General Electric is about more than just refrigerators and microwaves; in recent years, GE has become one of the biggest names in health care technology. And last week, GE, via its GE Healthcare Israel subsidiary, added another Israeli innovation to its formidable collection of tech solutions for health care – technology from Check-Cap, developer of an ingestible imaging capsule that may help detect colorectal cancer. GE is investing an undisclosed amount in the company via its Healthymagination Fund, an equity fund that makes investments in highly promising healthcare technology companies.
Check-Cap’s ingestible and disposable imaging capsule will, when development is completed, have the capability to image the colon in 3D. The capsule will require no bowel cleansing before ingestion and no hospital visit, allowing patients to go about their daily routines without having to alter their activities.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and the second in women, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Almost 60% of the cases occur in developed regions. About 608,000 deaths from colorectal cancer are estimated worldwide annually, accounting for 8% of all cancer deaths and making it the fourth most common cause of death from cancer. In the United States, colorectal cancer is the 3rd most common and the 2nd leading cause of cancer death.
Check-Cap plans to introduce its ingestible imaging capsule in the European Union in late 2013, subject to CE Mark regulatory approval. The company also is in discussions with the United States Food & Drug Administration concerning appropriate clinical activities to support approval to market the product in the United States. “We are pleased to have GE be a new investor and collaborator,” said Guy Neev, Chief Executive Officer of Check-Cap. “GE’s investment is an acknowledgement of the patient need we are addressing as well as the clinical promise of our technology. Colon cancer is the most deadly, preventable cancer that patients currently experience. Our goal is to reduce patient mortality by facilitating dramatically increased patient adherence with the physician screening recommendations, allowing earlier detection and treatment. GE’s experience in the imaging space will be a significant contribution to our efforts as we progress in our clinical and regulatory program towards commercialization.”
Check-Cap is just one investment that GE Healthcare Israel has made over the past decade that has enabled life-saving Israeli-developed technologies to come to market. Among its other achievements, GE Healthcare Israeli brought to market the world’s first miniaturized, portable cardiac ultrasound system, and the combined nuclear and CT imaging scanner using single photon emission computed tomography SPECT/CT imaging. In addition, GE Healthcare Israel developed a new generation CT reconstruction engine, which revolutionized workflow design with increased speed, image quality, and workflow flexibility.
Many of the technologies GE Healthcare is investing in are going to be part of what the company calls the “hospital room of the future.” Among the technologies GE scientists are exploring for future health care in hospitals are computer-based imaging analysis tools for patient samples that analyze microscopic images of a patient’s saliva or mucus from the lungs, to determine their true condition – allowing more efficient processing of patients and more accurate determination of necessary treatment. Another GE-developed imaging system utilizes a fluorescent imaging agent to localize the margins of a tumor, illuminating the margins with a special light, allowing doctors to get a better look at tumors so they can more confidently treat the entire affected area. Yet a third imaging system uses fluorescent imaging to to illuminate and label most nerves in the body, a project that recently received a $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. Here, too, many of the components that go into these systems were developed in Israel, in whole or in part.
GE Healthcare Israel has about 400 employees and has been very active in the Israeli health care industry. The company’s R&D center was set up using resources from Elscint and Elbit, both venerable names in Israeli technology. The company signed a deal recently with the Chief Scientist’s Office to provide material assistance to companies that are part of the office’s incubator programs. Under the terms of the deal, companies that get their funding from the Chief Scientist can take advantage of GE facilities and personnel to help them along with their development, hopefully saving them money, and cutting down the time to market for important innovations that can help save lives.
“We are especially happy to be able to work with the Chief Scientist’s office, because of its unique programs to discover new, innovative technology,” GE Healthcare Israel said in a statement. “While there are seed programs in other countries for high tech development, the programs offered by the Chief Scientist’s Office are probably more extensive – and successful – than the programs elsewhere. We’re proud to be working with the office, and we know we will be able to bring some good ideas to market.”