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VuComp’s Different View

The Plano-based company uses technology developed for missile systems to bring clarity to digital mammograms.
photography by Nick Prendergast

Vucomp is on a roll—and ready for a market rollout. The Plano-based company recently raised $5 million in capital to beef up sales and marketing—on top of the $25 million it had already pulled together. Last October, it received Federal Drug Administration approval to market the second version of its computer-aided detection system for digital mammography.

VuComp develops CAD systems for automatic analysis of medical images. The use of its technology has been shown to lower false positives. Its system analyzes a mammogram using advanced mathematical algorithms to search for suspicious areas and mark them with outlines that indicate the nature of the potential abnormality.

The patented SmartMarks technology provides a level of clarity that allows radiologists to zero in on the marked area, rather than wondering what the CAD is saying.

The company was founded in 2001 by Jeffrey Wehnes, CEO; James Pike, director of algorithm development; and Larry Hanafy, who now serves in an advisory capacity. The three engineers had worked together in Texas Instruments’ missile systems department since the mid-1980s, creating the technology that allowed missiles to read and interpret targets using automated intelligence.

The trio discussed starting their own company if they could find the right use for the technology. They settled on mammography after one of the engineer’s wives was diagnosed with breast cancer. Mammography made sense due to the size of the market and the need for improved imaging technology, Wehnes says. There are 39 million mammograms performed in the United States each year.

Mammography often is a difficult area for radiologists, because breast abnormalities can be easily overlooked, Wehnes says. “It is the same type of problem in missile guidance systems,” he says. “It is subtle structures surrounded by structures that are not of interest.”

The company, which has 35 employees and 15 independent contractors, has been hiring “aggressively” over the past year. Among its 20 engineers, nearly half worked together at TI.

VuComp is planning to unveil a third version in the near future. It’s also working on other applications of the technology. The company would consider an initial public offering in two to three years, Wehnes says, but getting the product to market is the company’s chief focus for 2013. “We don’t want to divert ourselves,” he says. “We want to get our name out there and let doctors know who we are and what we’re offering.”