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Northern Ireland's healthtech sector is primed for growth

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Northern Ireland has a long and successful relationship with the Middle East, supplying solutions that address the region's most pressing healthcare challenges.

Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI), the regional economic development agency for Northern Ireland, recently hosted seven leading Northern Ireland companies in a webinar in partnership with Omnia Health on the future of the healthcare industry in the UAE and the wider GCC.

Northern Ireland has a long and successful relationship with the Middle East, supplying solutions that address the region's most pressing healthcare challenges. Some of these include COVID-19 test kits, no-contact thermometers, and digital recruitment. In the future, Northern Ireland hopes to integrate itself as an essential resource for the Middle East's booming healthcare industry.

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The Middle East has been looking to the healthcare industry with increased interest in the last few years, with prominent regional players making large investments into global healthcare companies. Al Masah Capital estimates healthcare spending across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will grow to US$144 billion by 2020, with GCC nations contributing 52 per cent of total expenditure. This growth is fuelled by changing dynamics in the Middle East that have led to a dramatic increase in the demand for healthcare, including a rapidly surging and aging population, a rise in income levels and the prevalence of lifestyle related diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, in addition to the requirements posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, the UAE's Vision 2021 outlines healthcare as one of its six pillars, with the goal of making the UAE one of the best countries in the world for quality healthcare.

Northern Ireland's life and health sciences sector is well positioned to address the GCC and wider Middle East's healthcare requirements. With innovative companies providing solutions that range from non-invasive neuro stimulation products to lip-reading technology.

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Neurovalens, a Northern Ireland based global healthtech company creates non-invasive neurostimulation products that treat these global epidemics in addition to diabetes, and obesity. The company specialises in combining neuroscience and technology and has ongoing research collaborations with Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University and is one of the few companies to receive direct investment from the UK government. 

Neurovalens' devices, named Modius, are non-invasive, low risk and low cost. These innovative devices function as the first line of therapy before the administration of medication. Currently, the Modius Sleep and Modius Stress devices are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration and available for immediate distribution, while the Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity devices will be available in early 2022.

Liopa, a spin-out from Queen's University Belfast and The Centre for Security Technologies (CSIT), gives a voice to the voice-less with LipRead – its automated lip-reading technology. LipRead significantly increases the accuracy of video and media transcriptions, which is essential in the healthcare sector. Their second product, SRAVI, is an app which enables people to communicate with healthcare workers or their friends and family while they cannot use their voice. Liopa's products have a range of applications for chronic conditions and ICU admissions, including COVID-19 rehabilitation.

In addition, Northern Ireland companies have been manufacturing advanced technology for the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar moderated by Fahd Asif, Life Sciences Sector Lead (GCC) at Invest NI, also heard from TriMedika, Biopanda Regents, Medizar, CIGA and MPA Recruitment on their cutting-edge technologies and plans for the region. These companies are at the forefront of medical innovation, manufacturing products such as no-contact thermometers, in-vitro test kits, COVID-19 rapid test kits, and infection control sanitisation products. 

TriMedika, a manufacturer of medical devices, has developed a no-contact thermometer called TRITEMP that stops the spread of infection by eliminating points of contact. In addition to minimising the spread of infection, the solution can provide significant savings by eliminating the use of removable plastic covers for thermometers, for example, a 900-bed hospital can save upto $122K by using no-contact thermometers. 

TriMedika's products are currently distributed through partnerships in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

Biopanda Regents, established in 2011, manufacture in-vitro test kits for clinical applications, food safety and veterinary diagnostics. Their most recent innovation, a COVID-19 Rapid Test Kit has been supplied to the Bahrain Defence Force Military Hospital.

CIGA Healthcare is a specialist in the production of rapid self-testing diagnostics, sold in over 70 countries across the world. Every 5 seconds, someone uses a CIGA test. Their products range from pregnancy tests to vitamin tests, and their own brand of blood pressure machines and thermometers. CIGA has a range of COVID-19 tests and technology with accuracy levels of 94% to 99.6%.

Medizar is a producer of infection control sanitisation products that are more cost effective and user friendly than alcohol or chlorhexidine-based products. Their products are 100% alcohol free, food safe, gentle on the skin, and applicable in a variety of locations ranging from medical to hospitality, retail, and schools. Medizar products kill COVID-19, as tested, and approved by the Australian government's department of health.

Currently, Medizar's products have been approved by several Ministry of Health departments across the world, including in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The company has a strong presence in the Middle East, working with prestigious organisations such as the Hamad Medical Corporation, Al Noor Hospitals Group, King Fahad Medical Complex and Saudi German Hospital to name a few.

MPA Recruitment: Established in 1997, MPA Recruitment provides staffing solutions to address the world's healthcare challenges. The company has offices in India and Canada in addition to their headquarters in Northern Ireland. One of their key innovations has been to integrate video into the hiring process, digitising recruitment programs in the healthcare sector. MPA Recruitment has deep GCC expertise, working with leading institutions such as King Saud University and Mubadala Health.

In addition to the companies outlined above, over 250 businesses operate in the fields of precision medicine, diagnostics, MedTech, clinical trials and associated sectors in Northern Ireland. Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University rank among the top 10 in the UK for bioscience research, with more than 1,000 researchers working across a multitude of globally respected research centres with specialities ranging from Cancer, Nanotechnology through to Biomedical Science, Health Innovation and Experimental Medicine. Both universities are closely linked to the healthtech sector – producing several successful companies that started as university spinouts.

Northern Ireland also has an industry body dedicated to advancing collaboration and innovation in life and health sciences – the Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI). The organisation acts as a conduit between Northern Ireland's life and health sciences sector and the international community, enabling partnerships, funding agreements and R&D. Northern Ireland's life and health sciences sector is well positioned to address the GCC and wider Middle East's healthcare requirements.

In conclusion, Fahd Asif, Life Sciences Sector Lead (GCC) at Invest NI said, "Northern Ireland's healthtech and associated technology sector is primed for growth, with fast-growing companies signing deals across the world, including in the Middle East. Their innovative solutions are making waves at a critical point and helping accelerate the pace of innovation within the healthcare sector as the industry manages the pandemic. Invest Northern Ireland will continue to work closely with these companies to ensure their steady and sustained growth in the years ahead."

To know more about any of the companies listed above, click here

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