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#18 – Minimally Invasive Robotic Systems

{CMEF} Chinese Start-Up Vivolight in the Spotlight

Projection Vein Finder VIVO100 (Courtesy of Vivolight)

The start-up Vivolight is currently one of China’s most promising biomedical device SMEs. It showcased two new products at the 75th China International Medical Equipment Fair (CMEF), held in April in Shanghai. MedicalExpo e-magazine talked with its founder and general manager, Zhu Rui.

It was when Zhu Rui’s mother became ill in 2009 that the seeds of Vivolight were sown. “The doctors in the hospital couldn’t make a proper diagnosis because the medical imagery was unclear,” he explained. “It was all very frustrating.” Zhu, an optical sciences student at Beijing’s Tsinghua University at the time, began dreaming of simple yet innovative devices that could help doctors and patients by boosting diagnostic accuracy. Seven years on and Zhu’s Shenzhen-based start-up Vivolight – founded in 2012 and now employing over 60 people – is going from strength to strength. The company’s award-winning projection vein finders are now used in hospitals across China, and have been exported to over 30 countries around the world.

Two New Products at CMEF

Vivolight chose the CMEF 2016 to showcase two new products – the VIVO100 (fixed) and VIVO500S (handheld) projection vein finders. These devices operate on the basis that human hemoglobin absorbs more infrared light than other tissue.  Anna Wei, Vivolight’s overseas sales manager, explained:

Human hemoglobin absorbs more infrared light than other tissue (Courtesy of Vivolight)

Hemoglobin absorbs infrared light (Courtesy of Vivolight)

The enhanced image processing on these products means that up to 80% of veins can be detected to a depth under the skin of around six millimetres. The processed vein image is then projected back onto the skin surface.

The VIVO100’s unique “green light” projection simulates the colour of veins, making them stand out more on the skin, while the 500S boasts improved image quality (compared to earlier models) and adjustable brightness. Both should prove invaluable tools for nurses during injection procedures. Zhu Rui said:

Clinical tests with our vein finders show that they reduce injection failure rates from 20% to 5%. They also shorten the time of the injection by between a third and a half.

Burgeoning Market in China

China is currently one of the world’s most rapidly developing markets for medical devices. According to the United States Commercial Service, sales of such devices in the country reached RMB200 billion (US$30 billion) in 2013, making it the second largest market in the world after the United States. The China Pharmaceutical Materials Association Medical Device Branch expected this figure to reach RMB300 (US$46 billion) by the end of 2015.

Underpinning this growth are factors such as China’s general economic development, demographic trends such as an ageing population, and significant government investment in better healthcare services.

Projection Vein Finder VIVO500S (Courtesy of Vivolight)

Projection Vein Finder VIVO500S (Courtesy of Vivolight)

Beijing is now pushing innovation in its domestic medical device industry. Chinese medical device manufacturers are making substantial investments in research and development (R&D) to improve their technological competitiveness, and today they are becoming increasingly active in the export market. Anna Wei said:

Backed by the government and market forces, innovation amongst Chinese medical device companies is definitely rising. But to be honest, we don’t have much choice. If you’re not inovative when doing business globally, you don’t sell.

Vivolight is not resting on its laurels. The company will release an electronic injection pump for anaesthetics later this year, and an endoscopic OCT (optical coherence tomography) scanner in 2018. The latter uses light to capture images from biological tissue and is designed to assist doctors in arterial diagnosis and surgery.

About the Author

Daniel Allen is a writer and a photographer. His work has been featured in numerous publications, including CNN, BBC, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, National Geographic Traveller, Discovery Channel.

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