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Wish we’d thought of that: Medical marvels

The 2017 New Zealand Innovation Awards are open for entries. If you’ve got an amazing product, service, process or venture – or you know someone who needs to be shoulder-tapped – now’s the time to get it out there. And to help encourage entries and showcase the categories, we’re showcasing the best innovations we come across. We focus next on Innovation in Health & Science, sponsored by Chorus.

ARANZ Medical

The winner of the Bayer Supreme Innovation of the Year (and the Jade Innovation in Technology Solutions) at least year’s Innovation Awards for its Silhouette and FastScan, ARANZ Medical is unquestionably one of Aotearoa’s most innovative companies.

The Christchurch-based company’s patented technologies are already helping patients in 35 countries around the world, and its work has even been acknowledged by none other than the United Nations.

While such accolades are certainly impressive, ARANZ Medical chief executive Dr Bruce Davey says his company has a simple vision that also serves as a mission for employees. “Our goal is to lower the cost and make the provision of healthcare more efficient.”

Among ARANZ Medical’s best-known innovations, Davey says, is the FastSCAN, a 3D system that helps custom-fit orthotics and prosthetics more comfortably and accurately. The idea of a laser scanning device is based on the FastRBF, which enables data sets to be interpolated by Radial Basis Functions (RBFs) and was first used by Weta Digital in the creation of digital models for creatures in The Lord of the Rings.

Then there’s Silhouette. It’s an advanced non-contact wound surveillance system that shows the rate of healing and wound change over a period of time, allowing for better monitoring and patient care. Davey says the company is working on a wireless version of the scanner, bringing it closer to Star Trek’s tricorder. As Davey explains: “You don’t want a cable around a patient with wounds.”


Thousands of New Zealand women – and men – are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. 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, personalised 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.”

Volpara also must be doing something right, since they won the Innovation in Health & Science Award at the 2016 Innovation Awards.


Forest Herbs Research Ltd has been harnessing the potent anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of the native New Zealand herb horopito (Pseudowintera colorata), one of the earth’s oldest flowering plants, since 1985. It helps treat thrush.

Synthase Biotech

Basically, Hamilton-based Synthase Biotech helps cells live longer. It is also involved with reproductive health, extending the life of fresh semen, increasing recoveries of viable sperm across industry standard freeze-thaw processes, increasing resilience of stressed sperm, and increasing yields of implantable quality embryos in IVF embryo transfer processes. If it all sounds pretty sci-fi, just consider that they were Innovation Awards finalists last year.


What Auckland-based company Thought-Wired is doing with the Internet of Things is truly the stuff of science fiction. The company is using tech to allow people with severe disabilities to not only communicate and connect with family, friends and others, but to interact with the environment – and even manipulate objects just like able-bodied people. Translation: they’re basically developing the most cutting-edge of cutting-edge cybernetics.

“It’s still early days what we can do right now, but it’s just the beginning,” Thought-Wired founder and CEO Dmitry Selitskiy told Idealog last year. “The possibilities are incredible.”

Do you have an innovation worth celebrating? Check out the categories for the 2017 Innovation  Awards, and tell your story by clicking here

Review overview