By Joanne Hart, Financial Mail on Sunday
Go into the imaging department of any NHS hospital and what do you see? A room full of people waiting for X-rays, ultrasounds and the like. Patients are fractious, receptionists are frazzled, doctors and technicians are fatigued.
Intelligent Ultrasound tries to make the process smoother, faster and safer. The shares are just 7.25p but the price should rise materially this year and beyond.
Spun out of Cardiff University, the company started off with a simulation tool to teach medical students how to conduct ultrasound scans. Using online teach-ins, virtual reality and other digital wizardry, trainee doctors and sonographers learn how to scan patients and, crucially, how to interpret the results.
The business has grown around the world and is now recognised as one of the top firms in this area, with about 10 per cent of the market and a reputation for excellence.
Four years ago, however, chief executive Stuart Gall thought the time was right to move from classroom to clinic, developing equipment that would help medical teams in hospitals with real patients.
Hitting the spot: Intelligent Ultrasound’s training makes it easier for clinicians to scan unborn babies
Two products have been developed so far – one for obstetrics, the other for certain types of local anaesthetic. Both use artificial intelligence to make the ultrasound process easier and more effective.
As every mother knows, when a woman reaches the 20th week of her pregnancy, she is asked to go for a scan. Gel is rubbed on her tummy and a grainy image appears on the screen – her baby! It all seems miraculous but, as the probe is moved across the skin, medics have to check 21 areas of the foetus to make sure everything is at it should be.
The protocol is precise, the work is often stressful and it can take quite a while until the relevant images are secured. Intelligent Ultrasound’s software automates the process, signalling to the doctor when images are right and alerting him or her if something is amiss.
The kit was smart enough to attract the attention of GE, the number one manufacturer of obstetric ultrasound machines in the world. Gall has now signed a contract with GE, under which the American group has first dibs on any software that Intelligent Ultrasound develops in the obstetrics and gynaecology field.
The technology has already been installed in about 5,000 GE machines, with another 10,000 expected to come on-stream by mid-2024.
Late last year, Intelligent Ultrasound gained US regulatory approval for a second product, which helps anaesthetists administer certain types of local anaesthetic, known as nerve blocks.
Used for chronic pain relief and routine operations, they are safer than general anaesthetics, avoid sedation and mean patients can usually be treated within a day – better for them and cheaper for hospitals. But these jabs have to be done with the aid of ultrasound to ensure the needle goes into the right spot. Intelligent Ultrasound’s latest gadget highlights where nerves and arteries are in real time so anaesthetists can be absolutely sure they are doing it right.
Today, even some of the most experienced anaesthetists can be reluctant to administer nerve blocks because the process is different from their usual practice. Intelligent Ultrasound’s kit is designed to help them feel more confident and encourage greater adoption of this type of anaesthesia. The equipment is already in use at a number of UK hospitals, including John Radcliffe in Oxford, Hull Royal Infirmary, Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire and University College London.
Having received approval in the US, Gall has American clinics in sight too, either independently or with a GE-style backer. Other ultrasound tools are also on the cards for the coming years.
There are several ways of finding out what is going on inside a patient’s body, including X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerised tomography (CT) scans. Ultrasounds, however, are faster than some, safer than others and cheaper than most.
Intelligent Ultrasound is a minnow right now, forecast to deliver 2022 revenues of £10 million, rising to almost £18 million in 2024. The company is loss-making, as Gall has been reinvesting returns into the business, but it should move into profit over the next two years and grow at pace thereafter.
Midas verdict: Intelligent Ultrasound is a small, Cardiff-based business whose technology has been snapped up by dozens of hospitals and US giant GE. The firm is still at an early stage, but prospects are bright. Buy now, at 7.25p, and watch it grow.
Traded on: AIM Ticker: IUG Contact: intelligentultrasound.com or 029 2075 6534
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