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Digital Tech for Animal Wellness

Image Credits: HKSTP, Press Release
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A Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) partner company, a digital health cloud-based platform, has entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Hong Kong Institute of Animal Assisted Intervention (HKIAAI) and a pet training company in Hong Kong.

Their collaboration aims to explore the advanced application of retinal image analysis for assessing the health of companion animals. This innovative approach, built upon HVB’s patented “Automatic Retinal Image Analysis (ARIA)” technology, offers a non-invasive and quick preliminary screening solution to evaluate the health and detect potential risks in companion animals.

The Head of the Institute for Translational Research at HKSTP expressed the Park’s commitment to supporting translational research, product development, and commercialisation to solidify Hong Kong’s position as a leader in biomedical technology. She highlighted the significance of HVB’s expansion of the ARIA technology into the realm of animals, which will accelerate the development of the global companion animal healthcare market through technological innovations.

“Companion animals” are defined by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) as domesticated or domestically bred animals whose physical, emotional, behavioural, and social needs can be met as companions in households or close daily interactions with humans.

Keeping companion animals has become a popular lifestyle trend, primarily involving cats and dogs. Research has indicated that owning such animals is linked to improved cognitive health and reduced emotional stress. Studies have even shown synchronised stress levels between dogs and their owners.

In Hong Kong, a 2019 survey by the Census and Statistics Department revealed that over 240,000 households cared for approximately 400,000 cats and dogs. Other statistics predict significant growth in the pet industry, from US$320 billion in the present year to nearly $500 billion by 2030.

With the rising number of pets and companion animals, there is increasing demand for various veterinary services, healthcare products, vaccines, and medicines. Recognising this, the partnership aims to conduct collaborative research on a health assessment tool specifically designed for companion animals, leveraging their patented ARIA technology.

This tool will utilise retinal images of companion animals to swiftly assess their health status and identify underlying risks, ultimately enhancing their quality of life, and extending their lifespan. Initially, the research will focus on identifying the risks associated with vascular and endocrine-related diseases in companion animals, with plans to introduce the preliminary screening solution to the market by the end of 2024.

ARIA is an effective and non-invasive technology for assessing various health risks. Currently, HVB has successfully employed ARIA to assess the risks of stroke, white matter disease, and diabetes in humans, achieving an accuracy rate of over 90%. ARIA utilises artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques to accurately identify various hidden health conditions without the need for blood tests, offering a quicker and more accessible means of early diabetes diagnosis.

The increasing prevalence of chronic illnesses is expected to boost market demand. Additionally, the rising pressure to provide greater healthcare value is predicted to accelerate market expansion. The growing rate of introducing new products and the increasing number of product approvals by various market players to gain a larger market share is likely to create significant growth opportunities during the forecast period from 2023 to 2030.

Recent research found the market for minimally invasive and non-invasive products and services, valued at US$136.00 million in 2022, is projected to reach US$216.76 million by 2030. It is expected to experience a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6% during this forecast period

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