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Article source: University of Auckland

New national approach to digital health and device development

A new national medical devices and digital health innovation hub has been initiated to bolster the sector’s growth and ability to improve health outcomes for New Zealanders.

“Digital health has always been on the agenda but there was a piece missing. That piece is called Medtech-iQ Aotearoa and it unites the expertise of researchers from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Pōneke Wellington, Ōtautahi Christchurch and Ōtepoti Dunedin,” says Dr Diana Siew, co-lead of the Consortium for Medical Devices and Technology (CMDT) from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland.

These four new innovation hubs bring together five universities, Callaghan Innovation, three Te Whatu Ora hospitals, with other government health providers, the technology industry, investors, and communities to advance our MedTech sector. Each hub will contribute its areas of research and business strength and collaborate nationally.

“Medtech-iQ Aotearoa builds on the successful foundations of the CMDT partnership, extending it into a national backbone of linked regional hubs with both physical and virtual places for multi-disciplinary and cross-industry collaboration to develop and deliver new health technology,” says Siew.

“We have the right type of ecosystem – it’s connected, collaborative and focused. We have the right condition for activities such as clinical trials and first-in-man trials where a new drug, procedure or treatment is tested in humans for the first time. Now we need to bring all of that together to focus effort, remove duplication and deliver better health outcomes.”

Digital health coupled with new medical technologies offers a significant opportunity to transition Aotearoa New Zealand’s healthcare from medical facilities such as hospitals, testing laboratories and clinics into the home.

It will help us manage the growing demand for healthcare, much of it driven by the after-effects of Covid-19. A national approach using innovation hubs will put better health outcomes for all New Zealanders within our grasp. Healthcare users will have more power over their treatment, and inequities and barriers will be lowered for Māori, Pacific, and other marginalised people.

A patient managing their diabetes from home in Kaitaia or Bluff will be in control. They are less likely to need emergency care or hospitalisation. Their medical costs – to the system and to themselves – will reduce. Social and cultural barriers will be lowered.

Distinguished Professor Peter Hunter from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute is also co-chair of the CMDT with Siew. “This is the time when we must invest in growing our local talent and innovation ecosystem. We have strong centres of research and commercialisation activity with established clinical partnerships across the four main centres. Medtech-iQ Aotearoa brings together those partnerships, capabilities, and infrastructure into one prominent platform to showcase the entire sector to the world.”

The New Zealand MedTech sector has more than doubled in size in ten years. Hunter says it’s clear that our track record with spinout companies puts us within reach of the US$815 billion global MedTech market. “You only have to look at The Insides Company, Alimetry, JunoFem and Swallowing Technologies to see what can be achieved – and quickly.”

  • The Insides Company is a leading designer and manufacturer of purpose-built chyme reinfusion solutions for patients with intestinal failure. Its products are now in NZ and global markets.

  • Alimetry was only founded in 2019 and now has critical US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its non-invasive device helps diagnose gastric dysfunction.

  • JunoFem is one the few FemTech companies in NZ with an innovative medical device for pelvic floor health. It is now getting ready to take its product into the global market.

  • Swallowing Technologies is bringing revolutionary technology to allow patients and clinicians to visualise swallowing and develop treatment that helps patients with dysphagia.

Siew and Hunter are confident Medtech-iQ Aotearoa will put New Zealand on the map for MedTech innovation internationally to attract new partners and funding, foster startups and create a more diversified MedTech ecosystem.


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