Using X-Ray Vision to Get Through a Pandemic
Oct 12, 2020
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? Chandra Devam: At first, when COVID-19 hit, and we had to quarantine, it was an adjustment for me as I travelled often, and suddenly I was working out of my home in isolation. But on the plus side, my husband and I have been able to spend more time together, and I was able to work remotely, so for me, that’s been a very positive thing. Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Aris MD. Chandra Devam: I have been an innovator my whole life. My first invention was when I was 8 years old when I built my grandma a dog house with a feeding system to make it so that she did not have to bend down to feed her dog. I liked to solve problems throughout my childhood, whether it was taking things apart, playing with electronics, or beating a video game. I also had a strong affinity for the arts and creativity, which pairs very well with being a founder of big ideas. Our company was founded after I had a medical procedure that went wrong. It was supposed to be a simple day surgery, but the surgeon hit an artery, and I started to bleed out. When I recovered, after nearly dying, I thought as a problem solver: why did this happen? Whose fault was this? What went wrong? It turns out the fault wasn’t with the surgeon or their ability, but it was simply that our anatomical makeup is slightly different from person to person. They didn’t know that artery was there because it isn’t there normally. What I realized is that we’re as different on the inside as we are on the outside. Our hearts are literally in different places. We all have them, but they (along with other internal organs) are in different positions and places within us. You and I both have eyes and noses, but our faces look different because the placement of those things is different on each of us. The same is true inside your body, with your organs. This means that when surgeons are cutting in, they have a general idea of where things are but not an exact understanding, which can lead to surgical complications. This got me thinking, what if there was a way for doctors never to have to cut in blind? What if we could develop a way to provide surgeons with an X-ray vision? This was the start of Aris MD. With my Co-Founder Scott Edgar we created a rendering engine that allows us to see even more detail than what is available on regular, traditional diagnostic imaging. When we paired our rendering engine with AI, we were able to provide surgeons with an exact map of where organs are placed as well as the ability to map out the surgical procedure in advance of performing the surgery. Furthermore, our product can be used for faster and more accurate diagnostics in radiology. Besides applications in the medical space, our product can be used in other verticals where you need x-Ray vision such as industrial scanning and areospace. These applications have allowed us to win multiple awards with NASA iTech. How does Aris MD innovate? Chandra Devam: When writing patents and coming up with innovative solutions and ideas, we unplug from media completely. Books, video games, movies, tv in order to not have an outside influence on our creativity. It’s like if you’ve never seen a house before, and someone asks you to build a dwelling to live in, you would build the best dwelling suited for your needs and climate (at least we would). Once you’ve seen a house or a picture of a house, you’ll build the picture you’ve seen. All kids draw the same house — a square house with a triangle roof, with a door and a window. Once you’ve seen that picture, you have a blueprint of what a house is, regardless of whether it’s the right structure for you. We believe the same is true of innovation, and we don’t want anyone else’s blueprint of innovation to influence ours. We believe very heavily in thinking outside the box and challenge ourselves to do so. This is the best process we’ve found to do that. How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping? Chandra Devam: Being that we’re an imaging company with industrial and medical applications, we have pivoted to focus more on medicine currently. We see the world’s need for better and more efficient imaging in medicine in order to diagnose and treat people faster and more efficiently, with a focus on patient-specific imaging. We have focused on that need at this time. We have also moved our staff to remote work. We are also able to focus on more meetings as we no longer need to travel to meet with people in person, and are able to meet via video conference. Did the coronavirus pandemic open up new verticals for you that you didn’t have previously? Chandra Devam: The ability to do virtual autopsies and help study the effects of an evolving novel virus is something we hadn’t considered and are well suited for. It was also brought to our attention that we could help with drug trials in seeing rapid micro improvements and adverse effects in patients. Mental health has also been brought to the forefront with lockdowns and other coronavirus measures in place, which has opened up new project avenues for us. We have been approached with a mental health project, for example, that we wouldn’t have previously considered. The ability to image brains and measure things within the brain is something that we are excited about. The ability to have autonomous radiology is also important because there aren’t doctors available due to availability or risk factors. This allows us to protect doctors who could otherwise become patients due to the pandemic is also very important. The ability to do an autonomous inspection, like airport security or import inspection, without coming into contact with other people or things that could be carriers of contagious or harmful material, has also been brought to our attention. For example, when you walk through, airports are using imaging for you and your personal effects. We can autonomously scan these images without the need for a technician, limiting personal contact. The same is true for inspection and imaging of imports and other packages. How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Aris MD in the future? Chandra Devam: Stress and anxiety go along with having a company or a startup and being the CEO. I manage it by thinking positively and thinking towards the future and solving the puzzles presented to me. It’s not being a victim to circumstance, but instead seeing stress as something you can solve (whatever the stressor is) and taking action to improve the situation. It’s about not feeling helpless in a situation, but instead finding places that you can help. Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game? Chandra Devam: Our competitor is traditional imaging methods, be it industrial/medical CT, MRI, X-ray, or any DICOM imaging method, it isn’t really a competition. We are just the next evolution of imaging. We plan to stay in the game by innovating and improving over what is currently being done and what is expected to be done. Your final thoughts? Chandra Devam: COVID-19 has allowed us to be able to really focus in on areas that are important and need acceleration, and identify new opportunities we had not considered. I also believe Covid-19 has significantly sped up technological innovation. Because of COVID, we can now see how our technology could be used in autonomous medicine and autonomous radiology and diagnostics as well as mental health. I’m proud of what our company has accomplished so far and am excited for what’s next. In times of greatest challenge, such as a pandemic, we also see great innovation and hope for the future. Your website?