Kent Imaging: Setting A New Global Standard in Advanced Tissue Assessment

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Kent Imaging is a market leader in light-based tissue assessment diagnostic devices. The company designs and manufactures imaging technology that supports real-time decision making in wound care, vascular and surgical specialties. Their flagship product is SnapshotNIR, a handheld and lightweight point-of-care device that can capture tissue oxygenation in superficial tissue with a single click of its camera-like structure. Using multiple wavelengths of near infrared (NIR) light, SnapshotNIR non-invasively measures relative amounts of oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin in the microcirculation of tissue where oxygen exchange is happening. The result of this imaging is that SnapshotNIR provides users with a near-instant tissue oxygenation map that can be used in medical decision making, evaluating tissue viability and in tracking and documenting wound healing progression, all of which support a reduction in complications and improvement in patient outcomes.

Like many innovative products, however, the road to commercializing an approved, affordable, and adopted medical-grade technology is a long process and comes with many challenges.

A Gradual Growth

Near the start of the millennium, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) had completed a bench/lab model to show proof of concept of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to look at human tissue for the concentration of oxygen. Kent’s Founder and Executive Chairman, Don Chapman, a serial entrepreneur with a history of developing high-tech products, was intrigued by the concept and its potential in the medical setting. Mr. Chapman believed that this technology could be compacted into a convenient medical imaging device for use throughout a medical facility and in the field. With this potential for multiple medical settings and its ability to support improved patient outcomes, Kent Imaging was formed.

Licensing the NRC laboratory model science, Kent worked to produce simpler, specially designed electronics, software, and optics to reduce both the complexity and cost of manufacturing a commercial imaging device. Initial funding from the founder and several private investors, coupled with stringent cost controls, allowed the organization to move through several years and iterations of design and field-testing programs. In the early days, most of the work at Kent was carried out through contractors who provided services only when needed. This approach kept its overhead at an absolute minimum to stretch every dollar.

A Leader with Immense Experience

As the company grew and developed commercial-candidate products, Kent’s Board of Directors recognized the need to hire full-time staff to support both product development and sales efforts. In 2015, Pierre Lemire was welcomed to the team as an experienced CEO to lead the organization and manage its expansion into the future.

With over 34 years of experience in the high-tech imaging world, Mr. Lemire is an accomplished and self-motivated executive who understands the needs of the industry. He is a technical evangelist with strong knowledge and experience in the development and commercialization of global software products. Lemire spent a decade with Autodesk in software development and eventually as the CTO of the GIS Products Division. Returning to Canada, Mr. Lemire helped drive the growth of Calgary Scientific Inc., from a start-up to a global market leader for a period of 13 years; first as its CTO and from 2006, as President and CTO. In November of 2015, he took over operations of Kent Imaging. Mr. Lemire is supported in his leadership by a highly seasoned team experienced in medical devices, engineering, micro-processing, optical systems, industrial design, and regulatory matters.

“Building innovative products with a great team is my passion. I thrive in a challenging environment where breakthroughs and fresh ideas are required to succeed. My experience is in building teams that deliver global products that lead industries,” states Pierre Lemire, CEO of Kent Imaging.

Building Innovative Products

The first commercialized Kent Imaging device (KD103) was stand-based, making it relatively stationary and somewhat cumbersome to use. In 2017, the FDA cleared SnapshotNIR (KD203), the next iteration of the imaging device featuring a battery-powered handheld footprint with no docking station or wires. The mobility of the device provided versatility for the users, with image capture and serial wound tracking at all points of care. The current model, SnapshotNIR V3.0 (KD204), packs into its small form an enhanced algorithm that intensifies the light reflectance signal to aid in overcoming the melanin layer barrier, which means that SnapshotNIR can be used for tissue viability assessment in people with almost all skin tones. Other advancements include wound measurement functions (both linear and circumferential) to help document wound healing progression, as well as a customizable reporting feature which supports secure WIFI transfer and sharing of captured images for collaborative consultation and documentation.

Critical Factors Transforming the Company

A challenging stage for any company is determining exactly what the product needs to be for the intended market and what features are necessary and desirable. Through years of experience, Kent understands that much can be learned from speaking, observing, and listening to the physicians and medical specialists who really want to adopt the technology. Medical professionals have established procedures and protocols, which means that any time the implementation of new technology is considered, they must be confident that it is going to provide significant value for them, their team, and their patients. Specifically, the technology must be deemed worthy of the time required to learn, implement, and incorporate its use into their established practice workflow.

With sales in several markets and an established global business plan, Kent Imaging received a large injection of funds from an international investment firm, TVM Life Sciences, in late 2020. With this new capital in hand, Kent has expanded all aspects of the business to support overall growth, product advancement, and integration with complementary product leaders in the medical industry.

Sharing his experience, Pierre says, “There are two critical factors that have really helped us. The first is that we’ve had some physicians who’ve really believed in our vision and saw the potential in the technology. They have been willing to put in the time to support the product’s development. The second is with the financial support of TVM Life Sciences as well as our shareholders. This financial support has meant that we have the capital required to build the product and obtain the clinical validation that’s required for healthcare adoption.”

Towards a Virtual Technology

In healthcare, compiling a comprehensive patient record can be challenging. Understanding this current need, Kent Imaging believes in playing a part in the ongoing and evolving integration of digital patient data by ensuring that the insightful information that is generated with their technology can be easily assimilated into digital patient record for a comprehensive picture of the patient’s tissue status and wound health.

Integration is a continuous process, and the digitization of healthcare has allowed companies to start tracking trends. Overall, there is an increased use in machine learning and other algorithms to better understand how trends can help predict outcomes.

“In wound care, we’ve seen wound registries created where the data can be analyzed,” comments Pierre Lemire. “Ideally, machine learning will improve our ability to assess how different treatments and protocols, as well as different analysis algorithms, lead to reduced complications and better outcomes for patients.”

Widescale Adoption of Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Technology

The wound care sector has seen numerous changes in the past few years, with the advancement in novel wound therapies ranking near the top. Mr. Lemire believes these advancements, such as shockwave therapy, electro stimulus therapy, and a better understanding and use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, can and will have a significant impact on wound healing. Demonstrating and documenting the therapeutic benefit of these therapies through serial image tracking is easily achieved with Kent’s technology. The company is focused on delivering improved usability to enhance workflow integration, supporting physicians in the recording of patient encounters, tracking treatment progression, and easily integrating this recorded data into the electronic medical record (EMR). The widescale adoption of near-infrared spectroscopy imaging serves to deliver invaluable insight into the hands of clinicians who are striving to deliver optimal care.

“Kent strives to continuously improve outcomes and reduce the risk of complications in as many patients as possible through our people, business processes, and innovative technology.”