Last year, two leading companies in the focused ultrasound (FUS) industry – Verasonics and Sonic Concepts, Inc. – launched a project to expand the HIFUPlex™ Elite portfolio, an enhanced turnkey ultrasound-guided preclinical research system. The Foundation joined the collaboration, advising on matters such as device usability and software applications.
Recently, the group announced the completion of this collaborative project, debuting the HIFUPlex Elite 1000 for small subjects and HIFUPlex Elite 3000 for large subjects.
Headquartered in Kirkland, Washington, Verasonics designs and sells its leading-edge Vantage Ultrasound Research Systems for academic and commercial investigators and licenses the technology to companies for use in commercial products. The company boasts customers in over 35 countries around the world.
In nearby Bothell, Washington, Sonic Concepts has been a leader in designing and delivering innovative therapeutic and focused ultrasound solutions, including turnkey focused ultrasound systems like HIFUPlex. The company creates customized ultrasound devices tailored for unique clinical and industrial needs, manufacturing specialized ultrasound transducers and systems for a wide variety of therapy and imaging purposes.
We spoke with representatives from both companies about their motivations for such a project and how they see it changing the field.
How did this collaboration come about?
In 2014, we initiated a co-marketing initiative promoting the use of Sonic Concepts’ high-performance transducers together with Verasonics’ Vantage 256 HIFU configuration for ultrasound-guided FUS (USgFUS) large-animal studies. After achieving moderate success, we gained several key insights.
- Users were attracted to the turn-key solution that integrated a FUS drive system with FUS transducer, appropriately selected imaging arrays for image guidance, and example scripts for rapid interleaving between therapy and imaging using the same transmitters. The integrated solution allowed researchers to focus on their research instead of having to source and assemble parts from multiple vendors.
- Researchers valued saving both time and cost by avoiding or postponing the purchase of custom transducers, which typically cost more, take longer to develop, and may include development risk.
- More cost-effective, turnkey solutions were required. Many users who were in the early stages of their research could have completed their work with less-complex solutions. And the high-end solution targeted at large animals was too expensive for broad adoption of the integrated solution.
Over time, we recognized the potential opportunity to expand our collaboration to provide a wider range of “standard” solutions that could address most FUS research needs and budgets.
In 2017, Verasonics and Sonic Concepts collaborated to introduce six “standard” transducer bundles integrated with an expanded portfolio of Vantage HIFU Systems and a graphical user interface to simplify user control of the major parameters of FUS and imaging in a professional layout for 2D therapy planning and delivery. The research community was very receptive but requested that we address product gaps such as fixturing, 3D therapy planning, and monitoring.
In 2019, the companies collaborated with the Focused Ultrasound Foundation to develop and commercialize the HIFUPlex Elite solutions for preclinical research in both small and large animals. We are excited about the potential of the HIFUPlex Elite offerings to positively impact and advance FUS research.
What is the greatest need in the field currently that these systems will meet?
We have tried to evolve alongside the field as it has gained substantial momentum following the recent approval of multiple new FUS indications. The field has shifted toward applied research, including both preclinical and clinical studies. We believe the HIFUPlex Elite 1000 for small subjects and HIFUPlex Elite 3000 for large subjects address the need for full turnkey solutions and will help facilitate and advance focused ultrasound research.
The HIFUPlex Elite solutions provide all the capabilities needed for 3D planning, delivery, and monitoring, including:
- Fixturing and computer-controlled motion of the transducers
- Full-screen graphical user interface for visualization & control of the USgFUS workflow
- 360-degree rotary motion control of the 2D imaging plane
- Multiple imaging modes for therapy monitoring
- Thermal strain imaging as a potential tool for thermometry
We are excited about working with investigators in the fields of biomedical and veterinary research.
What motivated your companies to collaborate on this project?
We value each other’s unique capabilities to provide best-in-class ultrasound transducers and research ultrasound systems. Over the past several years, we have built a strong business relationship between Verasonics and Sonic Concepts grounded on mutual objectives, trust, performance, and enjoyment in working together.
Involving the Foundation was imperative to refining market and product requirements. It brought significant insight that positively impacted the design and ultimately the resulting HIFUPlex Elite solutions.
What unexpected hurdles did you face?
Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic was unexpected and presented several challenges with regard to both collaborating with each other and working with third parties such as our suppliers. We’ve learned how to work effectively using videoconferencing and occasionally in-person meetings adhering to social distancing.
What is the next step for this project?
Both companies are excited to announce the availability of this platform to our customers and will be holding a series of webinars this fall to demonstrate the key features of the HIFUPlex Elite 1000 and HIFUPlex Elite 3000 solutions. Also, we aim to conduct a study with the Foundation to evaluate the ergonomics and performance of our solutions. We look forward to working with the research community to advance their FUS research and receiving feedback on how we can make our products better.
Seattle Collaboration Creates HIFUPlex, a New Research System
Company Profile: Verasonics Develops Flexible, High Tech Ultrasound for Research
Company Profile: Sonic Concepts
Foundation, Sonic Concepts, and Verasonics Partner on Preclinical Research Platform