Iranian Tech Firms, Startups Making Forays Into Healthcare Sector
EghtesadOnline: Knowledge-based companies and startups in the Iranian technology ecosystem have set their sights on expanding their activities in the healthcare and medical sectors.
In line with the government's policy of promoting tech firms in domestic industries, innovative ideas and talents are identified through startup weekends, tech shows and similar events.
One such event was held on Sunday at the Health Ministry in Tehran, which gathered health tech firms and startups to introduce their latest achievements in the fields of medical science and economy, yet the event was poorly covered by the local media, Financial Tribune reported.
The event, called Technological Innovation in Health Development, was aimed at featuring the tech firms' newest plans and ideas in developing strategic and cost-effective medical equipment technologies, highlighting challenges facing health startups, identifying gaps in the domestic health industry and holding scientific discussions in pharmaceutical spheres.
The most promising tech firms will be granted financial and technical support by the event’s organizers, including the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology, to boost their activities.
Experts believe that harnessing the untapped potentials among would-be startups and tech firms can curb the country's dependence on oil revenues and make the domestic economy sustainable.
According to Sorena Sattari, the vice president for science and technology, Iran’s economy is in transition from traditional businesses to knowledge-based firms that are making bigger contributions to the country’s economic development by employing smart solutions to remove prevailing shortcomings.
Sattari noted that more than 2,700 knowledge-based businesses are active in the fields of medicine, agriculture, molecular technology, equipment manufacture and environmental protection.
The companies constitute an important source of income, employment and economic growth.
“These firms have a major role in generating as well as turning knowledge into new products such as radiodrugs and nanodrugs," Deputy Health Minister Reza Malekzadeh told reporters.
Among the firms manufacturing healthcare items, 73 are also exporting over 4,000 products to other countries, he added.
The establishment of a startup accelerator to back teams working in different branches of the medical sector was another measure taken to enhance the role of technology in the medical sector.
The accelerator named Synapse was established in January 2019 in Tehran jointly by the Biotechnology Development Council, affiliated to the Vice Presidential Office, and a private knowledge-based company.
The unique point about the accelerator is that it is specifically set to attract and support teams working on developing In Vitro Diagnostic devices (IVDs).
IVDs are medical devices intended by the manufacturer to be used for lab examination of specimens derived from the human body, solely or principally for the purpose of giving information about a physiological or pathological state, a congenital abnormality or to determine safety and compatibility with a potential recipient, or to monitor therapeutic measures.
Reagents, calibrators, control materials, kits, specimen receptacles, computer software, instruments, apparatus, equipment or systems, whether used alone or in combination with other diagnostic goods specifically for in vitro use are regarded as IVD.
The accelerator will also boost the production of IVDs and promote the application of modern technologies while helping meet the demand of the domestic medical market.
In addition to addressing these issues, Synapse will help link startups and innovators in the field with investors.
Besides financial and technical support, however, the tech firms and startups also require a well-equipped working place, for which the authorities are developing infrastructures.
Medical Tech Parks
A gathering of mentors, legal advisors and business peers in a professional surrounding equipped with high-tech devices is an ideal working place for a fledgling startup.
This has not been a farfetched dream, especially for knowledge-based companies and startups in Isfahan Province, as it is home to a medical tech park since February 2019.
The park, which sits in a 21-hectare area, is active in fields as diverse as medical technology, biotechnology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, modern medical equipment, herbal and chemical medicine as well as veterinary medicine and equipment.
Authorities at the tech park say the products of the teams are used to equip medical clinics in the province in a variety of healthcare domains.
The complex so far has 65 technology firms while 100 companies are expected to move their offices to the park.
The government's support for knowledge-based firms has given rise to outstanding results. The number of homegrown medical technologies is increasing every day.
One of the products is a linear particle accelerator (shortened as LINAC) made by Isfahan’s tech teams.
A LINAC is a medical machine used for cancer treatment. It customizes high energy X-rays or electrons to conform to a tumor’s shape and destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue.
The machine is similar to the existing technology used worldwide. However, the manufacturing company says its price is way below the imported brands.
Antibacterial and antimicrobial flooring tiles are the other locally-made product that is already used in hospitals of the provinces of Sistan-Baluchestan, Lorestan and Semnan.
The tiles, produced by Nano Pishtaz Pars knowledge-based company in Alborz Province, are permanently resistant to bacteria, germs, dirt and other unhealthy elements and do not lose their properties after being washed or scrubbed.
During the production process, the tiles are treated with antibacterial mineral particles that can curb the spread of bacterial contaminations.
Iranian researchers have also successfully produced a wound-healing gel, the main ingredient of which is taken from crustaceans.
The gel, which is currently available in the domestic market and pharmacies under the commercial brand Nivasha, is a new product of Isfahan-based Mirmah Company.
Developed by using nanotechnology and reinforced with substances taken from aquatic sources, the medical product is able to repair open wounds, scars and pressure ulcers or bedsores, diabetic ulcers, herpes simplex, severe burns and infectious acne much quicker than similar products.
Customers can purchase the product without a medical prescription.
One of the most outstanding tech attainments in the health sector is Iran's first smart pharmacy launched in December 2018 at Tadbir Medical Complex in Urmia, West Azarbaijan Province.
Utilizing robotic technology, the drugstore is capable of dispensing medication automatically.
A smart system scans prescriptions, picks the drugs from the shelf with a robotic hand, puts them in packages and finally dispenses them to customers.
The robotic pharmacy can be connected to an online platform through which it can directly receive prescriptions from physicians and prepare the medicine.
Government and industry operators are optimistic about the increasing role of technology in the domestic medical fields.
They believe that by meeting their primary requirements, fledgling tech firms can deliver promising and profitable results.