Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Daxsonics is a design-build consulting firm that provides innovative solutions for challenging ultrasound imaging and integration problems. With expertise in all aspects of high-frequency ultrasonic imaging technology, digital and analog hardware design, piezoelectric transducer design and production, and medical imaging software design and development, this group of scientists and engineers help their customers create breakthroughs in medicine. We spoke with Chief Executive Officer Jeff Leadbetter and Director of Quality Glen Farrell to learn about this innovative company.
How was the company started?
Formally incorporated in 2011, Daxsonics was originally founded in the late 2000’s by Dr. Jeremy Brown and Dr. Robert Adamson while completing their PhD programs at Queens University and University of Toronto, respectively. Jeremy Brown, Daxsonic’s Chief Scientific Officer, and Rob Adamson, its Chief Technical Officer, initially sought to develop prototype electronics to sell to other researchers. Their idea was to design equipment that could drive imaging transducers that were still in development, and their first product was a pulser/receiver (no longer in production). The company no longer offers any standardized products but instead focuses on custom-designed solutions. Drs. Brown and Adamson maintain active partnership and advisory rolls in the operation of Daxsonics while serving as full time faculty at Dalhousie University’s School of Biomedical Engineering.
What does Daxsonics do?
We are a consulting and custom fabrication company that provides innovative solutions in engineering, design, manufacturing, software, and research and development to customers around the world. We help our customers develop ultrasound-based or ultrasound-integrated products for research or commercialization. Our staff has a wide variety of expertise in research and development that is backed by results-driven experience. Our group is fully capable of designing and building equipment that has the potential to change lives.
Tell us about your company structure: ownership, lead executives, and their roles.
Daxsonics is privately held. It has four partners and 20 professional staff. The company’s partners are:
- Jeff Leadbetter, Chief Executive Officer
- Andre Bezanson, Director of Design
- Rob Adamson, Chief Technical Officer
- Jeremy Brown, Chief Scientific Officer
How did you get involved in starting or joining the company?
Andre Bezanson and I [Jeff Leadbetter] joined Daxsonics as partners in 2013. Our goal at that time was to take the company to the next level and develop its capacity to fulfill the requirements of a substantial research contract. By that time, Jeremy Brown and Rob Adamson had become full-time faculty at Dalhousie University, so I moved from my role as a research associate in their laboratory to run Daxsonics. Glen Farrell was one of our first key hires, and after we brought him on board as a Quality Director in 2015, he quickly became a key part of our leadership team.
In general, what is the current status of your company?
Daxsonics is currently in a growth phase, having experienced fairly rapid expansion over the past few months. Our operating structure is built on four core competency areas: ultrasonic transducer design, electrical engineering, software development, and quality assurance for medical devices. We hire engineers and designers with strong academic backgrounds who know how to bridge innovative ideas with state-of-the-art design to develop novel products. Our teams also include individuals with experience in quality manufacturing, which allows our company to provide full-service design-build solutions.
What are some of the technical challenges your group has had to overcome?
We have invested a considerable amount of resources in both improving imaging resolution and high-efficiency focused ultrasound systems.
What do you do for the field of focused ultrasound?
Most of our contracts are confidential, but we have good experience and familiarity with integrated imaging systems, especially for small-scale instruments. One area that is exciting is the integration of high-resolution imaging for handheld and endoscopic focused ultrasound systems.
What services can you offer focused ultrasound researchers?
We are always interested in taking on innovative and challenging transducer work. Often, customers approach us who have a transducer, but it’s not doing what is needed for their novel application. We can help recommend another transducer that will perform, and if none exist, can provide a new design tailored to their application. With our facilities we’re able to provide a fist prototype or support ongoing builds during clinical trials.
Another key offering is to research groups who are developing a focused ultrasound system and are looking to integrate ultrasound image guidance; there is no single best turn-key option. Integration challenges constrain how the system can be used and what researchers can study. Daxsonics can provide assistance here by supplying the right transducers and the back-end integration to get it working with their system.
What are the benefits of your company over other companies?
There are two nice attributes that we hear from our customers. First, we put a huge effort into our interaction with the customers – we want them to succeed and our main day-to-day goal is to listen for and work toward our customers’ objectives. Second, we have a unique environment for developing talent in this area. We often get referral requests from programs or companies who are looking to hire individuals with the skills and capabilities that we provide. Jeremy Brown, Rob Adamson, and the rest of the faculty at Dalhousie University, are in excellent roles for identifying and training top students in the field. When we hire or refer their undergraduate or graduate students, they are able to contribute on day one. Furthermore, our remote location in Eastern Canada has a relaxed atmosphere and a working environment that is conducive to innovative ideas.
Do you partner with other companies?
Two of or key partners are:
- Nummist Media – an imaging processing software firm.
- Dalhousie University – we have ongoing collaboration with the department of biomedical engineering to develop projects and train graduate students.
What kind of customers and additional partnerships are you looking for?
We are interested in working with all kinds of clients – academic researchers and novel enterprises with the capacity and experience to launch a product. Our University clients challenge us with innovative requests for transducers, and Daxsonics is often the only company that is willing to try to fabricate their designs.
Have you learned any lessons by watching the experience of the other companies?
Yes, we have had many opportunities to work with other companies, and it is interesting to see how dramatically differently each company approaches the same kinds of problems. What works for us as a service provider is different than being a vendor or manufacturer. We quickly recognize the operational mode of the customer and integrate ourselves into their system. Our goal is to become part of the team seamlessly.
Do you have an interesting success story?
We will in a few years–our projects take time. Our clients are out there to change lives, and the research institute work that we have contributed to has incredible potential. Some of the transducers that we have designed are doing groundbreaking work.
What are your goals going forward?
Keep contributing to technology that improves lives. Because we are integrated into the product development cycle of our customers, our work can vary from a few weeks to years depending on the contribution – as a business having a good mix of short and long projects is very important. We have had some recent success diversifying clients across Canada, the United States, and Europe, but we are always we are looking for more exposure, and we are interested in making introductions. What we do is very specialized, so the more people we get to know, the better the chances are to find the right fit.
Is there anything else we should know about your company?
Daxsonics is located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but we constantly travel to visit our customers. We see several advantages to our remote location. For example, our work atmosphere is conducive to good ideas. Also, people remember us and love to visit because of our unique location, so that is a great first step toward building strong partnerships.
Photo credit: Ashleigh Benson