Health & Fitness

Is that mole a sign of skin cancer? A Miami start-up may have the answer

DermaSensor’s device uses spectroscopy and machine-learning technology to determine if a person’s lesion is high or low risk for skin cancer.
DermaSensor’s device uses spectroscopy and machine-learning technology to determine if a person’s lesion is high or low risk for skin cancer. DermaSensor

A Miami start-up is developing a handheld device to help family physicians quickly evaluate whether a patient’s lesion could be skin cancer.

DermaSensor’s device uses spectroscopy and machine-learning technology to determine if the lesion is high or low risk, said CEO Cody Simmons. The company is now completing its fourth clinical trial on the road to commercialization, he added.

“The device can be used on most any lesion. Just touch the device tip to the lesion and it then emits light, similar to a camera flash. How that light scatters off of the skin and reflects back to the sensor is what captures any abnormal features, which is what the machine learning algorithm then uses to give a high risk or low risk result,” said Simmons. “That whole process takes a mere 25 seconds.”

Thanks to artificial intelligence, the device will continue to get “smarter.” And results of the trials have been promising: The device has consistently identified cancerous lesions as high risk over 90% of the time, Simmons said.

“In 2011 we took the first 30-pound, suitcase-size devices into a few dermatologist offices for studies. Eight years and four clinical studies later, we now have this small one-pound device with great clinical study results.”

DermaSensor, now a team of 12, was co-founded by Dr. Maurice Ferre, a medical device industry veteran who sold MAKO Surgical and is now running Insightec. Simmons worked in Silicon Valley at Genentech and a couple of health-tech startups before joining DermaSensor.

Later this year, DermaSensor plans to launch initially in Australia, where skin cancer is most prevalent, Simmons said. Over the next year or two, pending regulatory approvals, the hope is to launch in Europe and the United States.

“We are the only device that is low cost, high performance and easy to use,” Simmons said. “We truly believe that Miami is a great launching point for our global success.”

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