If you are someone (like me), who has watched Star Trek over the years, you can’t help but wonder why your physician is unable to perform a scan of your entire body and instantly determine the cause of your ailment at your annual check-up. Of course, today, a huge machine called a CT scanner is the only thing close to the hand-held device used by Dr. McCoy and later fellow Star Trek medical officers.
Current day CT scanners are massive and fill nearly an entire room. CT scanners are also extremely expensive. Furthermore, those who receive a modern day CT scan are exposed to significant radiation. Until now, the notion that your doctor could scan your full body each year and diagnose illness — before symptoms customarily identified, i.e., at a stage when that disease is still easily treatable — seemed destined to remain in the realm of science fiction.
That was until the recent announcement by Nanox.vision, an Israeli/Japanese company, which applied a billion dollars in research (initially conducted by Sony) to create a cold cathode X-ray source. This revolutionary technology has been employed to create a CT scanner that fits into a suitcase and costs $10,000 per device unit. Nanox has successfully developed a new 5D X-ray source, based on advanced nano MEMS technology that generates a stable X-ray stream at low voltage and a fraction of the cost.
Nanox has not only developed this new product concept. The groundbreaking nanotechnology company has also teamed up with SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest telecom operator, to further cultivate and market to the new concept. SK Telecom has invested in Nanox and the partners have established a joint initiative to “democratize” medical imaging; launching “a global consortium driving preventive healthcare screening for all”. The hallmark slogan 1x1x1 (i.e., 1 person x 1 scan x per 1 year) trumpets the Nanox push to enable every person on the planet to receive a full body scan, once each year. According to Nanox, cancers that are detected early enough have a 70–99% survival rate. An accurate CT scan is one of the few ways to identify early stage Cancer. Regrettably, the cost to operate a standard CT has remained too high to utilize for routine detection scans. Even when a CT scan is prescribed to provide a diagnosis, the wait time is often extensive.
Nanox envisions their new, improved CT scanner in every lab — so that when you receive your yearly blood test, you would also get a full body scan. The image would be processed and then analyzed by advanced AI Vision technology. Since according to this plan, individuals would get yearly scans, it will be possible to automatically compare the current year’s scan to images from the previous year and rapidly detect any anomalies.
“If we manage to reach the 1x1x1 vision, we will be able to help save over 8 million people every year with regard to cancer alone,” said Ran Poliakine, founder of Nanox.
Poliakine continued: “This is the true democratization of healthcare, in which medical imaging will be accessible to all people globally and will cease to be the privilege of the few. We estimate that the economic savings will reach over US $1 trillion per year! That is an astonishing amount of money, which can now be diverted to better uses. The implications of our technology are beyond significant to humanity as a whole.”
Kim Il-ung, President of SK Telecom’s Hong Kong office said: “I believe Nanox is one of the most influential companies of our era. Their novel X-ray source can help save millions of lives each year and over a trillion US dollars in cancer-associated costs alone. SK Telecom has a great interest in disruptive healthcare initiatives, and the Nanox vision of democratizing medical screening to make it accessible and affordable is exactly where we believe we can make a real difference in improving the quality of human life. This is a strategic investment for us, and we look forward to working with the incredible Nanox team to shape the future of global digital healthcare.”
Nanox plans to seed thousands of new machines throughout the world, as part of the first stage of their initiative, in the hope of changing the very face of health care.
Of course, disrupting an industry as significant as the medical CT industry is not without challenges. Manufacturers of the present day million dollar systems are sure to fight back. Nanox hopes it can convert the makers of CT systems into Nanox service providers — in the hopes that providing billions of scans a year could turn out to be a much more lucrative than the sale of their current older hardware, (even if the goal is to provide a scan for $30 per image).
While Nanox has already developed the technology to build an inexpensive scanner and to analyze those scans with partner companies using AI, there is a small technical complication that remains. Today, a 3D image of a full body scan requires 40 GB of storage. Both the upload and storage of these gigantic files is a challenge that must be addressed. Nevertheless, despite any challenges, the new CT system developed by Nanox promises to revolutionize preventive medicine.