S.Tugs: Mongolian technology should remain in Mongolia
Advisor to the Minister of Industry and Ph.D. in technology management S.Tugs participated in the Appropriate Technology Competition 2015, organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Intellectual Property Offices of Mongolia and South Korea last year. Under the Appropriate Technology Competition theme “Innovative Solutions for Everyday Life”, she created a surgical suture, commonly called stitches, made from animal tendons and won the top prize.
The following is an interview with S.Tugs about her product and contribution to the development of Mongolia.
Congratulations on winning “Innovation Solution-Our Life” competition. Your winning product, a surgical suture made from animal tendons, is attracting a lot of attention. Can you tell us about this product?
Thank you. The Appropriate Technology Competition was held in Mongolia from December 16 to 18, 2015. I won first place and earned a gold medal. I received an invitation to participate in a WIPO meeting. As all expenses will be covered by this organization, I will only need to focus on introducing and promoting my new creation.
I started my research work in 1998. In general, the effectiveness of a project or product is determined through long-term research and experiments. In that sense, I spent many years on this product. Midway, I lost a little bit of time working at a management position, but I’ve focused on the research in the last four to five years. I have gathered substantial results after testing the surgical suture on dogs.
My idea to expand usage of sutures made from animal tendons earned me the top award from the competition. Mongolians have been using cow tendons in their daily lives for a long time. Even now, people process cow hide to make shoes and carpets. Collagen fibers from cows’ Achilles tendons have a unique trait of being sturdy so it’s appropriate to use it after drying. During my research, I studied cow hide processing procedures of each province and region. I determined the optimum method for this process through that study. In other words, it helped me determine the most appropriate steps and time for processing cow tendons.
I patented this method in 2002. Since then, I’ve been studying opportunities for expanding its usage. I was requested to make the product during an academic meeting on Technology to Make New Materials Using Animal Products, within the scope of a light industry research and analysis project from 2002 to 2004. Afterwards, I have been trying to do all types of research, including surveys on customers and market research, surgical requirements, and various methods and types of usage. I experimented and made new products using animal reticulum, rumen and bladder during this period.
Mongolia has a long and rich history. Our nation has immense opportunities to utilize and use animal products. I’m working on a research work that will show that Mongolia can develop by producing unique Mongolian products the world has never seen before, and making it into a globally-recognized brand.
Besides the Mongolian market, how popular is this surgical suture made from cow tendons in foreign markets? Even if you test it on a person and get the right to export it, is there sufficient demand for your product?
Yes, there is sufficient demand. A study shows that approximately 160 to 180 surgeries are conducted annually in Mongolia. All surgical sutures in Mongolia are imported. On average, these sutures are imported for five to eight USD. Even bad quality sutures are imported from China. It was determined that the quality of surgical sutures affect the time of healing and can cause allergies. I’ve done plenty of research on hospitals that do surgeries and patients who have undergone surgery.
Lately, Mongolian hospitals and clinics have been using chemically processed surgical sutures that dissolve. I’ve also studied sutures used internationally. Many countries seem to use sutures from Johnson & Johnson. It manufactures Ethicon’s surgical sutures according to international standards. But the three types of sutures they manufacture are all produced through chemical processing. Now, countries have started to stop usage of chemically produced sutures. The global market is ready to accept any natural surgical suture that dissolve if it is introduced.
My research team and I will first concentrate on supplying domestic needs if our suture production starts and then move on to foreign markets. We’ve already resolved technological issues and projects to create equipment. Now, we’re doing trials and experiments. After several trials on dogs, we will discuss human trials with the Ethics Committee of the Minister of Health and Sports of Mongolia.
Sanitation issues are discussed after issues related to technology and equipment. I recently went to Shanghai to do research. Even the production of paper and packaging has to be covered so there are many things to do. I’m planning to build a pilot plant in about a year.
You also make rumen leather. How do you use rumen and bladder of cattle and sheep?
Rumen is significant for various things. Eating boiled rumen of a sheep is good for improving bowel movements and it contains many vitamins. It’s a very useful raw material. You can make a high-quality leather by processing sheep rumen. Many people would be against taking away people’s food to make leather. So I make leather using the part called “khar khuuldas”. Families eat the thick part of cattle rumen and give the black part to their dogs. I make rumen leather using that black waste material and the technology is special as it doesn’t harm the environment.
We all know what leather is. The back side is suede and the front side is smooth. Rumen leather contains these fundamental traits and turns into suede leather with some fur after being processed. The third compartment of the stomach in ruminants becomes a good leather because it preserves its unique pattern.
Research on rumen leather has been ongoing for over 10 years. It’s possible to bring this into production. The technology-related issues of this process have been resolved. The design has been made and more than 30 types of products are being produced. Surveys on customers in domestic and foreign markets have been completed. Only the construction of a factory is pending now. A Mongolian consulting engineer named A. Sanjaa took charge of technological issues. He recently won a gold medal from an international invention contest in South Korea. In other words, our intellectual product is an internationally recognized product now.
You said that you’re producing more than 30 types of products. What kind of products are they? Are they all made from rumen leather?
The defining characteristic of rumen leather is that it is very thin despite having some fur. It’s not suitable for making clothes or coats, but it’s possible to make small leather goods. I’ve tried making business card holders, pencil cases, money bags for coins, wallets, heel inserts, bags and hats. All of them were successful. The final products are of high quality as the leather doesn’t rip while sewing and keeps the original sewing pattern intact. A wallet made from rumen leather will lose some of its fur a little bit but the rest will remain the same even after 10 years of use. I’ve been using my key chain for 11 years and yet it still hasn’t lost its quality. Besides the slight wearing off of the fur, nothing has changed. The leather takes in color very well. It makes all colors look bright and vibrant. Many foreigners buy these products whenever I go overseas. Many tourists who travel to Mongolia are usually very interested in purchasing these items. They try smelling it and almost try tasting it when they hear it’s made from rumen.
Once, I went to Japan and sold a tie made of rumen leather. It cost me eight USD to make it but two Japanese men fought over it and one of them purchased it for 300 USD after the two made bids on it. I believe that products made from rumen leather will give off considerable profit as the material cost is low but the material itself is of high quality.
Mongolian scientists are coming up with all kinds of ideas, discoveries and inventions and they often receive proposals for cooperation or offers for their patents. Have you received any similar proposals?
Many people have contacted me from various countries, including Poland, Czech Republic, Russia and Japan, after I won the Appropriate Technology Competition 2015. They asked if I needed investment, ways they can cooperate with me and my thoughts on the patent.
Using cow tendons to make suture is a Mongolian technology inspired from Mongolian customs. Mongolian technology should stay in Mongolia. I didn’t accept their offers because I believe that this should become a Mongolian brand. It’s easy to generate money. As long as the experiment is successful, money will naturally come. The Ministry of Industry will definitely support domestic producers. In that sense, I turned down proposals from foreigners.
I plan to apply for the Ministry of Industry’s project to support small and medium-sized enterprises in March and build a factory since our rumen leather is ready to be launched into the market.
What do you plan to research next?
Something new always comes out when you start a research and study different things. I will continue to research in depth. There’s no way I’m stopping now. I want to study more about processing animal based products. The world is vast and there are many things that can be done. Work on utilizing animal based products will become a huge project that will not finish even if all three million people of Mongolia helped out. First, I’ll have to see the results of my current study. I will strive to support and train young people who will work in this field in the future.
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