Asto CT, a company working on a CT scanning system for horses, has just completed a round of seed funding amounting to $200,000.
This Madison-based company, led by CEO David Ergun, is in the midst of creating a system called Equina, which can perform detailed x-rays on a horse while it is standing, a feat not currently possible. The need for this kind of technology arises from racing horses frequently fracturing their legs.
“CT has always been an ideal tool for finding fractures before they become too catastrophic,” said Ergun.
To be able to perform CT scans on an upright horse would be “very attractive to veterinarians,” according to Ergun.
Why? One, horses are sensitive to anesthesia. If a veterinarian knocks a horse out for a complicated scanning process, the horse can panic as it comes out of its sedated state.
“You simply can’t knock them out,” said Ergun. “They don’t come out well.”
This tendency to panic upon revival can cause a horse to further fracture its legs or hurt itself in another way, which leads to a mortality rate of up to 2 percent, according to Ergun. With the Equina system, only a light sedative is needed to keep the horse docile without knocking it out completely.
Two, the machine can actually move the scanning devices around the horse’s whole body, examining not only the legs but the head and neck area as well. The teeth and sinuses of horses can be particularly susceptible to injury and other issues, said Ergun.
Asto CT will finish building its first functioning system by the end of the month. Ergun said all of the money from this round of seed funding will go towards construction, which is currently being handled by contractors.
Ergun also said the company will be seeking a third round of investment early next year to commercialize the product.
At the moment, equine scanning is “where the need is greatest,” said Ergun, but the long-term goal is to move towards smaller animals and humans.
For some people, having to lay out flat on a table to be CT-scanned can be uncomfortable or downright impossible. Here is where Asto CT can come in, according to Ergun.
“We do see applications beyond imaging horses,” said Ergun, who has worked previously as VP of global technology and chief scientist for GE Healthcare, and CTO for AMD, a Belgian medical device startup.
While Asto CT is currently still in “startup mode,” according to Ergun, he anticipates having 100 employees by 2020. He envisions a mobile scanning unit which can make house calls for vets, bringing the scanning unit to the farm or wherever the need may be.
As far as competition goes, Ergun sees other companies currently moving from human medical scanning to the equine realm, but none that are “designed by veterinarians, for veterinarians,” as he puts it. He also notes that the Equina system is faster than the alternatives, and delivers higher contrast.
“I think we’re in a really good position,” said Ergun. “We’re trying to stay ahead of the game.”
–By Alex Moe,