CorTechs Labs - 2014 Fierce 15

CEO: Guri Stark
Based: San Diego
Founded: 2005

The scoop: CorTechs Labs makes NeuroQuant, a computer program that automatically measures the volume of about 30 different substructures in the brain, including the hippocampus, to diagnose Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury/concussions. The measured volumes are compared against a database of healthy measurements based on a database of volumes by gender and age. The software is available over the cloud or as an installed program.

CorTechs offers a scan of an individual's brain for $89, but volume discounts are available for large commitments.

What makes CorTechs Labs Fierce: The program for measuring brain volumes replaces the manual methodology that could take two or three days per patient; now the information is made available upon receipt of the MRI scan, and large hospitals perform several thousand analyses per year.

There is a growing consensus that brain volume can play an important role in diagnosis of cognitive disorders, CEO Guri Stark said in an interview. "If you fail a cognitive test, and you have a volume problem in your hippocampus, and you have beta amyloids, these three indicators together give a very high probability, over 90%, of having the disease."

Similarly, when it comes to epilepsy, "usually one side of the brain is affected and the other side is not, so there is asymmetry in the brain," he said. "We know how to measure both left and right sides and compare them to create an asymmetry index."

Advantages of the approach include its noninvasive nature and associated cost savings to the healthcare system.

NeuroQuant boasts partnerships with a plethora of imaging industry leaders. In May, GE Healthcare signed a joint-marketing agreement on an MRI scanning solution used in conjunction with CorTech's NeuroQuant program. Stark said the solution allows GE scanners to install the software with the push of a button. In addition, CorTechs has strategic partnerships with Philips Healthcare ($PHG) and Toshiba, according to the website.

The company counts 250 institutions among its customers, including prominent ones like the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins University and Vanderbilt University, Stark said. Due to a CE mark received earlier this year, NeuroQuant is available in Europe as well. The 510(k) clearance was obtained in 2006.

And in March the company closed a Series B financing round led by Genting Berhad, the investment holding and management company of Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group. Stark said the company is backed by private investors and wealthy individuals but has no venture capital firms among its funders, though that might change soon.

What to look for: Expansion is the name of the game. "We want every neurologist to use it as part of their daily assessment," Stark said. In 2015, CorTechs is targeting expansion in several Asian countries, especially Japan, Korea, Singapore and Australia. He left China off the list, calling it a "dilemma" because of intellectual property concerns.

"We probably will go to China with a cloud offering, but not with an installed system, fearing mostly piracy," the CEO said.

Another dilemma is whether to raise additional funding. "There may be a window of opportunity here in which we are number one in the market, and moving faster than the current pace may be the right thing to do, in which case I will need to raise some more money," Stark said, adding that he will decide in the next 6 to 9 months.

Stark said the risk of playing it safe is that window may close because of competition on the horizon, mostly in Europe, though none have NeuroQuant's regulatory approvals. Last year a team from Stanford University also claimed to have made a breakthrough regarding the use of MRI to quantitatively assess brain volumes, proof that others are learning the company's tricks.

"I welcome that [competition]," Stark said. "I use Elon Musk's philosophy. When somebody asked him why he shares his intellectual property, he said 'If I'm the only company trying to increase awareness of electric cars, it'll be a very small market.'"

Expansion is also planned into other indications. The company hopes to soon receive approval from the FDA to use NeuroQuant in pediatric patients. In addition, Stark said the company is moving into the diagnosis of psychiatric conditions and measuring other metrics like brain connectivity. -- Varun Saxena (email | Twitter)

For more:
GE Healthcare collaborates with CorTechs Labs on MRI scans

CorTechs Labs - 2014 Fierce 15