Government agency seeks Savannah-founded medical startup’s help in COVID-19 response

Coronavirus

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A United States government agency is calling on a local medical startup to lend its technology to the fight against COVID-19. 

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently sent out letters to researchers and experts across the country, including those involved with the Hostess City-founded OXOS Medical, inviting them to submit proposals for virus-related rapid response research grants. 

The agency plans to fund dozens of COVID-19 research projects from the scientific community in an effort to better understand the virus and develop response measures. 

The Georgia Tech graduates behind OXOS Medical, which was started in Savannah under the name Micro C Imaging in 2016, hope their revolutionary device can help. 

“We had the advantage of having a mobile x-ray that can be used for the musculoskeletal system,” OXOS Medical co-founder, Dr. Greg Kolovich, told WSAV.com NOW.

He says his startup’s Micro C device, which he expects to receive clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within the next few months, is the first handheld orthopedic x-ray device in the world.

The Micro C, Kolovich explains, shrinks the technology of an eight-foot-high, 800-pound x-ray machine into a five-pound device that fits inside of a suitcase and takes sharp, crisp images.

“We wanted to miniaturize everything to put it in your hand,” the orthopedic surgeon said. “Instead of moving the arm or leg, you could just move your hand and get the x-ray that you needed.”

Not only does it make Kolovich’s job easier and faster, but he also says the Micro C makes it a lot safer by protecting surgical staff, surgeons and patients from about 90% less radiation. 

Kolovich says amid the ongoing pandemic, smaller companies and startups have greater flexibility to create products that could benefit the government in combating the disease.

“We thought, ‘why not change [the Micro C], make it more powerful and be able to do a home x-ray for the chest?’” Kolovich said. 

“The NSF reached out to us and said, ‘is this possible? Can you do this?’, so we met with our engineers, we made some changes and we were able to do it,” he added. 

OXOS Medical, which also has a presence in Atlanta, submitted a grant to institutionalize a rapid home chest x-ray program using a version of its handheld device.

It would allow a patient who’s quarantined for various reasons — they’ve been exposed to COVID-19, experiencing symptoms or unable to go to an emergency room, for instance — to receive an x-ray from the convenience of their homes. 

“We can send a provider, whether it’s a physician assistant, nurse, radiologic technologist or home health care nurse who is fully equipped with protective equipment to go into the home and shoot that chest x-ray,” Kolovich said.

Those images can then be immediately viewed by a pulmonologist or radiologist via telemedicine, he added.

“We can find out whether there are early findings of respiratory pneumonia, interstitial pneumonia or even worse, where we can then triage that patient and say, ‘you’re fine at this point,’ ‘you’re not fine, you need to go to the ER’ or ‘you’re fine, but we can treat you with some medications now, shoot another x-ray and see if there’s any change;” he explained. 

It would help keep people quarantined and safe, he says, and also takes a load off of emergency rooms and hospitals. 

“That was the initial purpose of the flattening of the curve, so that we didn’t inundate the health care system and overwhelm it,” Kolovich said. 

He estimates that his company’s device could allow a home health care person to see 30 patients per day. 

“Having a program where you could rapidly deploy someone to come to your home with full protective equipment, shoot a chest x-ray,  get that chest x-ray read by a pulmonologist and then have the ability to implement treatment at the home, without ever leaving the house — for elderly or sick individuals, that’s hugely important,” Kolovich said.

He and a team of local experts including pulmonologists, radiologists and anesthesiologists submitted their proposal to the NSF about a week ago, and expect to hear back within the next few weeks.

Kolovich says he’s excited to be able to give back and help, especially as part of a Georgia company that got its start in Savannah.

“It’s a good place to be,” Kolovich said, adding, “I hope we can continue to collaborate and fulfill the very big goals that we’ve set for ourselves.”

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