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Life-Saving Technology From Wellington to the World

Life-Saving Technology From Wellington to the World

Wellington-based technology company Mātakina is taking on breast cancer around the world.

Mātakina has developed advanced image-processing software – called Volpara. The software is flexible enough to be used with any existing breast imaging system, but its key point of difference is that it measures breast density.

This is vitally important because it is now generally recognised that the risk of breast cancer is four to six times higher in women with very dense breasts. Traditional methods of breast screening are less reliable when it comes to detecting potential issues in women with very dense breasts. With Volpara these women can now choose to have further detection tests that could save their lives.

The awareness of the impact of breast density on detection rates is now a global issue. California recently dedicated August 8 to raising awareness about breast density. Calling it “Are you Dense?” day, the state put a humorous spin on a very serious issue.

Mātakina – the Maori word for insightfulness - was established by four of the world’s leading experts in breast imaging after meeting at a radiology conference in Chicago. They realisedthey had the combined skills to make a real difference to the lives of women at risk from breast cancer. Basing the company in Wellington meant that they were able to access a growing pool of world-class talent in the image-processing field due to the region’s ability to attract the best in screen and digital talent from around the world. Wellington’s compact and collaborative nature means spill-overs across industries can generate outstanding results.

Access to investment and support from organisations such as Grow Wellington, and innovation and science investment (through the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment) was also a key factor in basing the company here.

Volpara has been sold to sites across the U.S., South Korea and Malaysia but the biggest success story for Volpara to date has been in Europe. In the Netherlands, one million women are screened every year using mammography. Volpara will be used to select a subset of that population for additional screening using breast MRI. The scale of the project requires Volpara to be available across the entire country - a major IT and scientific undertaking.

Locally, The Auckland Breast Centre has been trialling the software for the last month, and are fully adopting it later this month. To mark this development, Dr John Hood, Mātakina’s non-executive chairperson will be visiting the centre to watch Volpara in action. Dr Hood is one of New Zealand’s most prominent and successful expats, he has served as the Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, as the Rhodes Trustees (having been a Rhodes scholar himself) and numerous other world leading business, engineering and academic organisations.

Mātakina is excited about the future, not only for Volpara but for the other technologies the company is developing.

“Volpara is already clinically proven in the U.S., we are extremely confident that the Dutch are going to find it very beneficial to their program, and now it’s great to see Kiwi technology being used to save lives at home. With one product in global use, we can now use that base technology to build far more advanced products and that is very exciting indeed.”

ends

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