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VIDA Diagnostics gives pulmonary diseases the big data treatment

When it comes to important medical decisions, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion. As technology advances, odds are that opinion might not come from another doctor, but rather from analytics and software.

The Coralville, Iowa, company VIDA Diagnostics is using big data analytics to map the human lung and analyze the problems that may be lurking inside.

How VIDA Diagnostics works

VIDA started in a research lab at the University of Iowa, founded by Eric Hoffman (physiology and radiology), Milan Sonka (electrical engineering), Joseph Reinhardt (biomedical engineering) and Geoffrey McLennan (interventional pulmonology). Their goal was to advance the standard of care, providing more information to medical teams that was easily actionable.

VIDA’s software is sold to hospitals and is used to analyze imaging done through computed tomography or CT scans. The software pulls out more analytical information than a physician’s eyes might catch. If needed, the imaging can be run through VIDA’s lab in Coralville for further analysis to provide data for an actionable treatment plan.

The imaging is largely used for diagnosing lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)  and asthma.

Jered Sieren, Director of Precision Services, said information gleaned from pulmonary imaging could have repercussions throughout the body.

“Problems that occur in the lung can relate to other health issues,” Sieren said. “A doctor inadvertently might solve a heart problem through examination of lung functions. COPD and lung cancer are two of the top killers in the US, yet there has been a disproportionate lack of investments of lung therapies compared to cardiovascular diseases.”

Treatment of lung diseases is also a personal one for the team at VIDA; co-founder Geoffrey McLennan died from metastatic osteogenic sarcoma in 2010.

A breath of fresh air in the medical field

Since splitting from the University of Iowa in 2010, VIDA has grown to a team of 41 people. The majority are in Coralville, though VIDA also has an office in Minneapolis and staff in Silicon Valley.

In 2015, VIDA won the Product of Outstanding Interest Award from the European Respiratory Society.

In 2016, VIDA’s software was central to a New England Journal of Medicine article showing that millions of people were living with undiagnosed COPD.

In December, 2016, VIDA was awarded a nearly $300,000 Small Business Technology Transfer Phase I grant from the National Cancer Institute, along with a $25,000 match from the Iowa Innovation Corporation.

VIDA also announced a co-development and co-marketing project with Olympus Respiratory America to advance the management of the small peripheral lung nodule.

VIDA wants to change healthcare

VIDA plans to keeps its focus on pulmonary issues, but over the next five years Sieren hopes the company will continue to expand its reach in the medical field.

“I hope that we’ll be where we think we can be, which is at the top of the healthcare field,” Sieren said. “We already have the team, technology and analysis to make a clinical impact today, and I see us continuing to replace older technologies with newer analytical tools and precision medicine.”

Joe Lawler is a freelance reporter based in Des Moines.