Melbourne’s award-winning cancer treatment device

Radiation oncology specialist, Chuan-Dong Wen has spent five years developing a device which is offering hope to cancer patients. He accepted the ‘Inspiration of the Year’ Award at the 26th National iAwards.

Cancer treatment is poised to become more accurate thanks to a device created by startup INWENTECH, which took out the Victorian Government ‘Inspiration of the Year’ Award at the 26th National iAwards.

In 2014, Chuan-Dong Wen had a Eureka moment.

The Glen Waverley-based radiation oncology specialist – with more than 25 years’ clinical experience consulting to hospitals in education, equipment purchase, new clinical techniques and radiation protection – invented a world-first device, ChestPhan-4D, giving hope to breast, lung and liver cancer patients.

“By the end of 2020, six of the devices will be in use in Chinese, US and Australian hospitals, including The Alfred and Peter Mac in Melbourne,” explains Wen. “Investors are ‘on board’, and we’re discussing contracts with manufacturing partners.”

The torso-sized unit enables more precise radiotherapy to shrink tumours. When switched on, it makes the radiation pulse moves in sync with the moving tumour as the patient’s chest rises and falls. This helps ensure healthy tissue surrounding the tumour is less likely to be exposed to radiation.

“ChestPhan-4D provides better tumour targeting by allowing personalised management of tumour movement created by a patient’s respiratory and cardiac motions,” explains Wen.

INWENTECH is still in its infancy and this has made commercialising the company a challenge. “Rather embarrassingly,” Wen divulges, “INWENTECH has only one full-time director (myself) and many part-time consultants. Our current business model is to contract technology and product development tasks to specialised organisations, such as universities and the CSIRO.”

Yet although it’s operating on a bare-bones basis for now, Wen says revenue is “expected to grow significantly in coming years”.

Expanding its presence internationally will be a big part of this and INWENTECH has already progressed down this path. In 2018, it exported its first product at prototype stage to a leading medical equipment manufacturer, Brainlab, in Germany.

The Victorian Government has been in Wen’s corner from the outset. “INWENTECH was granted the $50,000 Technology Development Voucher in 2014 and the $50,000 Boost Your Business Voucher in 2018,” he says. “In the past five years, we were invited by the state government to meet business delegations from the US, the UK and China on many occasions.”

Success followed in 2019, when INWENTECH took home three iAwards at state level including the Research of the Year, Automation Technology and Industries & Prime Industry categories. At national level, the company won the final iAward of Industries & Prime Industry 2019, and the biggest accolade of all, the Victorian Government Inspiration of the Year Award.

Those gongs are very much deserved, according to Kathy Coultas, director of Technology & Innovation at the Victorian Government’s Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions. “Over several years, INWENTECH has accessed various Victorian Government programs and this has positively impacted the company at key inflection points in its development,” she says. “We’re delighted to see it win the top award at the national iAwards. We support the iAwards to encourage recognition of the achievements of Australian technology organisations, and in doing so promote innovation in this transformative industry. INWENTECH is a good example of a local company with innovative technology worthy of celebration.”

Wen’s recommendation to other “tiny startups” is to explore what government assistance they can access. “That support can be so valuable to help you kick-start your business adventure. In INWENTECH’s case, the $50,000 Technology Development Voucher was instrumental to conceptualising an inventive design, formulating intellectual property protection strategies and partially prototyping a brand new medical device.

“Without knowing the business ecosystem, startups can easily become lost and can have tremendous difficulty getting their business off the ground. The Victorian Government’s helpful in this regard, providing platforms and coordination through the Small Technology Cluster (STC) and Bio-Melbourne Networks programs. And through the government, INWENTECH has met many industry and business delegations from overseas that are helping us understand how to market our business in a global business environment.”

Awards tally

Other Victorian organisations who received iAwards in 2019 include:

  • James Mullins, CEO and CTO of FLAIM Systems received the Startup of the Year Award for the company's VR-enabled firefighter training simulator, Flaim Trainer.
  • Baz Palmer from Weyo and Evan Davey from Two Bulls took out the Consumer Markets Award for their collaboration on the children's app, 'The Wiggles, Fun Times with Faces’.
  • Lucinda Hartley and Jessica Christiansen-Franks, co-founders of Neighbourlytics took out the Business Service Markets award.

Learn more about the iAwards from the Australian Information Industry Association.