By Pat Shaver

CORALVILLE—Lung disease is the only major class of diseases still on the rise.

A growing Coralville company is focused on helping physicians better diagnose and treat pulmonary diseases with the help of advanced technology.

VIDA Diagnostics focuses on clinically-validated quantitative pulmonary analysis services and software.

“The focus on lung disease is essential. It’s the only major class of diseases still on the rise. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is the No. 3 cause of death. It’s a chronic disease; there are 15 million COPD patients (currently) diagnosed in the U.S.,” said Susan A. Wood, president and CEO of VIDA Diagnostics.

The company takes CT scans and turns them into a 3-D, interactive image of the lung. The image is then analyzed and a report is completed, said Ouided Rouabhi, VIDA marketing coordinator. That information is then sent back to the clinician, usually within 24-48 hours, so that they can make a diagnosis. The report includes information on the best, most direct route to access the problem area during surgery, suggests what tools to use and offers other information to save the pulmonologist time.

“We started as a software company and now it’s shifting into service. Clinicians don’t have a lot of time, which led to the image analysis service,” Ms. Rouabhi said. “Typically radiologists scroll through 2-D CT scans. They are looking for dark spots and it’s up to them to make the overall judgment of the severity of the disease. This is taking all that subjectivity and making it objective.”

VIDA Diagnostics has about 30 employees, most of them working in the Coralville office at the University of Iowa BioVentures Center. The company also has a satellite office in Mountain View, Calif.

Founded by four University of Iowa faculty members, Eric Hoffman, Dr. Geoffrey McLennan, Joseph Reinhardt and Milan Sonka, VIDA Diagnostics is based on research associated with the UI’s Iowa Comprehensive Lung Imaging Center and on core technology licensed from the UI Research Foundation.

Since it was founded in 2004, the founders have done much preliminary work with the software and establishing it worldwide. A challenge for the company has been working with the various regulations in different countries.

Now, the goal is to commercialize the product and service and bring the technology into clinical practice, Ms. Wood said.

“What we are able to do with the imaging technology is allow the physician to be more localized and give more personalized therapy,” Ms. Wood said. “They get a more exact understanding of what the disease is. We want to get the information in the hands of the clinician so they make the most informed decision.”

The alternative, she said, is a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) which is not accurate, doesn’t determine what the disease is or where it’s located, Ms. Wood said.

“It’s like giving everybody with chest pain aspirin,” she said.

Ms. Wood started with VIDA in 2009. She received her doctorate from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, School of Hygiene and public health.  Her graduate work combined quantifying three-dimensional lung structure with changes in lung function using high-resolution CT imaging. She also has a master of science degree in biomedical engineering from Duke University, and a bachelor of science in engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Prior to 2009, she held the position of executive vice president of marketing and technology for Vital Images, a software company specializing in cardiovascular applications for advanced analysis software.

VIDA’s first product, the Emphysema Profiler, the world’s first commercial, automatic whole-lung densitometer, was launched for investigational use in 2003-2004.

In 2010, the company launched Apollo, VIDA’s comprehensive software solution for the quantitative analysis of pulmonary conditions. Apollo extends the current PW2 from a scientific solution to a product usable and scalable into a clinical environment, addressing many of the current users’ suggestions. Apollo v1.0 is VIDA’s first generation product on a Windows-based platform, with significant workflow and dataflow improvements.

Also in 2010, VIDA Diagnostics acquired Quantitative Imaging of Iowa (QI2), Inc.

The idea for the company originated in 1979 when Mr. Hoffman and colleagues developed 3-D X-ray imaging techniques for the assessment of the heart and lungs at the Mayo Clinic’s Dynamic Spatial Reconstructor. He returned to the UI in 1992.