Canadian Manufacturing

Six Canadian COVID-19 innovations receive $1M funding boosts

The grant program was launched in June to help physicians and medical learners scale up COVID-19 solutions

September 15, 2020  by CM Staff

OTTAWA — On Sept. 14, Joule announced the names of six recipients wh would be receiving money through its COVID-19 Innovation grant program.

The grant program was launched in June to help physicians and medical learners scale up COVID-19 solutions. The recipients distinguished themselves from nearly 300 applications, and are sharing $1,000,000.

“COVID-19 has highlighted so many challenges and we’re excited to support innovative ideas that will protect patients and providers, improve care, and enhance support to those in need,” said Deborah Scott-Douglas, Joule president, in a prepared statement. “We believe recipients’ work has potential to have a huge impact in addressing some of the pandemic’s most pressing needs.”

Recipients were selected across three categories:

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Supporting front-line health workers

Dr. Susan Ripley: A More Effective and Comfortable N95 Mask for Healthcare Workers
For an N95 mask to be 95% effective, it must fit tightly to the face; air flowing around the perimeter of the mask, makes it ineffective and increases the risk of COVID-19 infection. This tight seal makes N95s extremely uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, even causing damage to health care workers’ faces.  Ripley and the Takaya Technology Inc. team have designed an N95 mask that creates an effective seal, yet is comfortable enough to wear for an entire shift. A supplier has already expressed interest in collaboration or licensing their design and is in discussions with provincial and federal governments to raise awareness of their innovation.

Dr. Neil Naik: Local NFP Becoming Go-To Source for Reliable PPE
With shortages across the globe, securing personal protective equipment (PPE) has become essential to protect front-line workers and the community-at-large. Enter PPE Access Canada, a not-for-profit (NFP) committed to providing reliable and affordable access to PPE for front-line health care workers, NPOs/charitable organizations and regional agencies. First launched in Ontario’s Waterloo region, they have since signed up more than 280 organizations. PPE Access Canada is now working to scale up their initiative throughout the province with support from Ontario Health.

Dr. Heidi Britton: The First Universal Antimicrobial Coating

Britton and her team at Ionomr Innovations have developed a ground-breaking coating that can be used on hospital surfaces and fabrics to eliminate 99.99% of pathogens, including COVID-19. The coating — the first-ever permanently, positively-charged polymer called Aemion — can reduce the need for scheduled sanitization and disinfecting hard-to-sanitize areas, helping to lessen the risk of surface-based transmission and provide healthcare workers and patients greater peace of mind. The team is working to deploy Aemion for use in hospitals and public health clinics in the next 3-9 months.

Access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic

Dr. Joseph Ma: Ultra-Fast COVID-19 Disinfection Device
Ma and his team at Bionic-i Inc. developed a disinfection device to reduce the cleaning time needed between procedures. Many COVID-19 protocols, such as extensive decontamination procedures, have forced health care workers, clinics and hospitals to function at lower capacity — limiting patients’ access to care. In many cases, surgeries and other elective procedures have been deferred for 3 months or more, and waitlists continue to grow. The AI-based device operates autonomously and is flexible enough to disinfect a range of spaces, including hospitals and other clinical environments, as well as long-term care homes, schools and transit systems. The team is working to develop their device in Ontario in the next year and a half.

Dr. Peter Goldberg: The Race to Create a Low-Cost Ventilator
Is it possible to build a cost-effective, clinical grade ventilator that can be produced cheaply and easily, anywhere in the world? In March 2020, Goldberg and his team launched the SubK Sprint to find out. The sprint focused on developing designs for simple, low-cost, easy-to-manufacture and easy-to-maintain ventilators. Ventilators are expensive — low-cost models range between $5,000-$10,000 — and are unavailable in many care settings. The goal is to manufacture a low cost, winning design by November 2020 that meets all regulatory approvals. The plans to manufacture will then be shared on an open license for 18 months.

Population Health Solutions

Monisha Persaud: Medical Students Take on Senior Isolation
Persaud’s concern over senior isolation started with the heart-breaking experience of her own grandmother during the COVID-19 pandemic. Persaud and her fellow U of T medical students created the Student-Senior Isolation Prevention Partnership (SSIPP) to help older adults experiencing loneliness due to the pandemic. The SSIPP program pairs student volunteers with socially isolated seniors in their community — arranging weekly phone calls where students provide social comfort and improve health literacy about COVID-19. Since launching their program in March 2020, they have expanded to include 10+ university chapters nation-wide and over 500 student volunteers.