Innovator receives award for medical smartwatch
September 2, 2020
MONTREAL and OTTAWA – A global pandemic didn’t stop entrepreneur Azadeh Dastmalchi (pictured) from innovating. On the contrary, she spent the time pivoting her ground-breaking medical-grade smartwatch – the first-of-its-kind to continuously measure all five vital signs and provide cardiac monitoring in one device – to serve as an early stage COVID-19 prediction and monitoring solution.
The disruptive product has earned Dastmalchi, 34, a prestigious award from Mitacs, a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions.
In recognition of her successful work through her start-up, Montreal-based VitalTracer, Dastmalchi – a PhD candidate in the department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Ottawa, and CEO and co-founder of VitalTracer – will be presented the Mitacs Social Entrepreneur Award on September 2 at a virtual awards ceremony.
Her company’s groundbreaking product, the VTLAB smartwatch, is comfortably worn on the wrist as it is designed to continuously monitor blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, body temperature, and electrocardiogram (ECG) and photoplethysmography (PPG) signals. What sets it apart from other remote monitoring solutions is the ability to perform all tasks from a cost-effective, low-power smartwatch, without the need to switch to a blood pressure cuff or use a tablet.
“We originally came up with the idea to combine biosensors and artificial intelligence to monitor blood pressure from the wrist, but we quickly discovered that our approach lent itself well to measuring other vital signs as well,” Dastmalchi explained.
With clinical trials planned for 2021 and 2022 to validate the device for FDA and Health Canada certification, both for remote monitoring of patients at home and post-surgical monitoring, VitalTracer is expected to be a game changer for personalized medicine. In addition to targeting the one in three adults suffering from high blood pressure in North America, the company is now pivoting its solution to assist with COVID-19 symptom monitoring as well.
“Due to the pandemic, seniors in long-term care facilities are suffering, and to stay safe, they need to monitor their vital signs daily, which is a very difficult and time-consuming task,” Dastmalchi said. “Our device is tailor-made to help.”
Due to its ability to track bio-signals in an easy-to-wear form, VitalTracer’s smartwatch can provide real-time monitoring of flu-like symptoms such as heart rate, fever, cough and increased sleep so that any COVID-19 cases can be detected early and effectively isolated. At the same time, the smartwatch can provide monitoring of hypotension, low blood oxygen saturation and recurring fever to proactively monitor long-term care residents who test positive as a way to enhance their care and improve outcomes.
VitalTracer expects to have a COVID-19 version of its product ready for Canadian researchers to use in long-term care settings by the end of this summer, including a version that can be worn like a patch by people who suffer from dementia.
Dastmalchi is one of five winners of the Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards who are being recognized for their efforts to turn their research into an innovative business that impacts the lives of Canadians.
“The global pandemic highlights more than ever how important it is to recognize and support local innovation and Mitacs is extremely proud of the continued creativity and ingenuity shown by our network of young entrepreneurs,” said Mitacs CEO and scientific director John Hepburn, pointing to a Mitacs survey that shows nearly two out of every 10 Mitacs interns choose to pursue their own business. “Not only will their inventions ultimately help Canada to recover from this crisis, but with continued investment in talent, research and development, they will ensure we keep our spot in the global innovation economy.”
Mitacs is funded by the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario and the Government of Quebec, along with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, Innovation PEI, the Government of Saskatchewan and the Government of Yukon. For information about Mitacs and its programs, see mitacs.ca/newsroom.