A medical device start-up company is developing a portable brain scanner for rapid, point-of-care, stroke diagnosis and monitoring.

The device has the potential for use in stroke wards, intensive care units, emergency departments, ambulances and remote locations around the world, and could have the same life-saving potential as the widespread introduction of defibrillators 20 years ago.

EMVision Medical Devices Limited (EMVision) is developing a cost effective, portable, medical imaging device using electromagnetic microwave imaging for diagnosis and monitoring of stroke and other medical applications. The technology is the result of over 10 years of development by researchers at The University of Queensland (UQ). The team is led by co-inventors Professor Amin Abbosh, who is considered a global leader in electromagnetic microwave imaging, along with Professor Stuart Crozier, who created technology central to most MRI machines manufactured since 1997.

Global impact

One in four people globally will have a stroke in their lifetime. Worldwide, it is the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability. Stroke is also a leading cause of dementia and depression, and is a leading cause of disability in Australia, costing the nation about $5 billion annually. Early intervention and timely diagnosis and treatment improves survival rates and can make the difference between permanent disability or death and a positive recovery.

The research

The technology is aimed at providing point-of-care and immediate imaging of stroke or brain injury outside a traditional hospital-based fixed imaging setting, for example in an ambulance. Early diagnosis and therefore earlier treatment is known to significantly improve patient outcomes after strokes, as does regular monitoring during treatment and post-operative recovery. The ‘gold-standard’ CT and MRI scans are not widely accessible and the imaging procedures can lead to extended delays before diagnosis. Also, CT scans use ionising radiation and so are not suitable for use in regular monitoring.

The UQ researchers believed that low-power, non-ionising microwave radiation could be harnessed to produce, in a relatively short time, a sufficiently clear image of the human brain that would allow a clinician or paramedic to quickly locate the site of the stroke and to distinguish whether it was haemorrhagic (from bleeding) or ischaemic (from clotting).

The new technology uses an array of antennas incorporated into a helmet to send pulses of low power electromagnetic waves into the head, where they undergo scattering as they pass harmlessly through the tissue and are detected by sensors in the helmet. Multiple novel algorithms are used to construct an image of the tissue and artificial intelligence stroke classification assists in decision making. The helmet is connected to a compact power and processing unit that can be on wheels to allow full mobility of operation. A quality image can be displayed on a laptop or tablet.

This imaging technology has the potential to be applied to other brain conditions as well as to other parts of the human body, such as diagnosis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), pulmonary edema and a host of skin conditions.

The path to commercialisation

From 2016 when the invention was disclosed, UQ’s commercialisation company, UniQuest, applied its extensive experience in commercialisation to identify and protect the intellectual property initially and explore the commercial potential of the technology. UniQuest came to the opinion that this device could well have the same life-saving potential as the widespread introduction of defibrillators 20 years ago.

UniQuest used its extensive network to bring together with the UQ researchers a group of investors who had expressed interest in investing in, and solving, significant unmet clinical needs.

This led to a licence of the technology and subsequent IP assignment to a newly-formed startup company, EMVision, in September 2017 and an agreement for EMVision to fund a significant R&D project undertaken by UQ.

This funding was quickly supplemented in December 2017 by a successful application by EMVision for a Federal Government Cooperative Research Centre Project (CRC-P) grant with total funding of $3.5 million. In that time EMVision established an industry relationship with GE Healthcare, and has gone on to build industry relationships with Keysight Technologies and the Australian Stroke Alliance.

EMVision listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX:EMV) in November 2018, raising $6 million, and raised an additional $4.5 million from a share placement in November 2019 and $9 million in July 2020.

A clinical trial at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane began in early 2020. Results from the 30 stroke patient cohort, which included the first comparisons of images between the EMVision technology and the CT and MRI images, have demonstrated that the technology has moved well beyond the stage of computer simulation to the reality of being applied to detect, localise and classify strokes in stroke patients, by the bedside, in a manner otherwise not possible today.

Having achieved this level of clinical validation and support within four years of initial disclosure to UniQuest is a significant outcome for the company.

UQ’s Professor Amin Abbosh

designing technology icon


Information Systems and Computational Science



Professors Amin Abbosh and
Stuart Crozier
UQ Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology



A portable medical imaging device


Patent application