As part of our print feature on Ottawa's healthcare innovators, Techopia Live gathered a few of the researchers and entrepreneurs in the Capital for an in-depth discussion to cover the (clinical) trials, tribulations and opportunities of working in the field.
Spartan Bioscience CEO Paul Lem, Cliniconex CEO Anthony Mar and Dr. John Bell, researcher with the Ottawa Hospital and co-founder of cancer-fighters Turnstone Biologics, joined hosted Carlo Lombard at the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards.
Mar discussed the pivot Cliniconex took from billing and appointment reminders to a wider focus on patient engagement after launching in 2009.
"We found that it's the patient engagement piece that physicians don't get the chance to do," he told the live audience. His advice for entrepreneurs was to follow the money: Identify how physicians and healthcare workers are being paid for their work, where that funding comes from and identify a solution that fits into that system.
Lem introduced the audience to the Spartan Cube, the world's smallest DNA tester. He told the audience that his vision of an ideal world was one where preventative measures all-but eliminates the need for medicine, but that when things do go wrong, instant diagnoses can identify and solve ailments before they get worse.
That's the idea behind the Spartan Cube: A single test, hopefully right from home, that could tell patients about any disease to which they're predisposed, or how certain medications and bacteria may interact with their immune systems.
Both Mar and Lem also highlighted the need to identify a feasible distribution model to bring any healthcare solution to market. The heavily-regulated nature of healthcare makes integrating with hospitals, doctor's offices and at-home care systems easier said than done.
Dr. Bell, whose company Turnstone Biologics has received its fair share of attention (and investment) for its crusades against cancer, said that innovations in health like those of Mar's and Lem's companies have helped researchers like him to build a gradual understanding of the widespread disease.
His most recently-learned lesson has been the need to take your research from the lab and transition it into a company, so that innovation doesn't sit in a test-tube on a shelf.
Dr. Bell praised his fellow guests' ambitions in solving big problems. He says the most important aspect of solving healthcare's biggest issues is to believe that you can and try to do it, no matter the daunting task.
"You have to have the nerve to go and do that," he told Techopia Live.