Imaging companies weren’t represented in great numbers at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, but one that drew an overflow crowd to the Elizabethan C&D space of the Westin St. Francis Hotel was Zonare Medical Systems (Mountain View, California), developer of compact ultrasound solutions powered by its Zone Sonography technology.

Don Southard, president and CEO, cited both the speed of the technology, which allows acquisition of images a zone at a time, and the portability of the company’s Convertible Ultrasound approach, by which the system can be used as a 160-pound, cart-based system, or as a hand-carried scanner weighing just 5-1/2 pounds.

“This is a software-based product,” he said, “which allows us to have an annual upgrade cycle that provides a recurring revenue stream.” It’s also Internet-downloadable, adding to the convenience factor for users.

“There are increasing demands for portability in this sector,” Southard said, driven in part by the growing incidence of repetitive stress injuries suffered by technicians.

Introduced at the Radiological Society of North America (Oak Brook, Illinois) conference in late-November 2005, the first system was shipped to a customer last March. The company shipped its 200th system last month.

Southard said Zonare believes its potential market is valued at some $1.5 billion, and that the company anticipates rapid sales growth, particularly after the imminent signing of a distribution agreement in Japan, with shipments to that country, the world’s second-largest medical market, expected to begin by July.

Glen Muir, executive vice president and CFO of digital mammography and bone densitometry system maker Hologic (Bedford, Massachusetts), citing the rapid transition of mammography from analog and film-based to digital and said the company expects digital systems to capture half of what clearly is a “replacement market.”

He noted the growth of digital mammography is being driven by both improved quality and improved throughput, adding that imaging facilities are switching to digital units “in order to be competitive” in the marketplace.

Muir said Hologic’s next-generation technology is Tomosynthesis, the 3-D visualization of breast tissue. He said the technology offers potential for improved detection, reduced false positives and lower recall rates.

Hologic anticipates making an FDA submission for the new technology this year, with approval expected sometime in 2007.

– Jim Stommen, Executive Editor