Technology developed in New Zealand is being sold to overseas research labs.
A business spun out of the laboratories of the University of Auckland is now helping researchers around the world.
Telemetry Research makes miniaturised transmitters that are implanted in lab animals used in biomedical research. The transmitters collect information on things such as heart rate and blood pressure and send it wirelessly to a remote receiver.
More than 90 per cent of the company's products are exported, to 25 countries. The miniature devices couldn't have been designed seven or eight years ago because the technology - which also supports iPods and iPhones - wasn't around then, says co-founder Simon Malpas.
"The device is one of the most complicated devices in New Zealand. I don't think there is a device that's as complicated as ours that does what we do," Malpas says.
"Our main competitor's technology is at least 20 years old."
The tiny monitoring devices weigh less than 10g and their batteries can be recharged while the device is still inside the animal.
Malpas was conducting his own research at the University of Auckland when he discovered that the equipment on the market didn't quite meet his needs, so he set out to make his own device.
"At that stage you could only basically buy from one company. When we started making our own product, we could see the opportunity to enter the market. After five years, there are still only two companies making what we make."
His first taste of success came when he took a prototype to a scientific meeting.
"I wasn't exactly in sales mode. A US researcher had inquired about us and expressed interest in buying it. I remember just picking a number, about five times what it would cost to make, that would sound about right ... The person said, 'Oh, OK, I think I will take a couple of those.'
"That gave us a huge amount of confidence. You need these initial risk-takers, people who would take your product and give you the cashflow you need to build more devices."
Malpas says one of the biggest challenges for the company is finding the path to market. "There is this perception, 'Let's make this product and [customers will] come.' The reality is, you need to be ready for a change in mentality to one of, 'How can we make sure everybody knows about it?"'
In 2006 the company won the Enatel New Zealand Hi-Tech Innovation of the Year award and it was a finalist in this year's NZ Trade and Enterprise International Business Awards, in the category of Best Commercialisation of Intellectual Property in International Business. Last year it was on the Deloitte Fast 50 list, with revenue growth of 196 per cent.
The Auckland-based company plans to open an office in Europe and to have staff in the United States next year, Malpas says.
It is, however, still searching for its Holy Grail: selling its devices to collect human physiological data - a move that would boost its business by many times. Malpas says taking the company's devices to the clinical market would mean a completely different approach to risk management. "There is a huge level of safety and manufacturing standards to conform to ... Within 10 years time, yes, we may be able to take on full clinical products."
The cost of making its devices for human use will be more than 10 times the cost to develop products for animal research. Telemetry Research will collaborate with large companies to tap the market for its products in human trials.
A recent development is an implant to power artificial heart pumps. This removes the need to attach power cables through the skin, which often causes infections, Malpas says.
The transmitter, a magnetic coil, is worn like a belt, transmitting power through the skin. "This is a pretty exciting technology. David [Budgett, co-founder of Telemetry Research] leaves for Berlin to present this to an international heart pump meeting ... we have had good interest in this."
Telemetry Research's key shareholders are Malpas, Budgett, Grant Walter and a group of other shareholders, including the University of Auckland.
"We are a strong case to show that what's been invested in us is a good return on investments," Malpas says.