Exo nabs $220M as hand-held ultrasound race heats up

The field of hand-held ultrasound has captured investors’ attention, as companies race to build a future where healthcare providers can have instant access and a deeper understanding about their patients' conditions.

Now—after raising just $40 million less than one year ago—Exo has secured a new $220 million financing round, as venture capital investors line up to back the company and its upcoming point-of-care diagnostic device.

The company’s quintupling comes after fellow competitor Butterfly Network went public earlier this year through a $1.5 billion SPAC deal backed by hedge fund Glenview Capital Management, and quickly follows the $60 million snared by EchoNous this month to roll out its portable Kosmos probe. 

Pronounced “echo,” Exo plans to put forward a simple and intuitive hand-held scanner designed for emergency rooms, urgent care clinics or in multiple hospital departments. At the same time, its digital solution Exo Works aims to streamline exams, documentation and billing by interfacing with a range of electronic medical record systems—and could lay the foundation for at-home exams, with patients being virtually guided through a scan by a connected healthcare provider.

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“Exo’s hardware and software were designed in tandem, with the future of decentralized healthcare at the forefront of every decision,” CEO Sandeep Akkaraju said in a statement. “Our vision is a healthcare system unconstrained by the four walls of a hospital and engineered for a world where providers can see clearly into every patient immediately.”

The company’s $220 million series C round brings its lifetime funding haul to over $320 million and was led by RA Capital Management, with additional backing by BlackRock, Sands Capital, Avidity Partners and Pura Vida Investments, plus previous backers.

Exo’s device, pending clearance from the FDA, will rely on artificial intelligence algorithms and silicon-based ultrasound transducer chips to allow it to be used effectively anywhere on the body—plugging into a smartphone to help triage cardiac patients, or even assist in pinpointing the placement of IV lines in the arm.

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“Handheld ultrasound is changing how medical care is delivered, which has already been proven by its use during the COVID-19 pandemic when it was difficult to bring cart-based systems into triage areas,” said Arun Nagdev, senior director of clinical education at Exo. 

“Emergency medicine will become so much more precise, swift, patient-focused and outcome-oriented as physicians are educated and empowered by intuitive handheld ultrasound devices that are at the ready for everything from traumatic injury diagnosis to nerve-block procedures,” Nagdev said. 

RELATED: EchoNous shoots for the stars with $60M for Kosmos hand-held, AI-powered ultrasound

While working to go public earlier this year, Butterfly Network signed on a new CEO and set down plans to spread its wings by building out its workforce. It also aims to establish new collaborations with clinical partners and team up with payers to help healthcare providers adopt its technology. 

Butterfly’s iQ probe also hitched a ride on a rocket to the International Space Station to help evaluate its performance in scanning astronauts in low gravity.

“NASA is returning to the Moon and our astronauts will need to be more self-reliant when it comes to medical care,” said Dorit Donoviel, Ph.D., director of the Translational Research Institute for Space Health.

“TRISH is investing in innovations that enable healthcare to be provided in new ways,” Donoviel added. “On deep space missions, tools such as the Butterfly iQ will help the astronauts monitor themselves for concerns such as kidney stones, fluid in the lungs, blood clots, and swelling of the optic nerve.”