Demand for medical imaging services from wealthy mainland Chinese patients and access to active investors have spurred a Hong Kong-founded company to set up shop in Shenzhen.
Imsight Medical Technology has four products including early lung cancer detection software and another to screen for cervical cancer.
Its founder Dr Chen Hao, a PhD graduate from Chinese University’s department of computer science and engineering, said the lack of radiographers and pathologists on the mainland meant existing ones faced heavy workloads.
“For example, in China, the number of medical imaging procedures has been increasing by 30 per cent, but the number of doctors in radiology only rose by 4.1 per cent,” Chen said.
“In terms of pathology, there is a shortage of 100,000 doctors in China as there are currently only 10,000 licensed pathology doctors.”
Pathology is a branch of medical science that involves the study and diagnosis of diseases through the examination of bodily organs, tissues, and fluids.
For example, in cervical cancer screening, doctors get a pap smear of the patient and look for cancer cells under a microscope, Chen said. He added that the task was difficult with thousands of cells in a sample, but by using artificial intelligence, his product could accurately and efficiently detect cancer cells.
“For CT scans, as lesions are usually very small, around 5mm, they might be missed by doctors,” he said.
The company’s technologies are not meant to replace doctors but rather make the process of diagnosing disease more efficient and accurate.
“So the products can help warn doctors of potential cancer lesions, but the doctor will be the one to make the actual diagnosis on whether the patient is suffering from cancer,” Chen said.
He added the software for detecting lung cancer had a sensitivity of 95 per cent.
The two products for lung cancer and cervical cancer detection are currently under clinical trials in about 20 hospitals and Chen expects them to be in the market within this year.
Chen’s Shenzhen office is situated in CUHK’s recently opened 15,000 sq ft Entrepreneurship and Innovation Hub in its Shenzhen Research Institute Building.
The hub, which was officially opened on Saturday, supports entrepreneurs and start-ups by CUHK graduates or professors with services and resources such as workspace, facilities to meet clients, mentorship, and networking opportunities.
Chen said it had been tough to raise funds in Hong Kong, but the “capital market is livelier” in Shenzhen.
Professor Christopher Cheng Hon-ki, the institute’s director, said besides Imsight, there were six other companies housed in the hub, with the possibility of further expansion to cater to more start-ups.
He explained the introduction of the hub was for the institute to not only focus on research but also expand the university’s knowledge transfer activities in China.
“In the past, Hong Kong focused on finance and property as industries, but now the focus has also moved to technology,” he said.
Imsight recently received the gold award for software and apps start-up at the Hong Kong ICT Awards 2018. It has 16 employees in its office in Hong Kong’s Science Park focusing on R&D and also has offices in Beijing and Chengdu. In Shenzhen, more than 30 staff members focus on transforming technologies into commercial products, and the company aims to increase that headcount to 80.