4th August 2014: Startup of the week: MagnePath

For this 'Startup of the week' post, I caught up with Wanida Chua-anusorn, co-founder of Australian startup, Magnepath.

[Disclosure: I have no commercial ties with MagnePath]


1. What is MagnePath?
MagnePath is a place for body mapping tools, transforming our physical being into digital health information. We’re providing a path to better health navigation through health maps. As a digital health software company, our vision is to bring a true picture of your health to the palm of your hand.

The first step on this path is to make medical imaging more meaningful and accessible. To make it more meaningful, we’re working from fundamentals of how the body behaves under medical imaging. We’re making our advancements with the safest and most versatile imaging modality - magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - without the use of contrast agent injections.

Our technology is based on a platform approach, through which we’re building the next generation of medical imaging applications on top. The first health mapping application we’ve built is FatMap, for mapping percentage body fat, anywhere in the body, using any MRI scanner. We’re making this visually and technically accessible through intuitive color imaging and app store download. Easy understanding and ease of use are essential to bring truly quantitative imaging to your fingertips.

2. Could you explain the essence of MagnePath, i.e it's core values?
At MagnePath, we’re ‘about’ and ‘for’ people. MagnePath people are passionate about what they do, and doing it well. We are on a journey to enhance the well being of both the individual and the community. We believe in social responsibility, and are on a mission to improve quality of life. Even though we’re small, we can take a public leadership position, creating wealth and well-being for the community at large, breaking down boundaries with the courage to be different. Our commitment is to develop and deliver consumer-driven applications that improve health and wellness. MagnePath is a meeting place where technology fosters better health, and better health awaits the consumer.

3. What's the business model you're operating under? 
We’re taking a pay-per-use approach to the delivery of our health mapping applications. Software-as-a-Service reduces the large upfront costs of perpetual software licenses, which are typical of the scanner-integrated application market. Instead, we offer pay-as-you-go, volume-based usage licenses through our app store. Imaging providers can download our health mapping platform to their workstation of choice, purchase pay-per-patient analysis tickets online, and either process off-line or in the cloud, at their own convenience. The most advanced quantitative imaging tools then become affordable to all imaging providers, who can scale with application demand.

4. Is there anyone else doing the same as you?
Original equipment manufacturers like GE, Siemens, and Philips are entering the new growth health applications market. However, the majority of applications are bundled into system upgrades with the MRI scanner. Imaging providers thus get locked-in to only those applications that come with the upgrades. We are not only unbundling this application purchase approach, we are making our health mapping applications, like FatMap, MuscleMap, and JointMap, available on an individual pay-per-use basis. We are very conscious that many imaging providers cannot afford the large upfront costs of the more advanced health imaging applications. With our vendor-neutral imaging platform and app store approach, we hope to overcome these accessibility and affordability issues.

5. Was there one moment which compelled you to begin the journey of working on MagnePath?
I’ve always wanted to do more in health! After my first MRI tele-health journey for the iron overload community, I wanted to create MagnePath and move into wider health issues, spanning lifestyle, aging, and injury. I feel blessed to be able to combine my passion for fitness with a career covering research and commercialisation of new technologies. There is so much more to deliver through innovation in health mapping, providing safer and better options for us all. Technology is finally catching up to where we can have truly personalised connective health information at our fingertips. Seeing our bodies in a different light gives us the power to improve our well being, moving to where we want to be.

6. What have reactions to MagnePath been? Do different people perceive it differently?
People love what we’re doing with MagnePath! When they hear about FatMap, someone always asks, where can I get one? Although there is a relatively high cost for getting an MRI scan done, a FatMap scan has multiple benefits, and doesn’t cost much more than servicing your car. We check the health of our cars, so why not our bodies? With FatMap, we can map and measure the whole body, and the hidden fat within and around organs - liver fat, pericardial fat, and visceral fat.

The general consensus amongst imaging providers is that quantitative imaging tools are the best way forward to improve on the visual reading of images, quantifying what can’t be measured by the naked eye. Our pay-per-patient model is also being well received to lower the upfront costs of clinical applications. Our efforts to automate and rapidly calculate health maps are also seen as workflow critical, given the increasing volume of images being read in radiology practices today.

7. Given that Silicon Valley is the world's innovation hub, it's inspiring to see an Australian startup ahead of the rest of the world. Do you see more ground breaking innovations in Digital Health coming from outside Silicon Valley? 
The internet has done wonders for accelerating the pace of innovation, making it possible from any corner of the world. Knowledge from everywhere is now at our fingertips, and the phenomenon of social networking is connecting us to people like never before. So while we live in the most isolated capital city in the world, we’re as virtually well off as everyone else to innovate from Perth.

It is the follow on steps of commercialisation and market expansion where an established ecosystem really helps, where proximity to partners and customers really makes a difference. Human and financial capital is critical for scaling, and that is when ecosystems like Silicon Valley, and long term initiatives like 43North and the Buffalo Billion initiative, dramatically boost the growth startups.

8. Two years from now, in 2016, what would success for MagnePath look like? What are the barriers to success?
We want to see health mapping applications become part of mainstream clinical practice. To reach that goal, we’re moving through the regulatory process, collecting efficacy data for approvals. Right now our applications have been adopted for trial use in translational medicine, where we can learn on what to improve for clinical delivery. It will be wonderful to see any one of us go in for a health scan, and have the results on our mobile phone before we walk out the door.

To enhance adoption by the imaging community, we design our applications to work with as many scanners as possible. We aim to partner across the supply chain to facilitate wider hardware implementation. On the software side, we’re developing beyond the desktop and cloud. We want clinicians and patients to be able to view on the move, with next generation health data at their fingertips. Data that can be mined and matched against vital health statistics, to provide predictive health maps for everyone. We’re progressing along this journey by developing a suite of health mapping applications: FatMap, MuscleMap, and JointMap, to inspire people on a path to better health.

9.  If people feel inspired by your journey, and want to do something with technology to improve Global Health, what would your words of wisdom be?
It’s a great affirmation of the human spirit to see concepts transform into products that make a true difference in the hands of the community. Here are the key lessons I have learnt as a technology inventor and entrepreneur:

  • Having a good product is not enough. It’s important to build a company people want to join.
  • Have a purpose and a plan, but pivot if you need to.
  • A startup is not for everyone. The early team has to be committed with heart, head, and hands.
  • Think global, act global. We have to connect to expand. 
  • Enable yourself and others with choices - choose our own destiny.
  • Love what you do. Every day is a gift.W

Wanida and MagnePath are both on Twitter and click here for the MagnePath website.