U of T startup inks $250,000 deal with local health network

A University of Toronto startup seeking to improve communication between patients and hospitals has received $250,000 in funding from a southern Ontario local health integration network.

The Waterloo-Wellington LHIN said Friday the funding would be used by Dash MD to develop a local version of its smartphone app, which enables health-care providers to easily deliver detailed  instructions to patients.

The deal represents the startup’s first government-level partnership.

“We’re very excited to be partnering with Dash MD to bring real-time local health information to patients through a mobile app that will be free for them to use,” said Bruce Lauckner, the chief executive of the Waterloo Wellington LHIN, in a statement.

U of T conference explores the future of health care – and how Toronto will shape it

Having twice battled breast cancer, Nathalie Le Prohon has first-hand knowledge of the “dire need for change and transformation” of the aging and often inefficient Canadian health-care system.

“We’re moving and innovation is happening, but it’s not scaling up fast enough,” Le Prohon, the health-care industry lead for IBM Canada, told a packed auditorium at the MaRS Discovery District on Thursday.

“It’s not landing in hospitals and other centres fast enough to transform how people are being dealt with on a day-to-day basis.”

Le Prohon made the remarks during a keynote at the University of Toronto’s The Future of Health Innovation conference, part of Toronto Health Innovation Week. They weren’t so much a knock on Canada’s ingenuity or the quality of care being delivered by doctors, but rather the crushing demands being placed on the system and the sheer amount of money it will cost to meet them. In Ontario alone, spending on health care amounts to $60 billion a year – a figure that’s only going to increase as Canada’s population becomes older and in more need of care.

U of T’s Deep Genomics inks partnership with U.S. biotech firm

A University of Toronto startup that uses artificial intelligence to develop treatments for genetic diseases has forged a partnership with a U.S. biotechnology firm.

Deep Genomics, spun out of research done by Professor Brendan Frey in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, said this week it will be working with Cambridge, Mass.-based, Wave Life Sciences to identify novel therapies for neuromuscular disorders – a category of illness that includes diseases like Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Frey, Deep Genomics’ co-founder and CEO, said Wave’s neuromuscular research is tailor-made for the startup’s machine learning technology and targets a group of disorders for which treatments are badly needed.

“Neuromuscular diseases are a tragic category of diseases for children that impacts them at a very young age, and impacts their lives severely and can be fatal,” he said, adding Deep Genomics and Wave have yet to disclose the particular neuromuscular diseases they intend to focus on.

Impact Centre report examines how Canada lags behind the US in building scaleups

To get a better idea of how Canadian startups scale compared to their global counterparts, the Impact Centre at the University of Toronto has released the results of a report comparing Canadian scaleups to the US and the UK.

To complete the report, the Centre looked at the fundraising patterns of tech companies in Canada and the US. Public company data was obtained from Google Finance, and private company data was obtained from CB Insights and LinkedIn. All dollar amounts reported are in USD.

The report looked at the performance of over 2,600 technology companies in Canada, paying particular attention to 423 businesses with over $10 million of capital, which it defined as a later-stage company. Businesses with under $10 million in capital were regarded as early-stage.

The Impact Centre summarized the report in four key bullet points:

  • Canada has a higher startup rate than Germany and France but trail the UK on the same metric.
  • Canada leads all European jurisdictions in terms of scaling rates.
  • Canada reports a rate of startup and scaleups that is dramatically lower than the US and, in particular, Massachusetts, California, and New York.
  • Canada has lower rates of both startup and scaleups than Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Georgia.

In total, the report identifies 50 Canadian companies with over $10 million of invested capital that are growing at more than 20 percent a year, which represents 12 percnt of all of the 423 Canadian companies above $10 million in capital.

A sanctuary for startups: How an aging church became home to some of U of T’s newest ventures

The wooden stairs creak, the third-floor meeting room feels like a sauna and there’s nary an espresso bar in sight.

But what the unassuming home of the University of Toronto’s UTEST accelerator – housed on the second floor of a 136-year-old church on College Street – lacks in swish startup amenities, it more than makes up for in creative energy as U of T entrepreneurs work beneath soaring 20-foot ceilings to build the businesses of tomorrow.

Think of it as the U of T version of the Los Altos, Calif. garage where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak famously launched Apple Computers – a garage that, incidentally, was designated a historic property in 2013.

“You can bring your bike in, leave your stuff and your computer monitor will still be there in the morning,” says UTEST co-director Kurtis Scissons about the former Zion Congregational Church.

“It’s a dedicated space for these companies.”

‘We’re really close’: U of T expert on Toronto becoming a leading health innovation hub

Toronto is nearing the “tipping point” in its quest to become a leading hub for health innovation – a development that promises to help modernize an aging Canadian health-care system while giving the broader economy a shot in the arm.

Zayna Khayat, an expert in health-care innovation and adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, says the only thing stopping the city from being mentioned in the same breath as places like Boston, New York and even San Francisco is a “critical mass” of startups and deep-pocketed investors.

“We have it in R&D but we don’t yet have it when it comes to capital and serial entrepreneurs – but we’re really close,” says Khayat, who is also a future strategist at home-care provider Saint Elizabeth Health Care, a faculty member at the Silicon Valley-based think tank Singularity University, and was formerly the senior adviser for health system innovation at MaRS.

Khayat will be moderating a panel discussion April 12 at U of T’s The Future of Health Innovation conference, part of Toronto Health Innovation Week. The event, held at the MaRS Discovery District, brings together a number of U of T experts, entrepreneurs and industry leaders to talk about health technologies, including wearables and robotics, and efforts to advance cell-based therapies and tissue-based technologies.

Myhal family champions next-generation engineering innovation and entrepreneurship

This spring when U of T Engineering opens the doors to the Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship (Myhal Centre), it will mark the success of an ambitious campaign and reflect a new era for engineering – one with multidisciplinary collaboration and active, experiential learning at its core. The Myhal Centre will offer one of the finest teaching and research environments of any engineering school in the world, fostering innovation and interaction among talented students and faculty at one of the world’s top-ranked programs.

When Dean Cristina Amon and the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering envisioned this state-of-the-art space in the heart of U of T’s St. George campus, George Myhal (IndE 7T8) and his wife, Rayla, were immediately taken with the idea. Long before the groundbreaking, when the building only existed in architectural renderings and blueprints, the Myhals were two of the project’s most ardent champions. To rally support from the broader U of T Engineering community and government, George Myhal took the lead as the chair of Engineering’s Campaign Executive Committee.

Now, as the finishing touches are being made on the eight-storey building, ahead of its official opening on April 27, George and Rayla Myhal have bolstered their commitment with a generous gift that will name the new building in their honour.

“The Faculty’s ambitious vision has come to fruition,” says George Myhal. “It is a testament to the impeccable leadership of Dean Cristina Amon, and the affinity, pride and engagement that is palpable among our donors, faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends. This building will transform the Faculty and have a lasting impact on future generations of engineers.”

Robotics beyond the factories: assistive devices help children gain independence

For some entrepreneurs, their innovations are passion projects. But these take time and creative marketing to reach fruition.

This is often the case in assistive robotics and wearable technologies for persons with disabilities. Not only are the investment requirements and hardware costs high, insurance coverage for end users is slim to non-existent in North America, limiting market reach. But a number of startups have figured out a way to navigate these more challenging waters.

Manmeet Maggu’s quest began in 2013 when his nephew was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and was unable to walk. A University of Waterloo mechatronics student at the time, the co-founder of Trexo Robotics in Mississauga partnered with fellow undergraduate Rahul Udasi to build a solution. The end result was fully powered robotic legs that can be attached to a walker, allowing a child to walk independently.

The founders saw children and rehabilitation clinics as a starting point to develop a low-cost approach that can be scaled to address other mobility issues in time. While there are a number of devices for adults, the children’s market has been largely overlooked, says Dina Nikitina, COO.

Lucky break? U of T startup raises $500,000 to improve hospital-patient communication

The idea behind Zack Fisch’s health-care startup, which recently closed a $500,000 seed round, was planted after he nearly lost a leg following an ultimate Frisbee accident.

Though the limb was merely broken, Fisch failed to recognize his too-tight cast had led to compartment syndrome, dangerously decreasing blood flow.

“I felt a burning sensation, but figured it must just be normal,” Fisch says, blaming the groggy, medicated state in which he received the hospital’s aftercare instructions.

The experience got Fisch, who studied law and business at York University, thinking about better ways of delivering patient information. So he founded Dash MD three years ago with Cory Blumenfeld, a master’s student at University of Toronto, and built the startup with the help of U of T’s UTEST accelerator, one of nine entrepreneurship hubs on campus.

The startup’s “mobile personal health manager” is designed to be downloaded for free by patients and populated with information by hospitals and health-care providers – a key difference between Dash MD and other health-care apps.