In 2011 the inventor of high-speed “Next-Gen” DNA sequencing, Dr Jonathan Rothberg, developed the idea to create an intuitive, powerful, whole-body medical imaging system that could fit into a pocket. Five years later with the assistance of a team of scientists and engineers, the Ultrasound-on-a-Chip technology was developed as the world’s first whole-body imager for less than $2,000.
“Offering a unique blend of affordability, diagnostic versatility, and assistive intelligence, Butterfly has the potential to impact human health more profoundly than any diagnostic device since the stethoscope, invented over 200 years ago. At less than $2,000, healthcare providers can purchase an easy-to- use, powerful, whole-body medical imaging system that fits in their pocket,” said Butterfly Network’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr John Martin.
“By removing the barrier of price, I expect Butterfly to ultimately replace the stethoscope in the daily practice of medicine. We can now provide a diagnostic system to address the millions of children that die of pneumonia each year and the hundreds of thousands of women that die in childbirth, and these are just two examples of the impact this technology will have,” continued Dr Martin.
To image the entire body, a traditional ultrasound system requires a large, expensive cart or box which connects to three or more piezoelectric-based transducers, each costing thousands of US dollars.
Butterfly’s Ultrasound-on-a-Chip technology combines the capabilities of the typical three probes into a single ultra wide-band, 2D matrix array comprised of thousands of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). These sensors are directly overlaid on an integrated circuit encompassing the electronics of a high performance ultrasound system. The acoustic bandwidth and processing power available from the MEMS and electronics fusion creates unprecedented diagnostic versatility, speeds, modes, and resolutions.
Butterfly Network has also developed deep learning-based AI applications that assist clinicians with both image acquisition and interpretation.
“Deep learning and ultrasound imaging are a perfect combination,” said President of Butterfly Network, Gioel Molinari.
“As physicians use our devices in the field, they help improve the neural network models. The more physicians use Butterfly devices, the better they will get. Improvements to acquiring and interpreting images will ultimately enable less skilled users to reliably extract life-saving insight from ultrasound,” continued Molinari.
The Butterfly iQ is paired with a HIPAA-compliant cloud which enables image storage and collaboration among clinicians as well as connectivity with traditional hospital medical record systems.
“Just as putting a camera on a semiconductor chip made photography accessible to anyone with a smart phone and putting a computer on a chip enabled the revolution in personal computing before that, Butterfly’s Ultrasound-on- a-Chip technology enables a low-cost window into the human body, making high-quality diagnostic imaging accessible to anyone,” said Dr Rothberg.
“Two thirds of the world’s population has no access to medical imaging, that’s not ok, and today our team is doing something about it. And they are just getting started,” concluded Dr Rothberg.