Medical imaging startup Nanox hopes to reinvent the X-ray with hardware inspired by Star Trek’s biobed. In anticipation of future growth, Nanox recently raised $26 million in a funding round led by strategic investor Foxconn, with participation from previous investors Fujifilm, SK Telecom, and others.
The round brings Nanox’s total raised to $55 million, and founder and CEO Ran Poliakine says it will enable the company to pursue partnerships with governments, hospitals, and clinic chains. “We are honored to have Foxconn join other world leaders, Fujifilm and SK Telecom, in investing in our vision of eradicating cancer,” he added.
By way of background, Nanox was founded in 2016 by Japanese venture capital tycoon Hitoshi Masuya as part of a joint investment with Sony. After Sony dropped out, Masuya joined forces with Poliakine, and the two decided to split the company’s operations between Japan and Israel.
Nanox — which crucially doesn’t yet have regulatory approval for its system, Nanox.Arc — claims its X-ray source technology can “significantly” lower the costs of imaging compared with existing systems. (Top-of-the-line imaging hardware can cost upwards of $3 million.) The system is designed to promote the early detection of conditions discoverable by computed tomography (CT), mammography, fluoroscopy, angiogram, and other imaging modalities, and it will be offered under a pay-per-scan business model at prices “competitive” with alternatives.
The Arc’s underlying technology is the product of over 15 years of development and is based on silicon micro-electromechanical systems (MEMs) — semiconductors with both mechanical and electronic components. As opposed to legacy systems, which heat a filament to over 2,000 degrees Celsius to create an electron cloud that produces X-rays when pulled toward a metal anode, the Arc employs a field emission array of a 100 million molybdenum nano-cones that generate electrons at low voltage.
“While some companies have made achievements using carbon nano tubes as a basis for field emission X-ray with [a] similar approach to the one used by Nanox, to the best of our knowledge no company has achieved a commercially stable source that can be embedded inside a medical imaging system and operate with an acceptable lifespan,” said Nanox Japan CEO Hitoshi Masuya. “We are proud [of] our achievement and look forward to beginning to [revolutionize] … imaging in the world.”
Poliakine points out that affordability is a likely sticking point for the roughly two-thirds of the population that didn’t have access to medical imaging as of 2012, according to the Pan-American Health Organization and the World Health Organization. “Nanox has achieved a technological breakthrough by digitizing traditional X-rays, and now we are ready to take a giant leap forward in making it possible to provide one scan per person, per year, for preventative measures,” he said.
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