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Posted on Sun, Nov 29, 2009 : 5:16 a.m.

Ann Arbor technology startup targets complexity, risk management in hospitalized patients

By Sven Gustafson

An Ann Arbor technology startup spun out of a business-intelligence software firm has developed a new device that helps doctors better quantify complexity and risk in hospitalized patients.

OntoMed LLC has demonstrated its technology with physicians at the University of Michigan Health System. The company is in discussions to begin clinical trials of its new patient-stability monitor in emergency room and intensive care unit settings.

If all goes well, the company plans to use data culled from the hospital system’s database to validate the technology. The firm is working with Ann Arbor SPARK to find financing and help with commercialization.

“We are actively looking for other area hospitals to get involved with us,” said Bala Deshpande, OntoMed’s chief operating officer.

OntoMed in June spun out of Ontonix, a developer of complexity-based risk-management software based in Italy for which Deshpande serves as managing partner and head of U.S. business development. The company’s software, commercialized in 2005, has applications in fields like economics, finance, traffic management, defense and product development.

The new startup licenses technology from the parent company to measure complexity in hospitalized patients. The technology is heavily based on mathematic concepts that draw from information and graph theory.

Its complexity-based stability monitoring system - or Cosmos - is a PC-based multi-channel device envisioned as a bedside monitor. It uses an algorithm to process in real time information available from a wide variety of monitors, reviewing various vital signs and allowing doctors to plug in laboratory or clinical history data.

“It serves as a pre-alarm,” Deshpande said. “If you treat one symptom, some other symptom might arise which you didn’t predict. Our system predicts that.”

Ann Arbor SPARK is helping with general business planning and helped make introductions with key decision-makers at the U-M hospitals. There, anesthesiologists in the ICU are helping the company clear proof-of-concept issues with the technology, said Scott Olson, a SPARK representative who is working with the company.

OntoMed will also need to design a hardware box to house the core algorithm and figure out how to integrate it with existing bedside monitoring equipment, Olson said. Another big challenge awaiting it is cracking the buying cycles of hospitals.

“That’s notoriously long and littered with dead bodies of companies that found something cool to do with new technology,” he said.

The U-M tie is key for the firm, both because of proximity and because of its status as a leading teaching hospital, Olson said.

“The people we hooked them up with were working on similar technology… These guys brought another dimension of value to it,” he said.

Doctors sometimes complain that vital signs offer good but incomplete information on a patient's overall stability, Deshpande said. OntoMed's software can process up to 50 channels of data to help doctors better anticipate problems and improve patient outcomes.

“This is why the physicians also like it; they can plug in lab values, they can plug in any relative historical data and that will change the complexity,” he said.

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