Middle East Health was invited to visit Taiwan in November to look at the country’s medical device manufacturing industry. We came away impressed by the sophistication, specialisation and quality controls in the industry. Callan Emery reports.
The people of the island of Taiwan are incredibly productive and have been responsible for what in some circles is referred to as the Taiwan Miracle – a massive and rapid spell of economic growth that has seen the island nation develop from a relatively impoverished backwater some 60 years ago to one of Asia’s so-called ‘tiger’ economies – a reference to its ‘advanced economy’ status as recognised by the International Monetary Fund.
It is an impressive feat for such a small place – just 394 km long by 144 km wide – with such a dense population – some 23 million in 2010.
It is the order, efficiency and the very well developed infrastructure that is most striking when you first arrive in Taipei, the capital. And in a belt that stretches from Taipei in the north down the west coast to Kao Suing in the south, this rampant, but ordered, development is apparent the entire route.
We visited a number of medical device manufacturers in Taipei, in Hsinchi Science Park, south of the capital and in Kao Suing, the southernmost and second largest city in Taiwan. The road network is efficient, modern and comparable to the best in the world. We returned from Kao Suing to Taipei on the 350km/h high speed train.
The country’s growth has been driven in large part by technological research, development and manufacturing, with R&D often supported by government in the early stages. Taiwanese companies manufacture a large portion of the world's consumer electronics, although there is a progressive movement of these factories to mainland China, which was reflected in several of the companies we visited.
These companies are highly specialised manufacturers, with precision design and advanced quality control protocols. Most of these companies were OEM (original equipment manufacturers) who follow a B to B to C business model (business to business to consumer). They sell their products unbranded to companies who then brand the product and resell it on to the consumer. This appears to be the business model behind most of Taiwan’s advanced technology manufacturing industry, although recently the country has made inroads on the global stage with brands such as Acer and HTC. We noticed among the company we spoke to that there is a trend among them to start selling their products direct to the consumer under their own brand name.
We flew into Taipei, the well ordered, modern capital of around 2.6 million people. The city is home to Taipei 101, the second tallest tower in the world, which is symbolic of the country’s economic success.
In Taipei we visited Transverse Industries, which specialises in the manufacturing of laser therapy equipment. “We research, design and develop the lasers for clinics and hospitals,” Ko-Liang Ho, the chairman, explained.
Transverse began as a spin-off company from research carried out at the renowned government-supported Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), the early home of many of Taiwan’s technological success stories.
The company manufactures a range of laser therapy devices – traditionally for the OEM market, but more recently the company has started selling some of their products under their own brand “Trans”.
These laser therapy devices offer drug-free treatment, using red laser energy to relieve muscle pain, promote wound healing and relieve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. One of their innovative products is the Transverse multi channel laser instrument. This instrument is operated with up to six specific modules connected to the device, which can be used to relieve muscle pain, promote wound healing, relieve symptoms of nasal congestion, running nose, sneezes and itchy nose caused by allergic rhinitis. The allergic rhinitis instrument has a disposable nasal cover.
The multi-channel laser therapy device won a gold medal in 2009 at the Taipei International Invention Show and Technomart.
Like most of these OEM companies, Transverse products have US FDA and European CE certification. It is essential they have these certifications to sell their products to companies in those markets.
synovial fluid) and the lens in the eyeball. Its limited resource and complicated purification procedures, has made it an expensive product.
“SciVision changed this by successfully using a non-animal source for a microbial fermentation technique to mass produce HA that is pure and safe.
Hyaluronic Acid’s properties – elastic, moist and high biocompatibility – has made it increasingly popular in the medical industry for uses such as dermal implants – it is safer than Botox and lasts considerably longer; for synovial fluid supplement – injecting HA into a joint can relieve osteoarthritis pain, for example.
As well as making their own branded products, about 10-15% of the company’s products are for the OEM market.
The company’s products include: Hya- Dermis – a facial dermal implant, which looks set to push Botox out of this enormous and lucrative market. Hya-Dermis is a colourless, transparent, viscous, sterile and nonpyrogenic injection supplied in a glass syringe. The product can add tissue volume and can be used for removing wrinkles or for lip enhancement, for example. There are four types of Hya-Dermis, the use of which depends on the injection site – ranging from correcting fine, superficial lines to facial contouring including chin and neck augmentation.
The product has been clinically tested and shows no side-effects and is naturally absorbed by the body over time. It has the European CE mark.
Hya-Joint is a synovial fluid supplement. Injecting HA into the joint cavity can relieve osteoarthritis pain and improve joint mobility.
SciVision’s wound healing dressing with HA promotes wound healing and reduces scar formation.
“There are several other applications for our core HA technology, which we are researching,” explained Tony Han, general manager at SciVision.
This includes a new version of the synovial joint fluid that only needs to be injected into the joint once every six months. The new version is currently undergoing clinical trials and could be on the market later this year.
As we sped back to Taipei at 350 km/h on the high-speed train, it allowed a brief moment to contemplate… like the train, Taiwan continues to rapidly press forward both economically and technologically and, with its progressive R&D, looks well set to continue supplying the world with the advanced technological products it craves.
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