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Paving the way for a digital X-ray and health-care revolution

X-ray technology is at the beginning of a digital revolution that will transform the Canadian health-care system by detecting diseases such as cancer and heart disease faster and more accurately than traditional X-ray machines, allowing patients to begin treatment sooner.

Waterloo Professor Karim S. Karim has patented an innovative technology to create a digital X-ray imager that can be built by a typical flat-panel display manufacturer. The digital X-ray imagers currently on the market are expensive (about $50,000 to $100,000 each) since specialized facilities with highly technical equipment are required to manufacture them.

Waterloo Professor Karim S. Karim (right) and PhD student Sina Ghanbarzadeh examine the electronics test board for Karim’s prototype X-ray imager while MASc student Saeedeh Ghaffari prepares the X-ray cabinet for imager characterization.

Professor Karim S. Karim (right) and PhD student Sina Ghanbarzadeh examine the electronics test board for Karim’s prototype X-ray imager while masters student Saeedeh Ghaffari prepares the X-ray cabinet for imager characterization.

Karim’s pixel design is 25 to 50 per cent more sensitive than current digital imagers, which means patients receive lower doses of radiation. The technology can also provide improved visualization of soft tissue and bone comparable to CAT scans by using a single exposure dual-energy X-ray approach, which offers 50 times less radiation to the patient than a traditional CAT scan.

The ability to make digital X-ray imaging more accessible to hospitals by developing a higher performance and lower priced alternative to current imagers led Karim to launch KA Imaging. Karim worked closely with Gary Brock, director of strategic initiatives at the Waterloo Commercialization Office (WatCo), for more than seven years.

By investing in IP and patent protection, acquiring funds for prototype development, capturing the attention and interest of industry through market outreach, and securing pivotal investments, WatCo helped propel KA Imaging through many significant achievements. The first commercial prototype of Karim's digital X-ray imager is expected in late 2016.