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This Australian medtech startup is bringing the power of virtual reality to healthcare

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Dr Vijay Paul and Dr Nishanth Krishnananthan, Vantari
Dr Vijay Paul and Dr Nishanth Krishnananthan

Vantari VR is leading the way for the future of healthcare in Australia by bringing to life the human body through Virtual Reality. Using Australian made technology to provide transformative applications, Vantari is implementing VR to in two distinct areas to improve patient outcomes, namely Surgical Planning and Medical Training.

Vantari empowers doctors and patients to better visualise and read medical imaging such as CT and MRI scans. The company’s cutting-edge rendering technology takes the current visualisation of these images into Virtual Reality by creating an immersive and intuitive environment.

Signalling the end of two-dimensional (2D) black and white medical scans, Vantari’s technology modernises imaging by rendering patient scans in true 3D, offering new and intuitive ways for the surgeon to visualise, interpret and understand medical images. Vantari’s vision is to be the gold standard for medical visualisation, leading to better decisions when it comes to planning patient’s life changing operations.

Medical training is crying out for Vantari, with the old philosophy of ‘see one, do one, teach one’ as well as expensive and outdated equipment such as mannequins providing suboptimal procedural education.

Vantari prepares students and doctors for patient care through procedural modules and scenarios in VR which replicate real life events, allowing a safe way to practice while a powerful data portal in the background collects performance for personal and professional review. Vantari is the flight simulator for doctors which can be done anywhere and at any time.

What is the story behind Vantari?

Founded in late 2017, Vantari was created by two doctor’s Dr Vijay Paul and Dr Nishanth Krishnananthan who worked for over 8 years in the Australian health system. They met on their first day of internship and bonded during several night shifts during the first years of medical work, and soon developed a keen interest to better understand and improve their profession.

As a medical doctor with experience in emergency medicine (Dr Vijay Paul) and in surgery (Dr Nishanth Krishnananthan), the duo spent their careers working in medical centres and hospitals across Australia. From this, they discovered firsthand the pain points and realised that a common issue amongst all of them was understanding medical imaging, the only visual representation patients had of their condition. In 2017, they decided to do something about it.

“Working in the industry made us aware of the challenges that medical professionals and their patients face on a daily basis. A clear issue was reading and understanding medical images. This can be tricky even for the most experienced of professionals, who normally go through years of training just to learn how to read a standard medical scan,” reflects Dr Vijay Paul, Vantari VR’s Co-CEO.

“So, you can only imagine how hard it is for them to mentally reconstruct hundreds of slices prior to operating on patients. At the time, the way we read medical images hadn’t changed in 30 years, so it pushed us to start thinking of a better way to do it. We knew that there was a solution in technology so decided to explore it.”

Fast forward to the middle of 2017 and the duo brought on Daniel Paull, an expert in VR, AI, AR and computer vision, to bring to life their vision and add much needed technical flair as a CTO for the company.

With a prototype ready and a Cicada program with NSW Health under their belt, Vantari received a huge milestone in 2018 when it achieved pre-seed funding when selected as 1 of 10 companies to partake in leading health insurer HCF’s Catalyst program. Catapulted by the success of the program, Vantari achieved the both a local NSW grant as well as most recently receiving almost AU$560,000 in the latest round of the federal government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme.

Overcoming startup challenges

However, as most companies who’ve spent time in startup world will attest, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. In late 2018 when Vantari VR were working with an investor to secure the federal government grant, the company in avertedly ran into some trouble.

“We were in a great position where we had secured funding from an investor to submit as a matched contribution to the grant, but at the final hour we found out that the investor didn’t actually have the funds. This meant we had to scramble to find another investor or risk losing the grant. By some miracle we found another investor and secured the grant in the end. As you can imagine however, it was an incredibly stressful time – we learnt the hard way of what can go wrong when it comes to raising funds,” said Dr Nishanth Krishnananthan, Vantari VR’s Co-CEO.

The future for Vantari VR is in further securing key partnerships that will widen their digital footprint in the health space. At present, the company is working with Westmead Hospital and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH), embedding their technology in procedural training and cardiac surgical planning respectively.

At Westmead, junior doctors and trainees can learn from the immersive simulations hosted by Vantari VR’s platform, while at RPAH their technology is being used to render cardiac CT and MRI scans into VR to assist complex heart surgery. Doctors are also trialling the technology to show patients their scans using VR headsets, mimicking what the future might look like for all doctor consultations.

It’s clear that the future of healthcare is in technology and as experts search for a better way, Vantari are showcasing a new digital reality for all. Patients will also benefit from Vantari, because its ability to help clinicians decipher often complex medical diagnostic imagery assists them in making empowered decisions about their health, in conjunction with their doctor.

Redefining what’s possible, Vantari predict that this type of technology will soon become the new norm for healthcare professionals and patients alike. As the company continues to explore the endless possibilities at the intersection of medical imaging and virtual reality, the sky is the limit in the virtual world of Vantari VR.

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