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Houston trip opens doors for Kiwi med-tech innovators

Posted: 26 February 2018
A Callaghan Innovation fact-finding mission next week to the world’s largest life sciences campus is part of a strategy to elevate the burgeoning New Zealand medical technology sector onto the global stage.

Mike Brown, co-founder of wearable bladder sensor start-up Uri-Go, will be among a group of New Zealand innovators heading to the world’s most significant medical technology complex for the first time.

Callaghan Innovation is co-leading a mission in March to the Texas Medical Center in Houston, where Kiwi med-tech company representatives and academics will take part in a learning and networking opportunity aimed at putting their work in the global spotlight.

The inaugural delegation is made up of a cross section of New Zealand med-tech companies and researchers with symbiotic interests. The group of 20 has been selected for their expertise, international outreach, and unique combination of R&D and business skills.

Prize-winner’s rare opportunity

Uri-Go was named the winner of Callaghan Innovation’s 2017 C-Prize technology competition in December.

Winning C-Prize has already netted the start-up support worth $100,000 to develop and market its innovative sensor, created for people who have difficulties telling if they need to go to the bathroom. This can include those with a spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease or numerous other conditions.

The additional backing enabling him to be part of the Houston mission is the icing on the cake, Mike Brown says. It’s a priceless opportunity to learn more about the all-important US med-tech market and make contact with global experts, as Uri-Go gears up to launch its product internationally, he says.

“As we continue the journey to commercialise our sensor, being able to network and learn from world-leading experts at such a major global centre of innovation will be an invaluable experience,” he says.

“I’m sure I’ll come away from the trip with a wealth of new knowledge, contacts and insights about the global med-tech ecosystem that will accelerate our path to market.”

Bigger than Texas

The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical complex in the world and plays a significant role in advancing life sciences globally.

Over 160,000 people visit the centre each day and it employs 106,000 staff across 54 institutions.

Among other impressive credentials, it is home to the world’s largest children’s hospital and the world’s largest cancer hospital.

Patients from across the US and all over the world visit the centre to receive care from some of the best doctors in their field. Incredible breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment happen at the campus' eight different academic and research institutions, not to mention the 21 different hospitals.

The Callaghan Innovation mission has been organised in partnership with the Consortium for Medical Device Technologies (CMDT) and The MedTech Centre of Research Excellence (MedTech CoRE), and is also being sponsored by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Houston-based business strategic partnership specialists Noel Group.

It is the first international delegation to be hosted by Houston Exponential (HX), a new programme set up by the city’s business groups, technology incubators and the mayor’s office to turn Houston into a top 10 start-up ecosystem by 2022. The Kiwi delegation’s key areas of interest have been aligned with those of Houston’s med-tech research and investment communities.

Making vital international connections

A Kiwi med-tech start-up co-founder flying to Houston is Greg Shanahan, Managing Director of Veriphi, the developer of a device which uses laser verification to prevent injury and death from intravenous (IV) medication error in hospitals.

Veriphi has successfully completed proof of concept blind trials of its device – which analyses and verifies the actual drug being administered intravenously – and is now building a commercially specified version.

As Veriphi looks towards eventual international expansion, the Houston mission will provide a deeper understanding of the US clinical and commercial environment for the company’s solution, Greg says.

“The visit to the Texas Medical Center will also enable us to engage with potential research and commercial partners and the insights from the trip will be invaluable in helping us plan the implementation of our US and global market strategies,” he says.

Other companies participating in the delegation include: MoleMap, Tiro Medical, SHI Global, SAFERSleep and Molteno Ophthalmic. Each has specific objectives for the trip, ranging from finding business partners, investors and management experts, through to improving their global market knowledge and building new international connections and relationships.

Also taking part in the mission are nine leading medical technology researchers from four New Zealand Universities and MedTech CoRE.

Tapping New Zealand’s med-tech potential

Kiwi companies in the health technology sector make a substantial contribution to the economy and are “highly motivated and capable of delivering some of the new technologies that will bring … improved outcomes to health systems and patients, both locally and on a global scale,” according to a major 2016 report on the sector.

The New Zealand Health Technology Review found the country’s health information technology (IT) and medical device companies turned over $1.3 billion in the 2015 financial year.

“The pipeline of smaller companies innovating in health technologies should be an important focus for further support in the health innovation ecosystem as these are the future stars that will enhance New Zealand’s health and economic performance,” the report concluded.

Taking kiwi med-tech innovations to the world

As New Zealand’s innovation agency, Callaghan Innovation works with New Zealand med-tech businesses to develop and commercialise their new technology ideas.

Our specialised med-tech team nurtures and challenges our customers. We help navigate innovation, open up channels for co-funding, and connect businesses to R&D expertise.

So if your business is in the med-tech space and is looking for support and assistance to grow, talk to us now about developing products and capabilities with a global view in mind.

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Taking a TIKI tour of MedTech

Posted: 07 October 2016
Callaghan Innovation's MedTech sector manager Diana Siew and project co-ordinator Jyoti Chugh walk us through a North Shore innovation showcase.

A TIKI (Technology Innovation & Knowledge Interchange) Tour descended on North Shore Hosiptal recently on 23rd September. This was an event hosted by Callaghan Innovation's MedTech Sector team in conjunction with the Consortium for Medical Device Technologies (CMDT), ATEED, NZ Health IT and Waitemata DHB's Institute for Innovation and Improvement.

The TIKI Tour is an innovation showcase to highlight the latest research and innovations to DHBs and facilitate discussions between industry, researchers and health providers. This is the first tour to a major DHB since the pilot at Southland DHB earlier in the year.

Technologies from eight NZ start up and emerging medtech companies as well as three research projects from the MedTech Centre of Research Excellence (MedTech CoRE) matching Waitemata DHB's areas of interest were featured. The focus was on 

  • community health care technologies which included neurorehabilitation (ImAble and Rex Bionics), obesity (Health Kiosk), patient behaviour (SHI Global), mental health (Wild Bamboo); and
  • hospital care technologies on intentional radiology (Adept Medical), real time anaesthesia monitoring (Custos AWARE) and educational training (SimTutor).

MedTech CoRE partners, AUT and University of Auckland introduced their work on rehabilitation, the respiratory system and skin measurements. 

Tracey White (2nd from R) from Rex Bionics
Tracey White (2nd from R) from Rex Bionics


The event was well attended by 40 Waitemata DHB staff ranging from the Chief Medical Officers, clinicians, physiotherapists and allied health providers. Feedback was extremely positive as the opportunity to meet the companies and researchers, and understand the technology landscape was considered invaluable.

There was huge support for showcasing only NZ innovations and appreciation for holding the event at the DHBs itself to allow as many DHB staff to attend with minimum disruption of their schedules. 

And the outcomes? From SHI Global's perspective "the TIKI Tour was useful. It raised issues that clinicians have in getting new technology implemented and feedback to our system always helps us refine our product." Being able to have a good discussion wth the clinical fraternity and get their views on a new technology is so important on seeign it being tranlated into clinical use eventually.

From another company on the Tour - "It was an engaged audience and great to see the other suppliers" The opportunity to meet other companies in the same sector with similar challenges is an underlying message that keeps being repeated in events held by Callaghan Inovation, and a real value that we bring to the clients we work with. 

We could not have asked for more as early discussions have been initated with various members of the DHB with the companies and two of the reserach groups that attended. All in all, a good way to end the week!

The TIKI Tours will be rolled out throughout the DHBs that are interested and the next ones in planning are with Waikato DHB, Canterbury DHB and Auckland DHB. The event is by invitation only as the companies featured need to match the interest of the host DHB.


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