In Sudbury, a startup medical-technology company is changing the way physicians treat patients, all with a high-tech device the size of a credit card.
Developed by Flosonics Medical, the FloPatch is a wireless, push-button sensor that uses Bluetooth technology to monitor patient blood flow.
Once the peel-and-stick device is adhered to a patient’s neck, results are tracked in real time and sent to a physician’s tablet or smartphone.
Eventually, said company CEO Joe Eibl, Flosonics foresees infusing the technology with artificial intelligence to predict how the disease is progressing and provide an early warning to physicians.
“It sounds like science fiction, but it’s moving in that direction, and all signs point towards broader medicine being able to harness some of the benefits of machine learning,” Eibl said.
“So, the whole field’s optimistic about where that’s going to go.”
The idea for the FloPatch was first conceptualized in 2015 by four partners: Eibl, brother Andrew Eibl, Dr. Jon-Emile Kenny, and Sachit Harish.
They found that traditional, bedside ultrasound equipment is bulky, requires two people to use it, and involves extensive training for the users.
But the FloPatch eliminates those complications, making blood flow monitoring an easy and efficient process for any health-care professional, who can then use the results to make decisions about patient care.
Consultation with business mentors at the NORCAT Innovation Mill in Sudbury got the commercialization process off to a good start.
Since then, Flosonics has been accepted into business incubation programs including the prestigious MedTech Innovator Accelerator Program, based in Los Angeles, Calif., and the Scaleup Program at the Lazaridis Institute at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont.
Flosonics has also received millions in seed funding through various investors, grants, and awards, including iGan Partners (Toronto), Merck’s Displaying Futures Award (Germany), and the MEDEC Scholarship at the 2016 Innovation Showcase (Minneapolis).
Last May, following the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Flosonics was one of 11 companies to share in $1 million in prize money from the Vale COVID-19 Challenge.
Launched in April, the contest called on companies to come up with innovative solutions to help address health-care challenges brought about by the pandemic. Being selected as a finalist enabled Flosonics to increase its manufacturing and distribution capabilities.
“It is a great program,” Eibl said of the initiative. “It was really nice to see Vale take a leadership role in helping with the pandemic, especially in the communities in which it operates, and we’ve been really fortunate to have them as a partner.”
Over the last five years, the company has grown to 20 people, who share their expertise from locations across North America. As business increasingly becomes global, Eibl noted, employees no longer have to physically be in the same space.
Yet despite the ability to operate from almost anywhere, Eibl said anchoring Flosonics’ headquarters in Sudbury has distinct advantages.
“The benefit that we have in the North is that we’ve got unbelievable clinical training programs and academic programs, we’ve got an academic health sciences centre, the support from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and FedNor, and the ability to attract really talented people to the North,” he said.
“Their enjoyment of smaller communities and outdoor living and all of the benefits that we have living here are certainly a huge plus for starting a company.”
The FloPatch, which is manufactured in-house, has been approved for use by both Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Flosonics has a number of clinical trials underway to help prove up the technology.
Researchers are testing out the FloPatch in the operating and anaesthesia departments at Health Sciences North in Sudbury, and at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in the U.S., which specializes in treating patients with complex illnesses and conditions.
Flosonics has even secured development agreements with the Canadian and U.S. militaries to use the device in transport monitoring.
As the North American clinical trials continue, Eibl said the company’s next step is tackling regulatory clearance in Europe.
And then, well, the possibilities are endless.
“We’re focused right now on clinical care,” Eibl said. “But there’s a whole bunch of adjacencies in the hospital and home where our device and our technology has real promise.”Since launching in 1986, the Northern Ontario Business Awards has become the largest annual gathering of its kind in Northern Ontario. These awards serve to heighten the visibility and influence of business in the North and bring peer recognition to the business leaders who create prosperity and economic growth.