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135 healthcare and wellness Articles | Page: | Show All

New provincial drug regulation means growth opportunity for Oakville's PharmaTrust

Earlier this month, the provincial government announced changes in Ontario's pharmacy regulations that will, as the announcement says, "enable prescriptions to be dispensed using remote dispensing technology without a pharmacist being physically present."

This is good news for Oakville-based tech firm PharmaTrust, whose technology MedCentre is designed specifically to enable remote prescription medication dispensing. Don Waugh, chairman of PharmaTrust's parent company, greeted the news, saying demand for his service is growing due to an aging population. "This is good news for patients who require greater access to pharmaceutical care."

The MedCentre technology is called a "pharmacy in a box" -- a station with a video monitor that allows patients to have a face-to-face consultation with a pharmacist even when they are located miles from the actual building that the pharmacist is in. It takes payments and dispenses drugs on the spot, eliminating the need to open whole new pharmacies in remote areas.

As the news of growth prospects arrives, the company is hiring now.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Susan Fenton, PharmaTrust

Growing exercise empire Fit Chicks adds 4 new locations (including one in Mississauga)

When we last wrote about the Fit Chicks fitness empire one year ago, the workout training company had expanded to reach 15 locations in the GTA since its launch in 2008. Co-founder Laura Jackson told us then that she expected the company to keep on growing, and the activity in the twelve months since has borne out her prediction.

Last week, the company announced the launch of four new locations -- one in Vancouver, one in Calgary, one in Ottawa and one in the GTA, in Mississauga -- bringing the total number of locations now to 28. In almost doubling in size over the past year, the company has gone national, opening gyms in Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver for the first time.

The business was founded by Jackson and Amanda Quinn, who say they've "been besties since grade nine" in 2008 to fill a hole they saw in the fitness market. The concept is a series of "bootcamps" run by fitness instructors focused on a challenging but achievable workout that also gave women (or "chicks," according to company lingo) education about how to live healthy. As part of a plan to expand into merchandising and larger scale wellness, the company recently introduced a "High Intensity Hottie" workout video that is now included with bootcamp registrations.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Laura Jackson, Head Chick, Fit Chicks

Toronto's 1DegreeBio brings open source innovation to biological research industry

When Ontario Minister of Innovation Glen Murray announced a new data initiative at MaRS last month, he was long on hype with the announcement (he said he expected it to be "one of the most important things I'll ever be involved in in my life") and short on details (though he said the initiative would be fully-funded, he also explained it would be "rolled out" over the next several months).

But he did name check a specific inspiration: Toronto's 1DegreeBio, which has already launched a world-leading data sharing initiative for the biological sciences sector. The company was founded in July 2009 and launched online in June 2010 as the world's first online independent resource listing all academic and commercially available antibodies.

"I used to work in a large research lab in Toronto," says founder Alex Hodgson, "and what I noticed is that researchers were buying multiple versions of antibdies because they were never sure which ones were crap. There was no central resource, no quality control—you can't do great research with crap antibodies."

After finishing her MBA, she created 1DegreeBio with an open source spirit and social media techniques inspired by online retailers such as TripAdvisor and Amazon.com. 1DegreeBio offers a method of sharing information to eliminate costly overlapping in the research community, it connects various companies and scientists with the results of their peers and through user reviews. Less than a year after launching, the site now offers "just under 500,000 antibody products," and has grown from two employees working from Hodgson's home office to six employees in a new office.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Alex Hodgson, Managing Director, 1DegreeBio

Mississauga's Amorfix sees breakthrough in Alzheimer's diagnostic test

When we reported on Mississauga's Amorfix Life Sciences and their quest to cure cancer, ALS and Alzheimer's in July 2010, the company had just made a financing breakthrough that would allow them to more aggressively pursue their research. Early this year, the company saw a breakthrough in their research [PDF] into diagnosing Alzheimer's that has the potential to change the industry.

The diagnostic test is able to show the presence of protein fragments that could allow easier diagnosis of the disease. Currently conclusive diagnosis is only available after death through examination of brain tissue. Amorfix's new test uses spinal fluid, and eventually President and CEO Robert Gundel says they would like to be able to conduct the test using blood samples.

"Our hope is to one day be able to use this test on patients showing early signs of dementia in order to predict which patients may progress rapidly into the disease and which may not," Gundel says. He says that initially the test will be applied to clinical research groups, since the current method of diagnosis by checking symptoms creates a very high rate of false diagnoses (as much as 30% or more). The findings of the test could also help advance the research of those creating treatments for the disease.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Dr. Robert Gundal, President and CEO, Amorfix Life Sciences

Toronto-based global leader GestureTek will pursue autism treatment application with federal grant

GestureTek got its start in 1987, when Vincent John Vincent and his University of Waterloo classmate Francis MacDougall came up with a technology that would allow people to move their bodies to interact with a video display -- a system similar to the Wii, but requiring no controllers or wires.

Since then, the company has grown into a global giant in the gesture-recognition field, with applications ranging from interactive advertising displays, to theme-park rides to retail gimicks to healthcare uses.

Now, a grant from FedDev Ontario, the federal government's economic development agency, will see GestureTek partner with OCAD University to conduct research into an application that could be used to treat children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The project will use a "smart carpet and chairs" to enhance a musical therapy program that allows ASD-diagnosed children to interact with their peers. In early testing, the project has reportedly shown encouraging results.

The grant will help fund exploration of marketability and healthcare and manufacturing partnerships.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Vincent John Vincent, GestureTek; Sarah Mullholland, OCAD University

VitalHub's mobile medical tech deploys at Mt. Sinai, hires 5, attracts $300,000 investment

VitalHub, a company started by the IT department at Mount Sinai hospital, has developed a technology that allows doctors and nurses in a hospital to easily track patient information using iPads and iPhones, a solution to longstanding and often-noted paperwork problems. As a company, they've had a busy couple of months.

In December 2010, VitalHub launched at Mount Sinai hospital, allowing clinicians to access patient's charts on mobile devices from anywhere in the hospital. This replaces a patchwork of different types of computer terminals and software programs that stored different types of information and often required multiple passwords. While the hospital plans for ever-wider deployment of the technology, they also established VitaHub to allow its commercialization and use at hospitals elsewhere.

Last month, the plan attracted a $300,000 investment from MaRS that VitalHub CEO Neil Closner says will enable the company to continue its deployment at Mount Sinai, further develop the product and market it to other hospitals. And befitting that expansion plan, the company is also in the process of hiring three full-time and two part-time staff to enable that expansion.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Neil Closner, CEO, VitalHub

Toronto data sharing initiative will make Ontario world's first true "wiki-mobile-digital economy"

At an event in downtown Toronto last week, Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation Glen Murray suggested that investing in knowledge should be the provincial government's re-election issue -- a position he compared favourably to the Conservative party's plan to offer cheaper beer prices. He said there's a reason such an investment is important.

"The economy is changing at a pace unheard of in human history. This is bigger than the industrial revolution, which took 200 years. This is bigger than the agricultural revolution which took 2,000 years. These revolutions are happening in months. It took less than two years for Facebook to get 58 million participants, it took television 20 years to get that many people. The pace of change is monthly for what used to take place in decades. The pace of change in society has become a social challenge in itself."

In what he said he thought was one of the "most important things I'll ever be involved in in my life," Murray announced the launch of a "multi-year, fully funded project" to share data. While details were not made available, Murray said the "core strategic research centre" would be set up at MaRS and rolled out over the next four months. The plan, he said, is to "try to create a collaborative open-source platform where companies, government and not-for-profits will provide data" and knowledge that would be available to other researchers of all stripes across the province. "My goal is, in the next decade, to drive this collaborative centre to make us the first true wiki-mobile-digital economy."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Glen Murray, Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation

$17.2 million investment brings GE's global digital pathology R&D centre to Toronto

The provincial government's Health Technology Exchange -- known as HTX, it was created to fund and encourage healthcare technology innovation in Ontario -- announced last week that it had helped secure Toronto as the location of the first global GE Pathology Imaging Centre of Excellence.

The facility run by GE Healthcare will conduct research and promote best practices. As GE Healthcare VP Peter Robinson says, pathology is largely an area that has "escaped the impact of technology," and the new imaging centre will change that. Robinson expects the centre to fundamentally transform global medical practice. "We have the potential to drive much higher levels of quality ... and really change the way cancer is diagnosed and treated."

Robinson says the project wound up settling in Toronto due to a number of factors, from "a pressing need on the public policy front, a willing partner in the provincial government, especially the Ministry of Reasearch and Innovation, a depth of clinical expertise," that he notes is among top 10 in the world in the field, combined with, "a research community that extends across the entire region that is rich with capacity ... with tremendous imaging expertise. So a number of things came together to convince [GE's startup digital pathology venture] Omnyx that this was the right environment.

The announcement was officially welcomed by representatives of the provincial government, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the University Health Network, whose members will participate in and benefit from the centre's research. According to Robinson, the centre will employ 15 engineers directly.

HTX provided a $2.25 million grant to the project, which will join a $7.75 million investment from GE Healthcare. According to HTX, an additional $7.2 million in investment has been promised by R&D partners in the project.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Peter Robinson, VP and General Manager, GE Healthcare Canada

Toronto mobile innovators Wallace Wireless acquired by healthcare com giant Vocera

Wallace Wireless, a software developer who makes applications for mobile phones that serve businesses in their communications needs, was established in 2001 and has since developed several significant products for Blackberrys and other devices that specifically serve the medical industry.

The WIC Pager, for example, allows Blackberry phones to replace the pagers so beloved by hospitals; it's database, forms and continuity products are also niche targeted at healthcare-industry clients. So the news that US-based healthcare communications giant Vocera has acquired Wallace Wireless makes intuitive sense. "Ineffective, incomplete and inaccurate communication is a daunting challenge for care givers striving to provide the highest possible care," says Vocera CEO Bob Zollars, noting that the acquisition of Wallace Wireless "strengthens our portfolio of products and services that analyze, eliminate or mitigate these communication failure points."

Rob Moffat, president of Wallace Wireless, meanwhile says that "Bringing our companies together creates enormous potential for improving the seamless delivery of alarms, alerts and pages." Moffat says, "We could not have selected a partner with a strategic vision that is better aligned with ours."

For the local Toronto business community, it is reassuring to hear via Mike Middleton of Q1 Capital Partners, who brokered the deal, that Vocera intends to keep the Wallace management team in place here in Toronto, and to establish its office as the Canadian sales division of Vocera, suggesting that increased growth could be on the way for the office near Jarvis and Front.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Victoria Holl, Vocera Communications; Mile Middleton, Q1 Capital Partners

Research org ORION's new 100G network is a worldwide first for Research and Education

The Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION) recruited Dr. Darin Graham as its president and CEO in July, a hire that ORION Chair Maxime Jean-Louis told Yonge Street brought on a man with "an international record" who would help the organization "leapfrog into the forefront of innovation in Ontario."

Months later, the organization has announced [PDF] that they will deploy a 100G network -- the first in Canada and the first in the world to be deployed for Research and Education purposes. The new network represents a tenfold increase in capacity. "Moving to 100G is a generational leap in capabilities and a significant technological milestone. It helps move Ontario to the head of the pack in terms of having an extraordinary backbone in place to support new and innovative ways of enabling advanced research, innovation and scientific discovery," Graham says.

ORION is an "ultra high-speed research and education network" that links 1.7 million Ontario researchers, scientists, students, teachers and staff to enable research collaborations and discoveries in physics, cancer research, environmental science and technologies, social sciences and the humanities and other disciplines.

ORION says this is the first phase of a much larger major upgrade to its network, which spans 5,800 kilometres of fibre optic cable across the province. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2010.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Tamara Stoll, ORION

Markham Stouffville Hospital redevelopment will create 300 construction jobs, 875 staff positions

Construction on the redevelopment of Markham Stouffville Hospital began Dec. 6, after a fixed-price contract was signed with PCL Constructors Canada for $200.4 million. The redeveloped facility will include two new wings and renovations to existing areas of the hospital, that will double the size of the facility. The expansion will include a new emergency department, more beds, and new diagnostic imaging, maternity and mental health units.

According to Jim Dougan, regional president of PCL, the construction itself will create about 300 on-ste jobs during its peak. The enhanced facility will create even more new jobs once it opens -- an estimated 875 staff will be added to the current 1,700, including 60 new physicians (in addition to the 275 currently employed).

Hospital President and CEO Janet Breed credited partners at Infrastructure Ontario and the Ministry of Health for helping fund 90 per cent of the project's construction costs, and said it will benefit residents of York Region. "This announcement assures our community they will have access to a state-of-the-art hospital," she said.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Lisa Joyce, Markham Stouffville Hospital

$28.8 million U of T-led project will bring regenerative medical innovation to market

Professor Peter Zandstra of the University of Toronto's Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering sums up the dilemma facing medical innovators nicely. "The problem is that many new and potentially life-changing regenerative medicine-based treatments never reach patients because they are not successfully moved from the laboratory to a stage where they can be used in medicine," he says. That's why he's heading up, as chief science officer, the new Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), a partnership among research and private sector entities to commercialize innovations.

The project, which focuses on advancements in regenerative medicine -- which includes cutting edge techniques such as stem-cell therapy, regenerative biomolecules, tissue engineering and the use of biomaterials -- will aim to bring lab advancements to market. "Our plan is twofold -- to leverage our advances in biomedical research and engineering and create an RM commercialization pipeline to get our innovations into the marketplace and to people suffering from these difficult health conditions," says Zandstra.

The project got a shot in the arm from the federal government's Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research competition, which awarded CCRM $15 million on Dec. 6. That money will be added to $13.7 million contributed by private sector partners to fund the project.

In addition to  U of T, the project partners include the University Health Network, The Hospital for Sick Children, McMaster University, Mount Sinai Hospital, the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and 16 private sector companies.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Laurie Stephens, University of Toronto

Innovative "Sandbox Project" aims to improve Canada's poor record dealing with kids' mental health

"Ranked 22 out of 29 in children's health in developed countries by the OECD, Canada needs to invest in the health and wellness of our children and youth in the same way that we invest in infrastructure or science and technology," says Dr. Kellie Leitch, founder of The Sandbox Project. The innovative approach to dealing with mental health, injury prevention and healthy weight launched Dec. 2 at an event in Toronto.

At the event, Michael Wilson, Canada's former ambassador to the United States, pointed out the need for the program. "The Sandbox Project is both important and timely," Wilson said. "Dr. Kellie Leitch's groundbreaking research points out the need and the way Canada should be dealing with children's mental health."

The project will bring together experts and channel their knowledge into interactive tools and social media and, according to organizers, "build partnerships between parents, academic leaders, industry and governments to make Canada the healthiest place on earth for children and youth to grow up."

Ensuring the health of children, Dr. Leitch notes, is not simply morally right, but "is critically important for our long-term well-being as a country."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Cara Salci, National Public Relations, for the Sandbox Project

Local companies help build $36 million advanced rehabilitation facility for Toronto Rehab

When it is finished next year, Toronto Rehab's $36 million Intelligent Design for Adaptation, Participation and Technology (iDAPT) will be one of the world's most advanced rehabilitation research and development facilities. In building it, Toronto Rehab and its partners at the University of Toronto say they have taken advantage of the innovations of several cutting-edge GTA companies.

"Creating this amazing research space has been a complex endeavour," says Dr. Geoff Fernie, VP of Research for Toronto Rehab. "And it's certainly thrown a few curves our way. We've been fortunate to draw on the expertise of so many Canadian companies."

CIMCO Refrigeration, for instance, was called on to build a movable ice floor for an ice chamber that will simulate winter conditions at the lab, the only one of its kind in the world. Software to control the simulator in the underground lab was custom-built by Markham's Quanser Inc. An overhead robotic safety system was designed by Toronto's Nuspark Inc. Meanwhile, movable plates across which study participants will walk were created by A-Tech Instruments.

The project is scheduled to be completed in 2011, and will be used to study older people and those with disabilities as they encounter challenges that mimic those faced in real life inside the lab's underground chamber.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Carolyn Lovas, Toronto Rehab

Allergan Inc gets approval for new eye medication, looks to hire 5 in the GTA

Allergan Inc, a global healthcare company with a Canadian head office in Markham, recently got approval from Health Canada for its eye medication Restasis, which the company claims is the "first prescription eye drop to target the underlying causes of chronic Dry Eye."

University of Ottawa opthamology professor Dr. Bruce Jackson explains that the condition can cause reduced vision and impair such tasks as driving. "By increasing tear production, Restasis is the first approved drug that targets the underlying causes of Dry Eye," which, he says, can improve quality of life for patients.

Allergan has been in the eye care business internationally for over 60 years, though it has since branched out into other specialties including neurosciences and obesity. It's Canadian operation currently employs 170 people and is currently hiring five more in the GTA.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Amanda Mills Sirois, Allergan Inc.

135 healthcare and wellness Articles | Page: | Show All
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