from the June 2017 issue

Intra-body imaging co Body Vision maps lung cancer

Body Vision integrates a CT scan and X-ray in order to remove very small lung tumors that might develop into lung cancer. We know that you are fed up with the description of every startup as the Waze of canned vegetables and the Mobileye(NYSE: MBLY) of cello-tape. In the case of Body Vision Medical, however, a startup founded by CEO Dorian Averbuch, the comparison with Mobileye is a valid one.

Body Vision is active in intra-body imaging using computer vision and augmented reality. The principle guiding the existing players in this field is reminiscent of Waze's mechanism. The vehicle can be located on a stationary map by calculating the distance between a cellular device and two satellites. Body Vision is more like Mobileye - it photographs the picture (the road) and the medical device, and calculates where they are with respect to each other in real time, rather than on the basis of previous knowledge about the "road."

Averbuch is well-known in the intra-body navigation segment. He was a partner in the founding of MediGuide, which started as a project in Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT). He was later an executive in superDimension, another company in the same niche. These two companies both achieved successful exits of $300 million each, with MediGuide being sold to St. Jude Medical and superDimension being acquired by Covidien (now Medtronic). The knowledge that Averbuch acquired in these two companies was useful to him when he founded Body Vision in 2014.

"I thought I was in the Garden of Eden"
Averbuch encountered the medical devices industry almost by accident. "I immigrated to Israel when I was 20 with $100, which was all I was allowed to take out of Russia in the 1990s," said Averbuch told "When I arrived in Israel, I thought I was in the Garden of Eden - it was February, and I saw a palm tree."

During his university studies, Averbuch worked in the developing computer vision industry in diamond polishing. He joined a startup in the field, but left when the startup failed to raise money. "I left after the first 'no.' I wanted to work in a large enterprise in order to learn," he remembers.

He came to Elbit Systems in the late 1990s with practical knowledge in computer vision. When they suggested that he join a new Elbit medical project, he agreed. "It reminded me a lot of my childhood, when I was hospitalized for four months, and dreamed of being a surgeon in order to find a way to make operations less painful," he says. The project later officially became a separate company - MediGuide - but Averbuch and other partners in its founding were not transferred to it. Frustrated, Averbuch decided to leave the company, and left the medical devices sector for a while.

Then, however, he received a tempting offer. "superDimension was initially founded in order to develop navigation technology for games - something like WII, but years before WII. When the investors saw the technology, however, they suggested converting it for the developing area of intra-body navigation, in which both MediGuide and Biosense, sold at the time (1997) to Johnson & Johnson for $427 million, operated.

The company was initially based on cooperation with Boston Scientific. Boston Scientific was to have prepared the device, while we prepared the software, but the agreement was canceled. Since then, I have learned not to trust these agreements. When the agreement was canceled, we went back to the same point and started over with several technological improvements that I had worked on before."

Did superDimension compete with MediGuide?
"No, because MediGuide was dealing with intravenous ultrasound at the time, and later on cardiologic navigation, for example guiding catheterization devices and pacemaker components. At MediGuide, we first developed the technology, and then looked for where it was needed," Averbuch explains. "At superDimension, on the other hand, we came with more experience and a desire to develop a product that would conquer the market. I developed things there that they didn't ask for, and didn't think of doing at the company. People sometimes told me, 'That's impossible' when I was already seeing it happen." superDimension decided to focus on pulmonary navigation, which was regarded as a less competitive market.

In retrospect, Averbuch admits that superDimension's first product reached the market before it was ready. "In 2006, a change took place in superDimension's management. OrbiMed Advisors LLC entered the picture and brought in a US CEO (Dan Sullivan). He first of all fired all the senior managers in Israel, and then brought in advisors from overseas - 40 advisors. When I walked in the corridor, I saw advisors instead of employees. Fortunately, both the CEO and the advisors agreed with me that the product wasn't ready. They recalled the existing product - a measure I though was a little extreme and political - but mainly, we started improving the product."

Averbuch was appointed manager of one component of the product - the catheter - even though he preferred managing the imaging software. "I told myself that if this was what the company needed now, it was all right. Because I didn't like doing it, however, I finished it in three weeks. We worked using innovative methods. One of our ideas was to put all the paperwork in the corridors in order to force everyone to work together. Eventually, I was appointed manager of the entire project."

In 2008, removing development of the project from Israel was proposed. "The company already had 140 employees here. We Israelis fought to leave at least the software and hardware set-up in Israel. This activity is still here. I recognized several managers from the team in the US. We succeeded in forging a real partnership with them, and the combined team simply thrived. We managed to raise money and increase salaries, while showing the Americans that the Israeli team was as good as they were. When the connection between Israel and the US works, it's great, because it's possible to utilize all 24 hours in a day. What is prepared here is ready for them when they wake up, and vice versa." The improved product was successful, eventually leading to the superDimension exit.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report June 2017

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