River Forest company goes with the blood flow
Dr. Xinjian Du, a reserarcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, examines information on a patient's NOVA scan. The scan, which monitors blood flow, was created by River Forest resident Fady Charbel, M.D., head of neurosurgery at UIC
Address: 348 Lathrop Ave., River Forest
Phone: (708) 366-7000
Web address: www.vassolinc.com/index.cfm
Updated: March 1, 2013 7:38PM
RIVER FOREST — A tiny, nondescript building is home to a company that could revolutionize the medical world.
VasSol, on Lathrop Avenue, has developed a way to determine the amount of blood flowing inside a blood vessel. The test provides doctors with a three-dimensional image of blood flow in the body.
It is being touted as a way to diagnose and treat strokes and to detect possible aneurysms.
Labeled “NOVA,” for “noninvasive optimum vessel analysis,” the test is viewed as a way to give doctors concrete information about a patient’s condition.
“The idea behind NOVA is there’s a lot of guessing that comes into play with decisions of how to treat a patient,” said Dr. Fady Charbel, a River Forest resident who created the scan. “The patient could have blockage in a blood vessel or have suffered a mini-stroke.
“You want the ability to do some sort of test. With NOVA, you see the blood vessel. You can look at the shape of it to try to get an idea of what is going on and to see if the blood flow is restricted or not. You no longer have to make an inference that the blood flow might be reduced.”
Charbel, the head of neurosurgery at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, had the idea for the NOVA scan back in the early 1990s and got engineering experts at the UIC as well as at the U of I in Urbana working on the product. It took eight years of development to bring the product to market.
“With the constraints and the economy of health care, NOVA is even more important,” Charbel said.
“With NOVA, you are making decisions on actual numbers not based on the patient’s age.,” he added. “When you have a limited number of dollars, you are not going to apply the same treatment to everybody. There will be rationing, where someone draws the line. But a rational decision (with NOVA) is a better way to find out person X needs a certain treatment.”
Steve Lamon, a longtime River Forest resident, is chairman of the board. He is such a believer that he served as president without a salary, taking company equity instead.
“It is a labor of love for me,” Lamon said of his work with VasSol. “I want people to get the scan. I want to save lives because of this company.”
Lamon has moved to the chairman position as he is moving to Arizona. Charles Doherty has been named president and chief executive officer of the company.
“Our hope is that NOVA can reduce disagreements on how to treat a patient,” Lamon said.
Lamon said advances have been made in treating Alzheimer’s as NOVA has revealed changes in the blood flow rate in patients with the disease.
VasSol operates with four full-time employees, but has several sales contractors.
It took a lot of financial effort to get the company to the spot it is.
“Dr. Charbel had to raise $16 million or $17 million to get where we are today,” Lamon said.
Doherty has 25 years of financial services and organizational management experience. Prior to taking over as CEO, Doherty was a member of the VasSol Business Advisory Board.
Lamon and Doherty have both had NOVA scans done and encourage everyone to do so to know if an aneurysm or other problem is lurking, undetected.
“Anyone can make a request to a doctor to have a NOVA scan done. It lets you know that everything is all right.”
Thirty-five facilities, including the University of Illinois at Chicago, can do NOVA scans. That number is expected to soar once approval is granted for the product in China, Korea and other countries.