Belfast biotech company Heartsine Technologies has developed an innovative life-saving device that will allow non-medical people to help victims of sudden cardiac arrest.

The SAMARITAN® external defibrillator is a portable, lightweight unit that delivers an electric shock to the heart to stop fibrillation, the chaotic heart rhythm that can occur when a person has a heart attack.

Early defibrillation can significantly increase the chances of surviving cardiac arrest but normally the treatment is only available in hospitals or in cardiac ambulances. The portable device means that the life-saving shock treatment could be administered anywhere and the idea is that a device will be on hand in any public place where large numbers of people gather.

The Invest Northern Ireland backed company developed the leading edge technology with support from Invest NI’s Compete Programme and in collaboration with the University of Ulster’s Northern Ireland Bioengineering Centre and Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.

Andrew Hofmann, Chief Executive and Chairman of Heartsine Technologies says that there is a growing awareness of the need for immediate treatment of heart attack victims which has resulted in a huge increase in the market for external defibrillators.

He said: “The worldwide market for emergency external defibrillators is estimated to be approaching £400 million. Through advanced technology development we have been able to reduce the complexity and cost of external defibrillation devices and have developed a family of products for providing life-saving defibrillation therapy at the point of need.

“The SAMARITAN® is easy to use, essentially maintenance free and competitively priced. We are initially targeting markets in the US and Europe and are confident that we will be able to carve out a substantial niche in these regions.”

The company has identified a range of potential customers including fire and police departments, office buildings, airports, stadiums, shopping malls, retirement communities, restaurants and other locations where emergency care is not normally available.

Diarmuid McLean, Director of Innovation Research and Technology, Invest NI commented: “Heartsine Technologies is the kind of company that Invest NI is keen to support. It is an innovative, high-tech company that from the outset has been focussed on research and product development. The company has been very successful in raising venture capital to fund its operations and its management demonstrates a high level of drive and determination.

“Heartsine has identified a niche market in the medical field and Invest NI has been able to help it develop its marketing capability to take full advantage of this. Health technologies is a growing market sector offering significant investment opportunities. The success of Heartsine Technologies will help underline Northern Ireland’s excellence in this area.”