Proton Media
Proton Media
Ron Burns

Pharmaceutical researchers, doctors and others in the healthcare field rely heavily on collaboration, but as costs rise and budgets shrink, professionals can't always be where information-sharing is taking place. In ProtoSphere, they can attend classes, watch lectures and participate in brainstorming sessions in a virtual, real-time environment.

ProtoSphere is the creation of Lansdale, Penn.-based Proton Media. The company started in 1998 as a custom e-learning shop for life sciences companies, but in 2005 began evolving into the company it is today, providing SecondLife-like online spaces for collaboration. Proton Media was bootstrapped by its two founding partners, including the current CEO, Ron Burns. Since 2007 the company has raised $7 million in venture capital. The company is profitable and its revenue has doubled in the last two years, Burns says.

Several healthcare companies, including Merck, SciMed and Johnson & Johnson, are using the virtual environment. SciMed recently opened the industry's first Virtual Diabetes Institute in ProtoSphere, with classrooms, conference rooms, a lecture hall and a large auditorium. Physicians visit spaces within the ProtoSphere as well-dressed avatars and do things like sit in a simulation of a new piece of expensive equipment or walk around a rotating molecule.

By Eilene Zimmerman @CNNMoney - Last updated January 19 2012: 12:43 PM ET
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