Health innovation fair showcases opportunities for students, faculty and staff to bring inventions to market

This story appeared in UToday on July 3, 2018.
July 3, 2018

Have you ever wanted to solve a critical health-care need? Have you ever had an idea about something that could change clinical practice? The journey to develop health-care technologies and bring them to practice is complex and can be challenging.

Consideration of regulatory requirements, protection of intellectual property, and identification of who would pay and who would implement the technology are some of the key factors that need to be addressed early in the technology development process. To respond to this need, the Health Innovation Fair took place to connect University of Calgary students, faculty, researchers, and staff with organizations and programs available to help develop and commercialize health innovations.

One of the organizers, Dr. Kristina Rinker, PhD, is passionate about helping others build a multidisciplinary network essential to creating a successful product that improves peoples’ lives. “Unique events like this are needed,” says the lead – early cancer detection initiative, “to co-ordinate across faculties, universities, and across the community to be able to make an impact locally and globally.”

Eighteen exhibitors ranging across UCalgary faculties, along with others like Gowling WLG and the Government of Canada’s Build in Canada Innovation Program, participated in the Health Innovation Fair. Exhibitor Jacob George with Innovation 4 Health was excited to offer opportunities to people who would be making an impact in the public sphere. At the University of Calgary, there is a pipeline of programs that help researchers, students, and staff from concept development all the way through to becoming investible.

Recent winner of the TENET i2c competition and graduate of the Creative Destruction Lab Rockies program, Dr. Pierre Wijdenes, PhD, spoke at the event about his team’s progression through the UCalgary health innovation pipeline. “Thanks to help from the university, Creative Destruction Lab, Alberta Innovates and Innovate Calgary, to name just a few, we are starting to leverage more and more momentum from people and organizations that can help us.” Many teams are moving through a variety of programs thanks to the numerous resources available within the innovation community.

Keynote speakers Rachael Hagan and Dr. Rifat Pamukcu, MD, encouraged the 100-plus attendees in their efforts, concluding the event by saying, “You don’t have to leave your day job, you don’t have to stop inventing, you can have it all.”

With the momentum ignited by the launch of the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, there has been an acute emphasis on producing translational plans for research studies. The next event to watch for is a Biomedical Engineering Translation, Innovation, Mentorship and Entrepreneurship (BME TIME) workshop on skill development for students, postdocs and faculty for any given technology. The event is scheduled for Oct. 26 in Banff and it will coincide with the 19th annual Alberta Biomedical Engineering Conference Oct. 26 to 28, also in Banff.

The Health Innovation Fair was organized by Biomedical Engineering, Cumming School of Medicine, Creative Destruction Lab Rockies, Early Cancer Detection Initiative at the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute, Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking and W21C. The organizers would like to thank the sponsors Gowling WLG and Osler for supporting this event.