Editor’s note: BioWatch is a regular feature on Fridays.Icardiogram, which just moved into its new Raleigh offices in April, is only a few customers away from being “cash-flow positive,” says Steven Kenny, vice president of sales and marketing.

The company, privately funded by its founders, makes a streaming video application for medical echocardiogram images. Echocardiograms, which are ultrasound pictures of the heart, can be crucial to diagnosing heart ailments. They are frequently used to assist in diagnosing pediatric heart problems.

Icardiogram sells systems for under $20,000 that include an Apple computer for “its graphics processing horsepower,” a high end VCR, and encoder software. “They don’t need a proprietary viewer,” Kenny says. “They can use any computer with a broadband or better connection with Quicktime, a free download.”

The system was invented by James Loehr, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill associate professor and pediatric cardiologist. He serves as Icardiogram’s president and chief executive officer.

Kenny notes the company is not a UNC spinout.

Go West, young company

The “Ecohoencoder” system is particularly useful for doctors working in rural areas who do not have quick and easy access to top hospital facilities where they can easily view echocardiograms. It also allows easy collaboration between primary care doctors and heart specialists when viewing the images.

Kenny says the company’s current clients are mostly in the west. “We have a doctor’s group in Nevada, the Children’s Heart Center in Las Vegas, and the Indian Health Center serving Arizona and New Mexico, where it’s 100 miles to get anywhere.”

The system is compliant with government health information privacy regulations and offers more protection than some current methods of sharing echocardiogram images via videos sent by courier services such as FedEx or video conferencing, Kenny says.

Icardiogram was under development for a year prior to its incorporation last July. While the company may consider venture backing in the future, Kenny says, “We’re trying to do it the old fashioned way and build it through revenue rather than a lot of venture capital.”

Prior to joining Icardiogram, Kenny worked in various engineering and sales positions at Cormetech Inc., Durham, which sells air pollution controls for power plants and with ABB Inc., a power technology company where he was a sales manager.

TriPath Imaging, Cytyc at it again

TriPath Imaging, (Nasdaq:TRPH), has filed a lawsuit against its Massachusetts rival, Cytyc Corp. (Nasdaq:Cytc).

Both companies make and market similar cervical cancer diagnostic products and have sniped at each other in the courts since 1999.

TriPath’s suit, filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, alleges that Cytyc infringed two TriPath patents and engaged in false advertising, defamation, intentional interference, unfair competition and unfair and deceptive trade practices. They’re asking for an injunction against Cytyc and monetary damages in an undisclosed amount.

The move follows Cytyc’s June 16 pre-emptive suit asking the U.S. Court for the District of Massachusetts to declare that certain TriPath patents are invalid and are not infringed by Cytyc’s. Cytyc executives said they filed the suit in response to threats from TriPath to sue when Cytyc shipped its rival automated PAP test system.

The two companies have received U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration approval to market their automated thin-image PAP test systems, which are faster and more accurate than conventional PAP tests.

In January 2001, the companies settled a suit filed by Cytyc in 1999 alleging patent infringement on its CytoRich preservation fluid by TriPath. TriPath counter sued alleging breach of antitrust laws and unfair competition.

Terms of the settlement, which included the counter suits, were not revealed, but neither side admitted liability.

NC State of Mind

North Carolina will present a unified presence in a 1,000 square foot exhibition space the size of ten booths at next week’s BIO 2003 conference in Washington D.C.

BIO is the biotechnology industry organization and its annual meeting is “The meeting you should attend if you’re in the biotech business,” says Barry Teater, director of corporate communications at the NC Biotechnology Center. About 15,000 people are expected to attend the event June 22-25.

Teater says the biotech center, NC BIO, and the NC Dept. of Commerce are sponsoring the large exhibit showcasing the state’s biotech capabilities. “It’s really going to speak well for us,” Teater says.

The exhibit brings together 51 NC biotech companies, contract research organizations and testing companies, universities, service providers, economic development agencies, big manufacturing companies. “It’s a great cross section of the NC biotech community,” Teater says.

“In the past a lot of these companies and organizations would exhibit on their own. This is the first time we’re presenting a unified exhibit and theme: North Carolina: the State of Mind.” The title was created by the North Carolina Electronics and Information Technology Association as part of a project designed to help promote the state’s technology industry.

Teater says results from conferences such as this “don’t always happen immediately, but you plant the seeds and good things happen down the line.”

NCBiopavillion: www.Ncbiopavilion.com

Icardiogram: www.icardiogram.com

TriPath Imaging: Tripathimaging.com