Helping to save lives with 3-D

SINGAPORE - It may not be as complicated as rocket science, but Hexalotus Technology's 3-D imaging work has the potential to help doctors save lives.

Mr Ho Poh Fwai's chance meeting with a research scientist at a former colleague's precision engineering company in 2011 led to the birth of Hexalotus last July.

He saw the life-saving and business potential in Dr Liu Jimin's work there, where the Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*Star) scientist was having discussions on the fabrication of an image-guided robot.

Mr Ho suggested to Dr Liu to take the 3-D image-processing component that the robot was using and spin it off as a business offering 3-D image-processing solutions.

Mr Ho, who is chief executive of Hexalotus, said: "There was an immediate 'meeting of the minds' after I learnt what he was trying to develop. We saw eye-to-eye immediately. He's very good technically, I'm good with business. We form a great team."

Hexalotus is a home-grown company which converts 2-D images from CT scans and magnetic resonance imagings (MRIs) into 3-D models.

This enables doctors and surgeons to pinpoint the exact location of tumours and bleeding areas more accurately.

The model also allows them to calculate the volume of the tumour, analyse the risk of surgery and assess the collateral damage if surgery is done.

Mr Ho said: "Our business can help save lives by enabling more precise surgical planning and informed risk analysis, thus facilitating a surgeon's decision-making."

Hexalotus' business is still in the developmental stage, having been formed less than a year ago with $100,000 in paid-up capital. Already, it has received advanced technology for its image-processing solutions, developed and licensed to it by A*Star.

Hexalotus has also got a $500,000 grant from Spring Singapore.

The company has zoomed in on the liver as an area of initial focus, and is preparing to start clinical trials with a local hospital once it has obtained the necessary regulatory approval.

It is also hoping to market its technology overseas to hospitals in China.

The choice of liver as an area of focus is because the organ has a highly complex structure, but is not as complicated as the heart or brain, explained Mr Ho.

The technology has the potential to be deployed globally due to the rising number of liver cancer cases - there are 748,000 new cases of the disease worldwide each year, with 375,000 in China alone.

Hexalotus aims to clinch its first business deal within two years, and is targeting a yearly turnover of $50 million by 2020, with an annual revenue growth of 10 per cent.

That's not all. Mr Ho said: "We are looking at other organs such as the lungs, brain, heart or even other non-medical objects. We are also exploring integration with image-guided robots and 3-D printing capability."

Mr Ho counts the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs as his role model.

"His ability to see what the customer needs, before the customer even knows it himself, is a strength that we in Hexalotus are trying to emulate and learn. It's also about making complicated technology simple to use," Mr Ho said.

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