaving mobile app for healthcare professionals
Diffia’s key product, Nimble, is a smartphone app that allows clinicians and caregivers to communicate and coordinate with each other at hospitals and with patients at home in a seamless way.
The interface, which works on all digital devices and can be integrated with other internal digital systems and existing Electronic Health Records, aims to save healthcare professionals time and energy by allowing them to quickly assess patients, organise tasks, and communicate with each other. Nimble can reduce the need for clinicians to perform repetitive, manual and time consuming clinical tasks by using artificial intelligence.
Targeted drug enhancement using ultrasound technology
EXACT Therapeutics, which listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange in 2020, is a clinical stage biotech company developing a technology platform for ultrasound-mediated, targeted drug enhancement, called ‘Acoustic Cluster Therapy’ (ACT®).
EXACT claims that the unique ACT® sonoporation approach has the potential to significantly amplify the clinical utility of a wide range of therapeutic agents across a multitude of indications including within oncology (chemotherapy, immunotherapy), infectious diseases, and neurological conditions.
Like CIMON Medical, EXACT draws on Norway’s long history of ultrasound research, including at Nycomed Imaging AS (now part of GE Healthcare), where the core technology behind ACT® was developed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Three core scientists spun out from GE Healthcare in 2012 to form Phoenix Solutions, later renamed EXACT Therapeutics, with the aim of developing ACT® for therapeutic applications.