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Robin Winsor

Location: Calgary, AB

Award: Innovation Award

Category: Industry

Year: 2005

Innovation:

Significantly advanced the process of capturing x-rays with his patented filmless digital radiography system. The Imaging Dynamics Company's XplorerTM technology provides a low cost quality digital image resulting in many benefits to the health care system.

News Release

World's First Digital X-Ray System Achieving Global Success

Calgary physicist wins $10,000 Manning Innovation Award

Calgary, AB - Calgary innovator Robin Winsor left the oilpatch to develop the world's first digital X-ray imaging technology, advancing light-years ahead of the way medical X-rays were made compared with conventional film-based systems.

Calgary-based Imaging Dynamics Company's (IDC) patented Xplorer™ Direct Capture technology produces affordable, safer, high-quality X-ray images in only seconds, compared with several minutes for systems using photographic film.

Winsor, IDC's Chief Technical Officer, has won this year's prestigious $10,000 Manning Innovation Award, sponsored by the Arthur J. E. Child Foundation, for his innovation now being used in clinics and hospitals, big and small, throughout Canada, the U.S. and increasingly abroad.

"The big advantage of our digital system is that it's much faster," says Winsor, who was trained in geophysics and built his digital radiography (DR) system prototype in his wife Elaine's veterinary clinic. "We can capture an individual X-ray in six seconds, as opposed to minutes with film."

IDC's system uses a cost-efficient Charge Coupled Device camera - technology similar to that in your digital camera and to the system NASA uses to capture images from the farthest reaches of space. IDC's Xplorer family of products quickly produces an image so visually sharp that it has more than 16,300 shades of grey, compared with only 120 shades with film.

"The Xplorer stood out in 'blind' image quality comparison studies, with unmatched levels of resolution," says Guy Morency, Manager of the cardiac imaging department at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

For significantly less cost than competing digital systems, IDC's technology eliminates the need for film and chemicals (including storage and disposal), cassette-based computer radiography systems, and expensive imaging plates. The company's DR systems also enhance safety, because patients typically require only one exposure to ionizing radiation to obtain a high-quality X-ray image.

The cost savings and health benefits of digital imaging systems, including remote telemedicine applications where images are sent via the Internet, are increasingly being recognized.

This July, the Government of Alberta and Canada Health Infoway announced a $189-million investment to digitize X-rays, CT and MRI scans across the province, to improve the quality of health care by providing doctors and patients faster access to reports and images.

In 2000, IDC installed its first DR imaging system in a chiropractic clinic in Calgary.

IDC now employs about 75 people at its Calgary headquarters and manufacturing facility. Numerous systems are installed in clinics and prestigious hospitals in Ottawa, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Philadelphia, as well as in Germany, China and Korea. The company also has licensed its technology to manufacturers in China, France, Spain, Portugal and Brazil.

Since 1982, the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation's annual program (www.manningawards.ca) has rewarded leading Canadian innovators with $3.5 million in prize money. This year's four major winners, being announced throughout September, will share a total of $145,000. All will be honoured at the annual gala awards dinner Sept. 30 in Winnipeg.

* For more information about the award-winning IDC Direct Capture X-Ray Imaging System, visit www.imagingdynamics.com or contact Susan Watson at (403)-251-9939 or email info@imagingdynamics.com

* For more information about the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation, contact Don Park, Executive Director, at (403)-645-8288 or e-mail Don.Park@encana.com

Media Backgrounder

$10,000 Manning Innovation Award, Sponsored by the Arthur J. E. Child Foundation

Robin Winsor, IDC Direct Capture Digital X-Ray Imaging System

A dinner conversation with veterinarians inspired Robin Winsor to dramatically improve the way X-rays are made, and turned him into an award-winning innovator.

At the time, Winsor was working at an R&D position in the oil and gas industry in Calgary. He was helping a geologist download satellite photos one day, showing him how to use the system to find long linear geological features on the Earth's surface.

Winsor and his wife, Elaine, a veterinarian, later hosted a dinner party for a couple of friends who were also veterinarians. Winsor started musing about how to use satellite imagery technology to help make better X-rays. The veterinarians, knowing the long minutes it takes - especially in an emergency - to obtain an X-ray from photographic film were more interested in a way to create an image more quickly.

Winsor started researching and developing his idea, using a digital camcorder and an X-ray beam in his wife's veterinary clinic. A year after the dinner party, he applied for a patent for a system that would both create a high-quality X-ray and achieve it in a shorter time than film-based technology.

Even though it's the digital age, most X-ray rooms in the world are still using conventional film to produce images, more than a century after Wilhelm Roentgen discovered the X-ray image. But film is slow. After the patient gets an X-ray, radiologists or X-ray technologists still have to develop the film.

Winsor invented the world's first digital X-ray imaging system, made and sold by Imaging Dynamics Company (IDC), the Calgary-based company he formed with business partners 10 years ago. "The big advantage of our digital system is that it's much faster," he says. "We can do an individual X-ray in six seconds, as opposed to minutes with film."

IDC's patented Xplorer™ Direct Capture technology uses a very high-density Charge Coupled Device (CCD) camera, one lens and a scintillator - all tuned to micron-level precision. The scintillator lights up when exposed to ionizing radiation or X-rays, and this light is then deflected by a mirror into a single lens. The lens focuses light onto the 16 million pixels of the CCD detector (NASA uses a similar system in the Hubble Space Telescope to capture images from the farthest reaches of space).

The system quickly produces a high-quality image - so visually sharp that it has more than 16,300 shades of grey, compared with only 120 shades with photographic film.

"The IDC technology is so simple yet it yields such superb image quality," says Ernest Chavez, Director of Medical Imaging at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

IDC, which went public on the Alberta Stock Exchange on Nov. 8, 1995, installed its first system in 2000 in a chiropractic clinic in Calgary, a system that has performed well ever since.

Since Winsor first invented his Digital Radiography (DR) system, large global corporations have developed and brought their own DR systems to market.

But IDC's technology has a huge cost advantage over these systems, Winsor notes. Other DR systems, most of which use a considerably more expensive flat panel technology, can cost US$350,000 and up. IDC's system uses much less expensive off-the-shelf CCD technology, coupled with the company's Magellan™ II software for image enhancement and adjustment.

"Today, we can put a complete system in a clinic, big or small, for about US$125,000," Winsor says. "We're the only company at the moment that is anywhere close to that price."

IDC's system eliminates the need not only for film and chemicals (including storage and disposal), cassette-based computer radiography systems, and expensive imaging plates.

The system also can capture, with one X-ray exposure, a superior image using a lower dose of potentially harmful ionizing radiation. With film, if the resulting negative is too light or too dark, another X-ray is often needed - exposing the patient to more radiation. "With digital, we only do an X-ray once, generally," Winsor says. "Everyone is getting a much better X-ray."

Unlike DR systems that use flat panel technology, IDC's products don't expose any of the sensitive electronics to the potentially damaging ionizing radiation field.

In November 2004, IDC had passed the milestone of its 100th system sold. The Xplorer Direct Capture DR technology is now in clinics and prestigious hospitals across North America, including Ottawa, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Boston and Philadelphia. The company is also selling units internationally, in Australia, Germany, China, Korea and other countries.

IDC has also completed several successful OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) arrangements with firms in China, France, Spain, Portugal and Brazil, in which IDC's imaging technology is installed in other manufacturers' digital X-ray equipment and sold under their brand names.

IDC, established about a year before the tech bubble burst and venture capital evaporated, nearly didn't survive in its early days, Winsor says.

Thanks to timely grants from the Alberta Heritage Medical Trust Fund and the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program, Winsor kept nurturing his vision. "If you got discouraged by the number of times that it looked like it was all over, you'd never get to the end." Today, IDC trades on the Toronto Venture Exchange under the symbol IDL. About 75 people work at the Calgary headquarters and manufacturing facility, including President Darryl Stein and Chief Financial Officer Karim Teja, with Winsor as Chief Technical Officer. IDC is providing work to other Canadian companies, including lens supplier Elcan Optical Technologies in Midland, Ont. and CCD sensor chip-maker DALSA Corporation in Waterloo, Ont.

In August 2005, IDC was awarded an exclusive supplier contract to provide DR equipment and services to the U.S.-based Broadlane's Group Buy health care services company, which includes more than 450 Broadlane customer facilities.

As the company expands its global reach, Winsor remains proud of its Canadian roots. "I'm very proud to say that we're Canadian and I'm glad to be staying in Canada and keeping our technology here, albeit our products go worldwide now that we're on firmer ground," he says.

"We've broken these cost barriers and produced a tremendous quality image at a price that literally is affordable almost anywhere. We're actually producing a life-saving medical device and taking it into places where people would never have the opportunity for this health care at all."

Winning the Manning Innovation Award "is very special, he says. "The Manning Award focuses on the innovation as much as the business story. It's an award that I'm very honoured to be receiving, and I just couldn't be more tickled."

The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation

This year, Manning Innovation Awards presents $145,000 in prize money distributed among four leading Canadian innovators, as well as $20,000 among eight Canada-Wide Science Fair winners. Since 1982, the Foundation has awarded $3.5 million to recognize and reward Canadian innovators.