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Exo raises $40 million to bring high-quality ultrasound to handheld devices

Exo, a medical technology startup that’s developing a portable ultrasound device and accompany AI-powered cloud platform, has raised $48 million in a round of funding.

Ultrasound is used in the medical sphere for imaging soft tissue, using sound wave to scan muscles, tendons, cartilage, ligaments, organs, and similar parts of the body. Medical imaging technology comes with inherent constraints, however, with issues such as cost, image quality, and device portability influencing where and when medical professionals can access the best ultrasound technology.

And this is where Exo is looking to find its way into the $6 billion ultrasound market, by packing high-quality imaging technology into an “affordable” handheld unit that can be used anywhere.

Above: Exo: A portable ultrasound device with AI smarts

The company expects to make the device available in Q1 2021, and told VentureBeat that it isn’t yet willing to reveal any visuals yet as the “device design is proprietary.” Later this year, the company will also launch its AI-powered cloud-based workflow software, which will be compatible with all other point-of-care ultrasound devices on the market.

“Exo will use AI in a variety of techniques ranging from imaging itself to guiding the user to capture clinically relevant data and perform procedural guidance — making it simple to do procedures in emergency medicine, critical care, or an operating room with ultrasound,” Exo CEO Sandeep Akkaraju told VentureBeat.

Above: Exo CEO Sandeep Akkaraju

The story so far

Founded in 2015, Redwood City-based Exo emerged from stealth last August with around $48 million in funding spread across several funding rounds, with notable backers including Intel Capital, who again joined for this so-called series B+ round of funding alongside lead investors Fiscus Ventures, Reimagined Ventures, and Action Potential Venture Capital. With another $48 million in the bank, the company said that it’s now well positioned to bring its data and workflow apps to market, and conclude product development for its handheld ultrasound device.

The timing of the investment is also notable, as the COVID-19 crisis has put hospital resources under pressure — portable imaging technology could help frontline workers carry out assessments in a patient’s own home, for example, saving them from travelling to a hospital.

There are other handheld ultrasound contraptions on the market, including GE’s Vscan which has been around since 2010, while Butterfly raised $250 million back in 2018 for its smartphone-connected ultrasound device. Akkaraju said that Exo’s incarnation uses an ultrasound technology called Piezoelectric Micromachined Ultrasound Transducer (pMUT), which offers increased bandwidth, reduced voltage requirements, and superior image quality compared to the common Capacitive Micromachined Ultrasound Transducer (cMUT).

“Exo’s proprietary version of pMUT imaging technology miniaturizes the proven image quality of traditional cart-based ultrasound so that the superior imaging technology can fit into a handheld device,” Akkaraju said.

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