Our Story

In 2008 a group of clinicians and medical engineers at the world-famous Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, started an initiative to develop a ground-breaking technology that could save the lives of thousands of young individuals who were unfortunate to have a throat infection that was not treated, and which resulted in life-threatening Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD).


Led by Professor Peter Zilla, a former Chris Barnard Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, and Professor David Williams, a Welsh/American pioneer of biomaterials and medical technology, the 60-strong team at Strait Access Technologies (SAT) has since 2008 designed and developed a range of cost-effective, enabling technologies to treat devastating heart valve diseases – with a particular focus on creating intelligent surgical products to treat millions of RHD patients in developing countries around the world.


Solving the complex technical challenges for devices required in younger RHD candidates in whom conventional heart valve prostheses often degenerate rapidly, has also resulted in breakthrough, innovative solutions that have competitive advantages for older patients with degenerative heart valve conditions – in both developing and developed countries.


SAT was founded as a start-up company funded by the JSE-listed Bidvest Group, a leading South African services, distribution and trading group, and the University of Cape Town, where SAT is based.


The SAT team have worked on the design, patent filings, prototype manufacturing and pre-clinical testing to reach the point when SAHPRA, the healthcare regulator in South Africa and the Human Ethics Committee (HEC) at Groote Schuur Hospital – the site of the world’s first successful human-to-human heart transplant in 1967 – have given approval for the first clinical implants in humans to commence.


Clinical Trials

The Strait Access Technologies team have worked on the design, patent filings, prototype manufacturing and pre-clinical testing to reach the point when SAHPRA, the healthcare regulator in South Africa and the Human Ethics Committee (HEC) at Groote Schuur Hospital – the site of the world’s first successful human-to-human heart transplant in 1967 – have given approval for the first clinical implants in humans to commence.


The SAT Team

SAT was founded by a small team of clinical and biomedical professionals operating at the interface of the industrialised and the developing world. The founders and a dedicated group of designers, engineers and chemists combine experience and expertise to create innovative medical devices for the heart.

Sadly, one of SAT’s founding partners and Technical Director, Professor Deon Bezuidenhout, died suddenly in April 2023. Prof. Bezuidenhout, the Head of Biomaterials Sciences at the Cardiovascular Research Unit of the University of Cape Town until his passing, had been intimately involved in the management of SAT, overseeing the technical aspects from R&D to production. (Please read his Obituary here.)

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Dr Greg Starke
Chairman
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Prof. Peter Zilla
Founder, Chief Medical and Business Development Officer
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Prof. David Williams
Founder, Chief Technical Officer
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Julian Lea
Chief Operating Officer

Greg Starke is currently the Chief Operations Officer of the Kensani Capital group of companies, and has been involved in all aspects of the operational and financial side of the group for the past ten years. During this period he has participated in the bidding, finance, construction and operation of three utility-scale renewable energy projects as well as the management of a large correctional services facility. Prior to joining Kensani Greg spent over twenty years in the medical device field, including 13 years as co-founder and CEO of DISA Vascular, a specialized medical device company focused on the development of cardiac implants which were used in all cardiac hospitals in South Africa and in many countries in Europe and around the world. Greg serves as a non-executive director on a number of company boards. He holds a BSc (Mech) Eng. degree and a PhD in computational biomechanics.

DR GREG STARKE

CHAIRMAN

Professor Zilla’s background as a heart surgeon and incumbent of the Christiaan Barnard Chair is reflected in two MDs, a PhD and a PD degree, as well as four surgical specialist qualifications in Europe and South Africa. For decades he has dedicated his passion towards the fight against Rheumatic Heart Disease - something clearly shown in his 31 international patents for implantable cardiovascular devices, including the design of SAT’s innovative, intuitive and inclusive transcatheter technologies.

PROFESSOR PETER ZILLA

Founder, Chief Medical and Business Development Officer

Professor David Williams is one of the world’s leading authorities on biomaterials and implantable medical devices, with 40 years experience in the academic, governmental, legal and industrial aspects of this business. He was head of the Department of Clinical Engineering and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool; Editor in Chief of the high-impact journal “Biomaterials”. He has consulted with most global medical device companies and was a member of Scientific Committees of the European Commission.

PROFESSOR DAVID WILLIAMS

Founder, Chief Technical Officer

Julian Lea holds a degree in Economics from the University of Cape Town. He has over 25 years of experience in leading global businesses such as Toyota and BMW, in local and international locations. Julian started at SAT in 2018 as Head of Business Affairs. He manages the daily operations of SAT, and is the lead executive on commercial and investor matters.

JULIAN LEA

Chief Operating Officer

SAT Non-Executive Board members

Dr Greg Starke
Douglas Band
Ilze Roux
Mark Steyn
Prof. Petro Terblanche
Dr Kit Vaughan

Dr Greg Starke

Greg Starke is currently the Chief Operations Officer of the Kensani Capital group of companies, and has been involved in all aspects of the operational and financial side of the group for the past ten years. During this period he has participated in the bidding, finance, construction and operation of three utility-scale renewable energy projects as well as the management of a large correctional services facility.
Prior to joining Kensani Greg spent over twenty years in the medical device field, including 13 years as co-founder and CEO of DISA Vascular, a specialized medical device company focused on the development of cardiac implants which were used in all cardiac hospitals in South Africa and in many countries in Europe and around the world.
Greg serves as a non-executive director on a number of company boards. He holds a BSc (Mech) Eng. degree and a PhD in computational biomechanics.

Douglas Band

A chartered accountant by early training, Douglas Band served as Chief Executive of three different JSE-listed companies over a 20-year time span. After retirement from his executive career, he continued for a further extended period as an Independent Non-Executive Director on the board of a number of South Africa’s most renowned companies.

Ilze Roux

Ms Ilze Roux is the Bidvest Corporate Affairs executive and holds a BComm (Honours) CTA and CA(SA) qualification.
Prior to joining Bidvest in 2017, she was an EEMEA Industrial and Consumer Equity analyst at Merrill Lynch SA. Ilze serves as a non-executive director and trustee of several Bidvest subsidiaries, investment companies and funds.
Her areas of responsibilities include investor relations, corporate activity, remuneration, risk, ESG as well as intellectual property.

Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn joined Bidvest in May 1997 and has held various financial positions within Bidvest Freight, culminating in his appointment as Chief Financial Officer of Bidvest Freight in 2012.
Mark was appointed to the Bidvest board as chief financial officer, effective 1 March 2018. He serves on all South African divisional boards, divisional audit committees and serves as a trustee on the various Group retirement funds.
Mark was appointed as Non-Executive director of the Adcock Ingram board of directors in April 2023.

Professor Petro Terblanche

Professor Petro Terblanche has a successful track record in the strategic and operational management of technology intensive organisations. She has played a key part in the design and implementation of South Africa’s biotechnology strategy and is Chief Executive Officer of Afrigen Biologics (Pty) Ltd based in Cape Town, South Africa.
Prof. Terblanche also holds a part time position as Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the North-West University. A considerable part of her career was spent in research, development and innovation at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) as well as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). She has held and holds several strategic public and private sector Board positions in SA as well as the position as President of the Stakeholders Organization for the Global Alliance for TB Drug Discovery and Development (2007-2010). Her qualifications include a Master of Science and a Doctor of Science in Medical Oncology from the University of Pretoria. Post-doctoral, she was a visiting scientist at Harvard University School of Public Health and thereafter, completed a Management of Technology program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in addition to several management and leadership programs from leading institutions globally.
Prof. Terblanche is the author of more than 200 scientific publications and conference papers in public health. She was recently acknowledged as one of the legends of science by the Academy of Sciences South Africa.

Dr Kit Vaughan

Dr Kit Vaughan’s experience over the past four decades includes a post-doctoral fellowship in orthopaedic engineering at Oxford University, a tenured professorship at the University of Virginia, and 14 years as the Hyman Goldberg Chair in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
During this latter period he pioneered the medical device industry in South Africa, contributing to the establishment of Disa Vascular, Acorn Technologies, Lodox Systems, Strait Access Technologies, and CapeRay Medical. 
Dr Vaughan is a Fellow of the International Academy for Medical and Biological Engineering, and his qualifications include a BSc (Honours) in applied mathematics and physics (Rhodes), a PhD in musculoskeletal biomechanics (Iowa) and a DSc (Med) in biomedical engineering (UCT). He is the holder of multiple United States patents in the field of biomedical engineering, with a focus on breast imaging.

Our production Facility

View the video of our high-end production facility in Cape Town.

Our IP Portfolio

Intellectual property related to the full range of SAT products is protected by 15 patent families in the major industrialised and developing markets.

A robust and comprehensive Intellectual Property portfolio has been carefully developed and maintained since SAT’s founding.

Intellectual property related to the full range of SAT products, is protected by 15 patent families in major industrialised and developing countries.