Robert Hamilton, PhD of NovaSignal

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Robert Hamilton, PhD, the co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of NovaSignal, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of NovaSignal – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

Although the brain accounts for approximately 2% of body mass, it consumes nearly 20% of the body’s oxygen supply, making blood flow in the brain a good indicator of overall health. While pursuing my PhD in Biomedical Engineering at UCLA, I developed a new analytical method to measure subtle variations in cerebral blood flow that I believed could have profound clinical applications. The need to make this technology widely available was further made evident by the premature death of actress Natasha Richardson in 2009. She had an undiagnosed brain bleed that could have been detected if her care team had access to an easy to use, portable method to measure blood flow in the brain.

In 2013, I published a paper on the feasibility of the technology and subsequently won a business plan competition at UCLA. Through this process I met and partnered with two MBA students, Dan Hanchey and Leo Petrossian, and NovaSignal was born.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

The largest hurdle for any company is the ability to attract and retain top talent. Today, we have two FDA cleared products and have shipped over 100 systems to top hospitals in the US and Europe, none of which could have been accomplished without the dedication of our incredible team. We cannot thank them enough for taking a chance on this company and for helping fulfill our ultimate mission to save lives by unlocking the hidden power of blood flow data.

What does the future hold for NovaSignal?

We released our fully automated system in Q4 2019 and in January of this year we had the privilege of naming Diane Bryant as the Chairman and CEO. With Diane’s experience at Intel and Google Cloud, we are now entering the next phase of the company to truly harness the power of blood flow data through better analytics. We will be launching an investigational version of our cloud architecture this fall.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Los Angeles?

Los Angeles has all the required elements for a great med-tech startup ecosystem. First, it has tremendous research universities and hospitals that allow for a continuous stream of IP and innovation. Many young entrepreneurs do not fully understand the latent opportunity held in the IP of major research universities – there is ample technology just waiting to be commercialized. Second, our company benefited from a growing ecosystem of early stage funding like the Tech Coast Angels, which is a required element of any startup company. Lastly, with the presence of many medical technology strategics in the area, we are fortunate to have world class talent that we can draw from as the company grows.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

There are countless make or break moments within a startup, none greater than the decision to launch the venture. Having advised several companies (and potential companies), the initial decision to start the business seems to be the most significant hurdle. I have met with many brilliant entrepreneurs who have excellent technologies, but are waiting for the perfect moment to take the leap. In my experience, entrepreneurs always overestimate what is needed to get started. We began NovaSignal with a published paper and the idea that providing blood flow data to physicians would change how brain health is managed. It has been an incredible journey so far and while the path has been challenging at times, it has been rewarding as well. The day you take that first check from an investor will be simultaneously the most exciting and terrifying moment of your life, but it is definitely a moment worth experiencing as you set forth on your own startup path. Take the leap.

 

For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series

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