Startup of the Week: Image Analysis (Wired UK)


Olga Kubassova
Olga Kubassova

Image Analysis


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Image Analysis
uses cloud-based software and complex algorithms to analyse MRI
data far more objectively than any one clinician can. Still in her
20s, founder Olga Kubassova realised while studying for her PhD in
computer science that her research could be game changing, and soon
after started the company. She has built it with one goal in mind
— to help doctors and clinical researchers make use of the best
imaging technologies, to deliver the best care to patients. Her
system can help develop biomarkers used to assess how a patient
will respond to treatment for inflammatory arthritis and
inflammatory cancers at the very early stages. 

Founder: Olga Kubassova
HQ: London
Launch: 2008, becoming operational in 2009
Staff: 11 full time and 15 part time
Funding: Founder-funded, about to secure angel
investment 

What is your USP?
Image Analysis is the only company that has a dedicated
cloud-based software platform, Dynamika, for objective
quantification of MRI data, which has been academically validated
and clinically accepted.

The software is used in major clinics and powers global clinical
trials helping to extract useful quantitative information from MRI
data. That data is used to create “imaging biomarkers” that help
assess how a patient will react to treatment.

What problem do you solve?

When there is a need to quantitatively measure the impact of
treatment on patient condition, sensitive images such as MRI or
dynamic contrast MRI are taken before and after the treatment. In
cancer studies, to measure tumour growth; in rheumatology studies,
to measure the volume of inflammation; in neurology, the size of
lesions, etc. Very often this analysis is done by eye and the
results are subjective and highly depend on the reader’s
experience. We deliver a standardised computer-aided analysis,
which produces objective and repeatable results. This helps to
conduct objective and very accurate assessment of treatment effect.
Such judgement is crucial to ensure the success of treatment and
correct diagnosis. At Image Analysis we have an expert team, which
also delivers a service to help utilise MRIs in clinical trials
more efficiently. This includes — training imaging specialists in
image acquisition, designing imaging protocols, ensuring high
quality of data, etc.

How do you make money?

We charge on an image-by-image basis or annual licence, which
gives choice to the customer.

Who do you view as your competitors?

We don’t have competitors who would specialise in MRI as much as
we do. There are companies that conduct clinical trials, but MRI
requires dedicated expertise and dedicated computer aided
algorithms for processing, so we always end up being subcontracted
for such analysis. We prefer to work collaboratively rather then
compete, as the overall objective for all of us is to deliver
better care to patients with debilitating conditions such as
rheumatoid arthritis and cancer 

What kind of successes have medical trials/treatments
had with your software, that they might not have
otherwise?


Using our system and service, it is possible to see the earliest
changes in patient condition, which are not possible to see with
human eye. This gives a very strong competitive advantage to
clinical trials. Also, if no changes are visible, then the decision
to stop the trial can be made earlier, thus saving money

Where did you get the idea for the
business?


I was working with radiologists and treating clinicians during my
PhD, when I realised there is a real need for better tools in
clinical practice and research. With their encouragement and
support I started the business

What’s the biggest misconception about your
business?


That X-ray (which is another type of imaging) can deliver the same
answers as MRI. Just to explain this quickly – X-ray is an imaging
modality which shows late manifestations of the disease such as
erosion in rheumatoid arthritis or tumours at late stages. MRI,
especially done with contrasts (AKA Dynamic Contrast Enhanced MRI)
shows the earliest changes related to inflammation. To see the
change with X-ray you have to wait for at least six to 12 months,
with MRI you can see the change in weeks. But X-ray is cheaper and
people are more familiar with it, so often they think that if they
do enough X-rays they will see the same as with MRI, which is not
true and ultimately delays the results of the trials or
diagnosis.

What pushed you to stop talking about launching a
startup to actually doing it?


If I don’t do it, no one will.

How has the business developed?

We have been doubling our revenue each year and growing
significantly in terms of people. In the last year we moved to
London from Leeds to be closer to our clients and opened US
operations.

What has been the most challenging time for the
company?


Every year brings a new challenge. Currently we are setting up
collaborations with larger companies, which is always a challenge.
We are looking to close partnership agreements with over ten
companies this year alone.

How did you overcome that?

We have fantastic team and work 24/7 🙂

Do you have any advice for dealing with potential
investors?


Make sure that they are on the same page. I was always hesitant to
take someone else’s money because when it is yours you are fully in
charge. As a CEO one of your responsibilities is to multiply the
investment and deliver the business plan… Sometimes you have to
morph the business into something else or make amendments to the
plan or define a completely new strategy. If the investors
understand and support you, the business will flourish. I am very
lucky to have all my investors deeply involved and the majority of
them form the company’s board, so decisions are made fast and
implemented very efficiently.

What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given
you?


Dream big. This was given to me by one of my mentors — Linda
Pollard, OBE who is a fantastic entrepreneur herself. Once you
start the business, people are trying to box it and always ask you
to define what the next five minutes are going to look like. I
don’t think this is how an entrepreneurial mind works. We started
this because we want to change the world. So I was coming out of
one of those meetings when I had to scale down my ambitions to
explain to people what we are doing. As we walked out, she said,
“dream big, don’t let anyone to make you forget why you are doing
this business”. It really helps to always know why you are doing it
and what you are doing, especially when you are facing daily
challenges. There is always a big dream, which will hopefully
materialise!

Which businessperson do you most admire and
why?


Margaret Thatcher for being brave, persistent, visionary; Steve
Jobs for being able to apply his genius again and again in whatever
industry or company.

What is your biggest barrier to future
success?


The ability to capture the market with a small team, but we are
overcoming this through collaborations with major players.

Where do you see your company in ten
years?


Global leader in MRI analysis.

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Which area of imaging do you think is still ripe for
disruption now?


Definitely MRI is right market, but potentially MRI- PET [a mix of
MRI and Positron emission tomography, a functional imaging
technique that produces 3D images of functional processes in the
body]. But this will need to be studied further as this is a very
expensive imaging modality to implement routinely.

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13 June 2014 | 12:41 pm – Source: wired.co.uk
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