NIH awards $228,325 to Tech Startup to Develop MRI Device for Improved Diagnosis

Patricia Inácio, PhD avatar

by Patricia Inácio, PhD |

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A startup developing a device for more affordable and efficient magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans was recently awarded a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant from the National Institutes of Health.

MR-Link, a technology company affiliated with Purdue University, will receive $228,325 to develop the device. Researchers say it will provide better imaging and promises to improve the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and other imaging-diagnosed diseases, while lowering costs and reducing health risks.

“This grant is validation for us that our idea is on the right track and there is a need for these kind of technologies that may help researchers to understand human physiology more accurately,” Ranajay Mandal, one of three MR-Link co-founders and a graduate student at Purdue University’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, said in a press release.

Designed to be inserted into an existing MRI machine, the coin-sized device is synchronized with the MRI system to perform multiple scans at once, allowing researchers to record, stimulate, and image the brain and other organs. By incorporating electro-physiological signals from several organs, the new device promises to more effectively provide insight on a patient’s physiology.

STTR is a highly competitive program that awards federal funding to small businesses and nonprofit institutions to support scientific and technological innovation, and increase private sector commercialization of these innovations.

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Out of more than 1,000 applications received from startups throughout the U.S. for Phase 1 STTR grants, only 169 were funded. MR-Link is the only one to receive funding from the state of Indiana, out of 32 that applied.

“We will use this funding to further develop our device and software into a user-friendly system, so that MR-Link can begin to distribute its beta testing units to MRI researchers,” said co-founder Nishant Babaria, a graduate student at the Purdue School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We hope to also use the money to enrich our research team with new professionals to help us package the software and hardware.”

MR-Link is reaching out to research facilities first before moving into the clinical market.

“We are open to partnerships with other laboratories and device manufacturers so we could soon deliver devices to more people and to benefit their research and to hopefully soon deliver to clinicians for them to better treat patients,” said co-founder Zhongming Liu, PhD, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering at Purdue.

The researchers are presenting the device at the upcoming International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, June 16-21, 2018, in Paris.

MR-Link is opening offices in the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Indiana, the largest university-affiliated business incubation complex in the country.