Through grit and business savvy, the Canadian innovation sector has weathered the coronavirus storm better than most industries. In 2021 so far, MaRS has enlisted 27 startups into its portfolio of over 1,400, many of them vital to the COVID-19 fight.
“It is a fair criticism to say that the healthcare industry has long had a reputation as being relatively slow to adopt technological innovation,” says Rene Azeez, director of engagement for MaRS Growth Services. “But the strain that the pandemic has placed on our healthcare system has resulted in a renewed emphasis on advancing essential and transformative healthcare innovation from government, investors, and ecosystem players alike. I’m encouraged by the number of differentiated healthcare technologies that are up and coming in the Canadian technology landscape.”
Here’s a look at seven companies leading the charge in healthcare innovation — providing novel tools for healthcare workers and improving patient outcomes.
What it does: Based in Victoria, VoxCell BioInnovation engineers products that print human-like tissues for research and drug development, as well as novel bioinks and a unique 3D bioprinter for in vitro drug testing.
The impact it’s having: The high-resolution tissues this startup creates enable more efficient drug discovery and cancer research, allowing life-saving therapies to come to market more quickly.
What it does: Malaika’s vaccine applies findings from research conducted on a group of HIV-immune women from Nairobi. At present, the company has identified two antigens intended to elicit an immune response; it’s also developing a vector to deliver these antigens to patients.
The impact it’s having: “HIV remains one of the most devastating global epidemics that has yet to find a viable vaccine solution,” says Rick Bozzato, senior health advisor at MaRS. “Based on years of epidemiological and game-changing preclinical research, Malaika has the ability to finally change that narrative.”
What it does: Sensors on wearable devices and other tech can provide consistent data on an individual’s health condition. Health21’s software platform captures and analyzes that data in real time to assess and communicate their health status. This helps healthcare providers and caregivers monitor the well-being of at-risk patients continuously outside of a healthcare institution.
The impact it’s having: The Health21 platform enables physicians to provide more proactive care to patients through its ongoing monitoring functionality. Patients are also empowered with their own health data and can identify and receive the care they need more quickly.
What it does: SanteSuite develops digital health systems for enterprises. The company’s integrated solutions cover different aspects of healthcare systems, including immunization management, patient and medical records systems, and clinical data repositories.
The impact it’s having: This firm has the potential to make an immediate impact on the global COVID-19 response. “SanteSuite’s tech will greatly contribute to the transformation, improvement and success of immunization program development,” says Lisa Merdjan, a MaRS Growth Services senior associate.
What it does: Toronto-based WearAbility uses high-definition sensors to detect neuromuscular activity before the motion is visible to the human eye. The startup’s software system translates data into insights that healthcare providers use to develop a patient’s recovery plan.
The impact it’s having: WearAbility’s technology allows healthcare providers to more accurately track a patient’s progress and adjust their physical rehabilitation program on the fly.
What it does: Biomarkers are critical to clinically diagnose and assess disease. Unfortunately, not all diseases have a sufficient number of biomarkers for diagnostics. KeyIntel Medical’s innovation helps physicians overcome this in diagnosing inflammatory diseases through a test that uses novel biomarkers and machine learning.
The impact it’s having: KeyIntel Medical’s innovation is opening up new opportunities for the assessment and management of chronic diseases, such as axial spondylitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
What it does: Headquartered in Toronto, Oncoustics uses signals from handheld ultrasound devices to rapidly assess the health of tissues using A.I. algorithms. “A.I. powered diagnostics will form the cornerstone of the future of health,” says Sheryl Thingvold, a health advisor at MaRS. “And Oncoustics is on it.”
The impact it’s having: This non-invasive tool will help physicians diagnose, monitor and treat diseases — including in the liver, prostate, kidney, breast and thyroid — more efficiently.
Other ventures that recently joined MaRS: Apollo Green, Survey Simon, Cascadia Seaweed, Dropoff AI, GrowerIQ, InVintory, Divebox, Riskfuel, Timechain, RAS technologies and TUIO.
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