IMRIS the future of surgery?

Of all the innovative young firms that NRC has spun off in recent decades, IMRIS shines the brightest. The shares of this Canadian manufacturer of medical imaging products are now being traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange — a true mark of global success.

In 1997, the corporation that later became IMRIS was created to commercialize a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology developed by the NRC Institute for Biodiagnostics in Winnipeg. Former NRC researcher Dr. John Saunders was one of the inventors of the original intraoperative MRI scanner. Following his work at NRC, Dr. Saunders joined IMRIS where today he is Vice-President, MR Systems.

IMRIS serves the neurosurgical, cardiovascular and neurovascular markets through a suite of technologies that incorporate magnetic resonance imaging, fluoroscopy and computed tomography. The company’s first product, IMRISneuro — designed specifically for imaging during brain tumour resections — permits a high-magnetic field MR scanner to move on overhead rails from an adjacent diagnostic room, for placement directly over a patient during surgery.

Mobile MRI intraoperative system. Image courtesy of IMRIS Inc.Mobile MRI intraoperative system. Image courtesy of IMRIS Inc.

In the last two years, IMRIS has introduced two additional products: IMRIScardio for the cardiovascular market and IMRISNV for the neurovascular market. These systems are the first in the world to combine both MRI and X-ray angiography in a single product without the need to move the patient between equipment. Different IMRIS imaging suites sell for between $4 million and $12 million.

The company is now working with Varian Medical Systems, a leading manufacturer of radiotherapy products, to develop a new MR-guided radiation therapy system for cancer treatment. IMRIS also has an MR-guided surgical robotics program underway and continuously invests in other opportunities to enhance its product lines. The company supplements its research and development by periodically partnering with NRC and others on new developments.

In November 2007, IMRIS closed a $40 million initial public offering (IPO) on the TSX, the highest medical device IPO in TSX history. In November 2010 the company listed on the NASDAQ Global Market and completed a public offering of its shares in the U.S., raising approximately $50 million.

Today, IMRIS employs more than 150 people based in Winnipeg and other locations around the world. IMRIS systems have been sold to hospitals in Canada, the U.S., Europe, India, China and Australia. Five of America’s top ten hospitals, as ranked by US News and World Report, have purchased IMRIS products.

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