Dr. Lee MacDonald and Dr. James Robar standing near medical equipment.

License Agreement & Research Collaboration

Lee MacDonald, a PhD candidate in Medical Physics teamed up with his Dal/NSHA faculty supervisors Dr. James Robar and Dr. Chris Thomas to develop FourPi. It's a ground-breaking algorithm that allows for precision cancer-treatment in radiation oncology.

Approximately 50% of cancer patients require radiation in the treatment and management of their disease. The life-saving treatment is critical in cancer care, but radiation can also damage healthy tissue that surrounds the affected area.

The FourPi algorithm designs a detailed set of customized treatment instructions that tells radiation treatment software precisely what to do for each individual cancer patient. Patient data is crunched to determine the correct dosage and intensity of radiation needed for their tumor, and then guides the equipment to target the correct location in the patient’s body. This technology fights malignant tumors while protecting healthy tissue from radiation damage and improving patient outcomes.

In 2016, the FourPi algorithm caught the attention of Brainlab — an international leader in software-driven medical technology based in Munich, Germany. Brainlab technology is offered in more than 100 countries and helps patients in 75% of the top 1,000 cancer treatment centres in the world.

OCIE worked with the Dal/NSHA research team and executives at Brainlab to establish a licensing agreement that would allow Brainlab to commercialize FourPi technology through its use in the company’s cranial radiosurgery software. The technology is now used to treat cancer patients in clinics worldwide.

A year later in 2017, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) provided 2.1-million in federal funding to support further research collaborations between medical physics research teams at Dal/NSHA and Brainlab. Read more about this funding story on Dal News


  • Dr. Lee MacDonald, PhD, Medical Physics (a PhD candidate when FourPi was invented)

  • Dr. James Robar
    Professor - Departments of Radiation Oncology, Physics & Atmospheric Science
    Director - Medical Physics Program
    Chief - Department of Medical Physics (Nova Scotia Health)

  • Dr. Chris Thomas
    Assistant Professor - Departments Radiation Oncology, Physics & Atmospheric Science, Diagnostic Radiology