Research at UCT into the development and manufacture of devices that can replace damaged heart valves without the need for expensive open-heart surgery is attracting the right sort of interest. The project sparked the formation of two new biotechnology companies - Southern Access Technologies Holdings (SATH) and its subsidiary, Southern Access Technologies (SAT) - which together have drawn investments totaling R30 million. That funding will be used to develop a new technique to assist victims of rheumatic heart disease, which is estimated to affect up to 78 million people worldwide, particularly in emerging and developing countries. The project will tackle heart-valve diseases through the development of devices that can be deployed under conditions prevalent in developing countries and emerging economies, without requiring open-heart surgery and sophisticated operating theatres. "Counterintuitively, this latest technology holds the key for the millions of patients in developing countries that have no access to open heart surgery," said Professor Peter Zilla, one of the founders of the SAT.
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