What’s next in the GI technology pipeline?

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published May 17, 2018

Key Takeaways

Inventors and innovators presented a variety of novel technologies at the Shark Tank competition during the 2018 American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Tech Summit on March 21-23, in Boston, MA. Sponsored by the AGA Center for GI Innovation and Technology, the competition was judged by a panel of tech “sharks,” including several gastroenterology (GI) experts from the center, a venture capitalist, a commercial payor, a former US Food and Drug Administration executive, and one industry representative.

Here are the five technologies that were presented:

Nasogastric tube avoids aspiration risk

Pulmonary aspiration of gastric contents is a common clinical challenge in intubated patients on a feeding tube. To address this problem, Talal Sharaiha, MD, founder of Aspisafe Solutions, New York, NY, presented a novel nasogastric tube equipped with a dual balloon system—one balloon resides in the esophagus and serves as an anchor, and the other is positioned in the stomach and blocks reflux of gastric contents. The balloons are inflated after insertion. “Having a feeding tube in intubated patients that prevents gastric reflux and aspiration will dramatically reduce complications and likely help reduce length of ventilation time, ICU time, and length of hospitals stay,” Dr. Sharaiha said.

Virtual tape measure sizes up polyps

An endoscope provides no sense of scale, which prohibits clinicians from accurately measuring and comparing pathologies. Avishay Sidlesky, founder of VTM Technologies, Ltd, Haifa, Israel, presented the AccuMeasure™, a laser line emitter that takes precise 3D measurements during endoscopic procedures—a virtual tape measure. “Employing dedicated software that analyzes the laser curves in the endoscopic image, the system enables reporting of the size of lesions, diameter and profile of polyps, longitudinal cross-section of lumens, and more,” Mr. Sidlesky said. Several configurations of the device exist, including a disposable add-on and a reusable through-the-scope tool, also suitable for small diameter endoscopes.

Electroporation for ablation of esophageal tumors

A number of tools to treat upper GI cancers endoscopically—radiofrequency ablation, cryotechnology, photodynamic therapy—are limited in their application, and morbidity rates for the disease are extremely high, according to Declan Soden, PhD, chief executive officer and founder of Mirai Medical, Cork, Ireland. Dr. Soden presented a new endoscopic technology that uses electroporation, which delivers brief, painless electrical pulses directly to the tumor while preserving healthy adjacent tissue. It’s a minimally invasive solution that can be performed as an outpatient treatment, which can improve patients’ quality of life and reduce the overall cost of cancer care, Dr. Soden said.

Cloud-based GI video storage and sharing platform

Matthew Z. Schwartz, the cofounder of Virgo Surgical Video Solutions, Inc, San Francisco, CA, presented the company’s automated method of capturing videos taken during a colonoscopy. Existing products “require complicated formatting and time-consuming setup for each procedure recording,” Mr. Schwartz said. Virgo’s plug-and-play system “works with any existing endoscopy system that has a video output.” Videos are stored in the cloud and can be downloaded and shared.

And the winner is…

Real-time stool sample analysis

The unanimous winner of the competition was a new test that performs real-time stool sample pathogen analysis, presented by Chang-Hee Kim, PhD, chief executive officer of GoDx, Inc, Madison, WI. The judges agreed that this innovation would have immediate patient impact.

Dr. Kim described it as a paper-based test, akin to a pregnancy test, that shows a color change with positive results. At an estimated cost of $100, the in-office test will also be substantially less expensive than current laboratory analyses, he predicted.

The test can provide results within 15 minutes, rather than the days normally required for lab testing. Real-time testing “will decrease the loss of patients to follow-up and accelerate the time to treatment,” Dr. Kim said. “The test is also likely to reduce the spread of nosocomial pathogens if rapid infection control reduces spread.”

Experimental studies showed that the test is at least as accurate as polymerase-chain reaction testing, according to Dr. Kim. He said that the test could be used not only in hospitals, but also at sites where laboratory studies aren’t normally available, such as on cruise ships, in nursing homes, or in the military.

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