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A Hungarian force in medical diagnostics


József Lukács, a physicist, founded 77 Elektronika in 1986. At that time, there was no equipment in Hungary to test blood glucose at home. After a neighbour – a doctor – showed him the kind of meters available in the United States, the founder was inspired to produce his own blood glucose meter.

“It wasn’t easy, but the measurements were extremely accurate,” says Sándor Zettwitz, Managing Director and brother-in-law of the company’s founder. With the end of communism in Eastern and Central Europe, parts could be sourced from the west for even better devices.

The company’s blood glucose meters require just a drop of blood for analysis, and its urine testing systems work using similar technology. “There are eleven important parameters that determine the patient’s condition,” Mr. Zettwitz explains. “Our first urine analyzer allowed doctors to test those parameters within three minutes with just the push of a button. This small device filled a gap in the healthcare market.”

Boehringer saw the tester and requested its own model. 77 Elektronika developed the desired tester within six months and today produces devices for other OEMs, as well. “In the meantime, we’ve supplied 100,000 urine analyzers,” the Managing Director adds.

77 Elektronika continues to build on its original two pillars. Its latest blood glucose meter does more than simply measure the glucose levels in the blood; it stays in connection with the doctor using Bluetooth technology. “We save patients hours of time normally spent in the waiting room,” Mr. Zettwitz explains. “Our meters can send up to 500 results, including the time of testing, directly to the doctor so he or she can adjust the patient’s therapy accordingly.”

This same service is available via the internet. The third generation of urine testers is making its debut while the fourth and fifth generations see continued research and development prior to their respective launches. “This kind of development takes major investment,” Mr. Zettwitz says. “We’ve put in three billion HUF, about ten million EUR, to make it happen quickly. The next generations will bring even more growth.”

Development has proven to be one of 77 Elektronika’s strengths time and again. “We can make not only what the market accepts but what the market is looking for.”

Fully automated testing equipment for laboratories complements the range. LabUMat and UriSed are two analytical technology lines that combine to create a complete testing laboratory. “Our original urine analyzers check the chemical makeup of the urine,” Mr. Zettwitz explains. “When testing for sediment, lab technicians used to have to be very close to the urine under the microscope, which is extremely unpleasant. Our system integrates a microscope with a camera.”

Recognition software assists the doctors examining the photos. The system can store up to 5,000 pictures, and they can even be projected onto a screen for further examination. In addition to expanding its range, 77 Elektronika has also spread its geographical reach far beyond Hungary’s borders.

“We moved quickly to cover 90 countries,” the Managing Director points out. “83% of our sales come from exports.” The company has found success working with distributors to offer its products abroad. “We are the number one in China and the number two in the USA,” Mr. Zettwitz continues. “We have customers throughout Western Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia.”

Within its first year, 77 Elektronika earned 600,000 HUF. Today it has sales of 24 billion HUF – about 77 million EUR. “Thanks to two major contracts in the US and Europe, we’ve grown by 70% in the last two years,” Mr. Zettwitz says.

As much as 10% of turnover is reinvested in development, and 90 of its 580 employees are involved in R&D as physicists, mathematicians, or technical or electrical engineers. Blood glucose and urine testers provide enough potential for continued development in the future, but they are not the only items on 77 Elektronika’s agenda.

“For a year now, we’ve been working on a lab on a chip in cooperation with Semmelweis University and Pázmány University,” Mr. Zettwitz reveals. “It will be a real breakthrough in Hungary – and worldwide for that matter. The chip can conduct up to 15 tests that are currently possible only in a lab, and it offers results within seconds. It builds on the technology we use in our urine and blood glucose meters and should be market ready within the next four to five years.”

The Managing Director remains steadfast in his mission to set the pace in the medical diagnostics sector.

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