The Iraqi-born Norwegian entrepreneur Fouad Al-Noor founded ThinkSono along-side his German co-founder Sven Mischkewitz in his hometown London in 2016. They are working with medical experts on new software for a portable ultrasound device to make a quantum leap in DVT diagnostics.
I was born in Basra, in southern Iraq.Now, I could tell you an exciting story, but honestly, I can’t even remember the time when I lived in my native country. Nor do I remember our move to Norway when I was three years old. At 14, we eventually moved from Oslo to London.
Long before ThinkSono was founded, I was interested in medical and electrical engineering. I studied at Southampton, earned a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering and wrote a master’s thesis in nanotechnology. After graduation, I went to the US to work for SAP in Silicon Valley.
There, I was inspired to found my own company. I wanted to solve problems even if I wasn’t sure how I could use my skills most effectively yet. It just had to be something impactful.
When I returned home to England in 2016, I ended up joining Entrepreneur First (EF), a "company builder." They help individuals meet like-minded people. It’s at EF whereI met my future colleague and co-founder Sven Mischkewitz, and I came across the problem, our "final enemy" DVT.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the leg. If part of it breaks loose, it can enter the lungs through the blood and cause a life-threatening embolism.
In Europe and the USA alone, more than 500,000 people die each year from the consequences of this disease.
That is more than breast cancer, prostate cancer, AIDS, and traffic accidents combined. As people live to more advanced ages, the risk of DVT is increased, which makes it a disease of the future. The main problem, however, is the diagnosis. These blood clots are often not detected. The ultrasound devices that are required are hard to use and reserved for specialists.
Many of the doctors we met expressed the desire to be able to detect DVT using a simple, inexpensive method. Sven and I soon realized that DVT was a serious, international problem that we had massively underestimated. What if we built and launched a software that would allow non-experts to detect DVT? This software could run on existing, inexpensive handheld ultrasound devices.
We started from scratch. We were young, completely unqualified, and confronted experts with our scientific assumptions. Our only question was: Is it feasible? And if not, someone should prove us otherwise. We showed Dr. Bernhard Kainz from Imperial College London YouTube videos of DVT to get his advice. We also met radiologist Dr. Ramin Madegaran, who later joined our company, in the hallways of Guy’s Hospital in central London and won him over with our idea. It was worth the effort. We have been able to significantly simplify the diagnosis of DVT and make it accessible to all health-care professionals. However, our work is far from being a linear success story. There are still numerous clinical trials ahead of us.
If one day our product is used in a hospital and saves patients’ lives, we will have taken a big step forward.
We want to build the future of medical technology. Until we are ready to do that, we still need time, money, and most importantly data, data, data. The technology is extremely difficult to develop. We have to understand clinical complications in new ways. And ultimately, the medical community has to adopt our new solution. Only if all of this happens, will we meet our final enemy on equal footing.