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Restoring sight to the blind: Visiontec Sdn Bhd



It is commonly said that the eyes are the window to the soul. However, millions across the globe find themselves in the dark, due to a variety of reasons. Many of these conditions which occur later in life are closely related to the cornea, where it becomes damaged through disease, infection, or injury, known as keratopathy, with the resulting scars interfering with vision by blocking or distorting light as it enters the eye.


In most of these cases, the main method of regaining sight would be through the transplant of a new cornea from a donor, a deceased individual who has agreed to allow his or her cornea to be transplanted to a patient. However, one major obstacle lies in between patients and full recovery, the lack of donor corneas for transplantation. According to estimates by the Australian Society for Medical Research, though up to 10,000,000 people across the globe are affected by a whole range of disorders that may benefit from corneal transplants, only 100,000 procedures are performed each year. Despite the fact that the cornea lacks blood vessels, hence is without any risks of rejection from the body, the severe lack in donors spell a long waiting list for patients, and in turn reduced quality of life.

Many frontline procedures are being devised to overcome this obstacle in an innovative manner. A Malaysian company is currently adapting frontline technology from Japan, which has been successfully adopted in India during clinical trials, and bringing it into the country not only as a local commercial venture, but also as a tool to developing the nation¡¦s biotechnology capacity as it strives to increase it capacity to also cater for the regional market.

Mr. S. Dhanabalan (left) and Dr. Samuel Abraham (right)


Visiontec Sdn Bhd and its various technology-driven commercialisation efforts, began as the brainchild of Mr. S. Dhanabalan and Dr. Samuel Abraham, who are CEO and advisor for Visiontec respectively, who envisioned the adaptation of various technologies to the market through strong collaborative efforts among people with various professional backgrounds.

When you look into the best technologies, they are usually not successful commercially,¡¨ said Dr. Abraham. They usually find it hard to hit the right market due to what I would deem as ¡¥technocrat¡¦s myopia¡¦ where people with strong technology background may not be as strong and far-sighted in fields outside their expertise, like commercialisation and market research. We aim to resolve the various conflicts and problems that may arise to slow the spread of such technologies through our collaborative efforts, so that it would be applicable to the right kind of people with the right kind of application.¡¨

“Citing an example, he noted that through research, many medical advancements may be crucial to the treatment for many patients in India. However, most such treatments may not be able to find their way to the people who would need them most due to a strong lack of facilities and services like a cold chain transport system, and hence would be rendered unapplicable. ¡§Hence, we find it very important to understand and overcome such shortcomings, through our collaborative effort, as Visiontec is a technology-driven company,¡¨ he noted. ¡§Our main focus currently is in the line of healthcare. As we believe that we have such a strong responsibility in healthcare because healthcare is the only business where people come with pain.¨

The company is currently in the midst of developing technology in which would be able to address keratopathy and the problematic shortage in corneal tissue available for transplant. Visiontec is currently working closely with Japanese and Indian scientists in this respect and has currently developed methods by which not only would corneal tissue be able to the transported to various locations under an Indian climate, but they have also managed to developed techniques by which stem cells from a healthy cornea may be used to replace 5-14 diseased corneas.

Bullous Keratopathy

Picture courtesy Dr John Sudhakar, Joseph Eye Hospital, Trichy, India 

Such advancements are with stunning consequences as the implications of these advancements may just spell the end to the corneal donor drought¨, as for every cornea donated many people can be treated at one time. Similarly, not only would such treatment be available, but the transferring of such treatments could even be done throughout the region from one single location, and several satellite laboratories located strategically across the globe would be sufficient to cater for a comprehensive network. Through research done in India, it was shown that cell were still viable for transplant after 72 hours being transported from Delhi to Chennai.
“Visiontec is now looking at the establishment of the world's first corneal endothelial stem cell bank in Malaysia (CESBANK), which would be a facility fully equipped not only for diagnosis and surgical treatment, but also cell processing, isolation, expansion and cryopreservation with screening. The facility would also be utilized to support further research and development in innovative techniques, while providing academic training in building up the current human capital in Malaysia.

Malaysian scenario of corneal diseases

Source: National Transplant Registry of Malaysia, 2004
We are committed to further build up the human capacity in the industry while developing the company, say Mr Dhanabalan. We find this very important as not only are we striving to succeed commercially, but also to help the (local) industry grow.

 For more information on Visiontec, please click here

- Courtesy Bhai's International Community, 19 Feb 2009 issue.
*"Nichi" stands for Japan and "In" stands for India. This institute started on an Indo-Japan collaboration now has spreaded further with global alliances
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