Clemson researchers receive award for radiosurgery device

Clemson University doctoral student Donald Medlin (left) and professor Endre Takacs are founding members of Medical Beam Laboratories. Photo Credit: Jim Melvin, Clemson University.

Medical Beam Laboratories, a company recently formed by Clemson University researchers, has been awarded the South Carolina InnoVision Award for its work in advanced robotic radiosurgery.

“We’re really grateful to InnoVision for recognizing our technology,” said Medical Beam Laboratories CEO Donald Medlin, a physics and astronomy doctoral student at Clemson University.  “I think it brings a lot of attention to South Carolina, and Clemson University, as well, because most people in the medical device industry are in Silicon Valley or the Research Triangle.”

Medlin started Medical Beam Laboratories in 2015 alongside Endre Takacs, a Clemson University professor of physics and astronomy; Leon Zheng, a research associate; and Mark Leising, interim dean of the College of Science.

The company, which is headquartered in Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation, is currently developing a radiosurgery device that uses precisely targeted beams of gamma radiation to destroy cancer tumors and improve cancer outcomes in people and pets at a lower cost than conventional treatments.

Medical Beam Laboratories staff receive the 2017 InnoVision Award. Photo Credit: InnoVision Awards.

“Our device has the potential to revolutionize how radiation therapy is delivered,” said Medlin.

“Normal radiotherapy techniques use a broadband X-ray spectrum that cannot focus radiation as well as our device,” he added. “In veterinary applications, the average pet that receives radiotherapy requires 19 fractionations, or sessions, to remove a tumor, so the owner must take the dog or cat in every day for almost a month to get the total amount of radiation necessary.”

But the new radiosurgery device has a precise delivery system that can reduce the number of treatment applications necessary and also reduce the treatment cost, according to Medlin.

The device delivers more than 20 beams of gamma radiation, which are programmed to intersect at the location of cancerous tumors and other tissue malformations, where they selectively damage tumorous cells and kill them. It also uses an image guidance system to monitor the tumor’s position in real-time so the beams stick to their targets.

“The beams are all targeted at the tumor volume and they rotate around the patient so that they’re entering at different angles. This reduces the dose spillage outside of the tumor volume and minimizes the damage to the surrounding healthy tissue,” Medlin said.

Medlin and his colleagues are currently producing the first radiosurgery device, which will be used for human applications in Europe next year. They’re also raising funds to launch the first device designed and optimized for veterinary applications, which they hope will be piloted by a qualified veterinary hospital in Greenville.

Beam Labs plans to seek FDA approval for their device once human and veterinary applications have been completed. Medlin said he hopes to have a radiosurgery machine available in U.S. hospitals by 2020.


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