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2016 New Zealand Innovation Awards Innovation in Health & Science: Volpara Health Technologies

Thousands of New Zealand women – and men – are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, resulting in around 600 deaths. And we know the best way to beat it is early detection. But we also know mammograms are expensive, and not always as accurate as they could be.

That’s why Wellington-based Volpara’s breast imaging tools have so much disruptive potential. Its software helps breast imaging providers deliver high quality, personalized breast screening, providing real-time quality assurance and performance monitoring through dynamic, interactive dashboards.

The software allows more detailed analysis of data in an easy-to-follow format. It’s especially helpful in analysing the results of mammograms from women with dense breasts, for whom mammograms detect only about 65 percent of cancers. “This gives them information they’ve never had before,” explains Volpara CTO David Murray. “It also uses the cloud for benchmarking, comparing data and sharing it.”

And doctors are already using it. “There is a tremendous amount of data that we’ve never been able to access easily,” says Dr Bruce Schroeder, of Carolina Breast Imaging Specialists in Greenville, North Carolina. “The ability to track trends for hundreds of quality metrics over time can dramatically enhance our ability to maintain quality patient care as well as reduce the amount of time our staff spends on quality assurance.”

Volpara chief scientist and CEO Dr Ralph Highnam isn’t exactly shy about touting the benefits, either. “As practices transition from one-size-fits-all mammography screening to personalised healthcare with multi-modality imaging, real-time quality assurance monitoring is more important than ever,” he says.

The company already has its technology in use in 35 countries, and claims more than nine million women around the world have had their breast density analysed using its software, and it’s also teamed up with GE Healthcare, one of the globe’s largest medical device companies, to see its technology in greater use in more markets.

Murray says that while the company’s growth, and awards recognition, is nice, there’s a more important mission behind what Volpara is doing. “It’s all around saving people’s lives,” he says. “We need to apply all the academic and research skills we have to help our customers save people’s lives.”


Congratulations to the Volpara team, this is a very strong entry and potentially game changing in health with huge growth potential. It was fantastic to read about the impact your product and service is having both in terms of commercial returns and in terms of saving lives. There is a lot that is impressive about what you have achieved so far, the IP portfolio, the market traction, the clever design that offers value. An awesome entry and a great story of innovation!

Review overview