Friday, September 30, 2016

When it comes to cancer treatments, the line between therapeutic and fatal dosages of radiation is razor thin. Protocols are in place to prevent mistakes, but sometimes multiple wrong treatments can be given before an error is detected.

University of Iowa spin-out company Infondrian has developed a software package called ChartAlert that it says can quickly catch errors before irreparable damage is done. The company was recently awarded a Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue development of the program for the marketplace.

Junyi Xia, assistant professor of radiation oncology in the UI Carver College of Medicine is a co-founder of Infondrian. As a medical physicist, Xia calculates complex mathematical formulas to calibrate radiation delivery equipment–called a linear accelerator– to send precise doses of radiation to cancerous tumors. Radiation is delivered from multiple angles and even slight errors can have major consequences. In 2010, The New York Times highlighted the terrible human impact of radiation errors.

To prevent such mistakes, medical physicists like Xia individually review each medical chart for errors weekly, a laborious, time-consuming process that is still prone to human error.

“I thought, ‘Why not have the computer run this check?’”, Xia said. “Instead of spending 10 minutes checking a chart, a computer can do the same thing in a few seconds.”

This medical chart review can now be conducted daily rather than weekly, catching errors the same day and freeing up staff to focus on the development of treatment plans. The software has been in use at the UI Hospitals and Clinics since 2012. Ultimately the company hopes to develop a program that checks for errors before they occur, said Xia.

Phase I STTR funding will allow Infondrian to developed a generalized version of the software compatible with the major radiation therapy equipment companies and different workflows in general radiation therapy treatment centers.

Xia and his co-founder, Alfredo Siochi, also a medical physicist in the department, were supported by the services of UI Ventures and were one of the first cohorts in the UI Venture School, part of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

“The program helped us tremendously,” said Xia. “As a researcher, I knew the work was really cool, but the Venture School changed my philosophy and taught me to think like a business person. The perspective switched from ‘Look at this cool research’ to ‘Let me tell you how I can solve your problem’.”

UI Ventures, part of the University of Iowa Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development (OVPR&ED), offers information and resources to help companies find funding they qualify for, including federal grants, state funding, the UI commercialization GAP fund, loans, angel investment, and venture capital For more information, visit

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