Applied Computational Technologies Pioneers Dramatic Radiation Therapy Improvements
Earlier this year, Kathy Blum started looking around for opportunities to apply her more than 20 years of experience in the medical device and service industry. At the time, the idea of joining a small startup company in central Pennsylvania wasn’t at the top of her list.
Six months later-as president and CEO of Applied Computational Technologies (ACT)-Blum is convinced she has hitched her wagon to a rising star shining new light on radiation treatments for cancer patients. Windber-based ACT is developing a groundbreaking method for refining the speed and accuracy of radiation treatment planning. Since hiring Blum in May 2008, the company has also secured significant private investment through BlueTree Allied Angels of Pittsburgh and Golden Seeds of Philadelphia, New York and Boston, and is prepared to complete clinical testing in the second quarter of 2009.
Finding a Need and Filling It
ACT was founded five years ago by Jay McClatchey, an experienced business executive with a technical background, and Andy Holland, a nuclear engineer who was working on an idea to improve radiation therapy. Bolstered by support from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central/Northern Pennsylvania (BFTP), the fledgling company has pioneered a sophisticated software tool that will dramatically improve radiologist’s ability to determine and implement the best course of therapy for cancer patients.
BFTP invested twice with ACT-once in 2006 and again in 2007-for a total of $275,000, and the company won BFTP’s Business Plan contest in 2006, which earned it a $35,000 prize. Both Blum and McClatchey say the company’s progress would not have been possible without BFTP’s support and ongoing counsel.
“BFTP has been fabulous,” says McClatchey, who serves as vice president. “This company would not be where it is without them. The money they provided kept us alive through the startup process, and they continue to provide timely market research, strategy counsel and business advice.”
“BFTP helped advise us on terms when we were working with the angel investors,” says Blum. “We don’t have an active contract with them right now, but they are still there for us. I still call them on a regular basis for advice.”
Improving an Imperfect Science
Radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer remains an imperfect science. Approximately 65 percent of the estimated 1.4 million Americans diagnosed with prostate, breast, lung or other forms of cancer in 2008 will receive radiation therapy based on treatment planning that requires accurate dose computation data. Current systems cannot adequately reconcile the growing dual demands of improved accuracy and speed-perpetuating the untenable situation of an imperfect science.
ACT’s ProACTive software eliminates the “accuracy vs. speed” trade-off that exists with current methods. In recent testing, ProACTive accurately calculated a treatment planning dose more than 170 times faster than the current gold standard for accuracy in treatment planning.
The end goal is to position the company to sell its intellectual property and software to a radiation treatment system provider, but the immediate goals are to successfully complete all the rigorous, clinically based testing and verification, McClatchey says. “So far, with our prototype, the results are phenomenal and right on target.”
Keynotes December, 2008
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