Medical Imaging Collaboration in Wisconsin: Industry and Academia Thrive in Partnership | By Kate Rodgers

“Industry and academic collaboration is critical for the Morgridge engineering team and Wisconsin’s biohealth industry to thrive and provide value to Wisconsin’s economy,” stated Fred Robertson, Chairman of Morgridge Institute for Research and Venture Partner at Baird Capital. “These collaborations have resulted in a number of successful technologies, startup companies, and ongoing partnerships.”

Panelists from each of these three mentioned categories led the discussion at the Fostering Medical Imaging Innovation Through Collaboration breakout session.

GE Healthcare and University of Wisconsin-Madison have a history of collaboration that has led to several medical imaging advancements and innovations. Jason Polzin, Manager of MR Applications and Workflow at GE Healthcare, credited this unique partnership to both proximity and the strong research and clinician connection at the university.

Not only does their collaboration exist in the early stages of R&D, but UW also implements early GE Healthcare imaging technologies before they’re on the market for clinician feedback. On the academic side, UW-Madison researchers and clinicians have learned more about market viability, robustness, and ease of patient and technician use when developing technologies through the partnership.

“This cross fertilization between the university, larger companies and smaller startups is essential to provide each part of what our ecosystem needs,” said Walter Block, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics at UW-Madison and Founder of TherVoyant.

This unique partnership has also benefited Wisconsin’s medical imaging ecosystem through the development of ‘white space companies’. As the line between research and development continues to be blurred, GE Healthcare has become more interested in fostering these white space companies allowing passionate individuals in the project to take the ideas and create successful spin-out companies.

Panelists Adam Uselmann, CEO of OnLume, and Walter Block, Founder of TherVoyant, spoke to how this type of collaboration resulted in the start of their companies. Both additionally benefitted from the access to resources such as Morgridge’s Fab Lab and WARF when taking their technology from idea to viable product.

“From the research side it can be satisfying to develop new technology, but you want to be able to get this technology out there and in people’s hands,” said Jan Huisken, Director of Morgridge Medical Engineering and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UW-Madison.

So, what’s next for medical imaging? Panelists considered the future of medical imaging when posed with the question of how machine learning will change the current landscape. Polzin compared it to the development of self-driving cars, with a focus on making the devices easier to use for technicians. GE Healthcare is in the process of developing an intelligent scanner that will be able to adapt to patient movement and notify radiologists when the images have abnormalities.

“We’re really on the cusp for a disruption in medical imaging. We’re making the machine do something a good technologist could do,” said Polzin. “It turns an average technologist into a great technologist.”

As panelists discussed the present and future state of medical imaging, it became clear that industry and academic collaborations in Wisconsin will guide the way in the next generation of integrated healthcare solutions.

View the entire panel discussion from the May 11th event here. 

View additional recap blogs from the Wisconsin Medical Imaging Forum.