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Home > About > News > Learn how Alberta is innovating in health & wellness
December 22, 2023
Alberta Innovates supports and highlights innovation across Alberta.
Here are 14 of highlighted stories of health and wellness innovation from the last few years.
Chronic pain is a serious health issue, but conventional treatments are not universally effective and can cause many adverse effects, such as weight gain, respiratory depression, and addiction. Pain researchers Drs. Gerald Zamponi and Chris Bladen founded Zymedyne to create a new approach to chronic pain management without the negative side-effects. Their technology targets specific proteins called “T-type” calcium channels that are crucial in pain signalling. Using their discovery of a new molecular mechanism that causes increased “T-type” calcium channel expression and elevated pain signals, they hope to exploit this mechanism to lower pain signals. They continue to develop small organic and ion compounds with the ultimate goal of providing safer, non-opioid-based pain-relieving alternatives to chronic pain sufferers.
In March 2021, Zymedyne Therapeutics received a three-year $600,000 Accelerating Innovations into CarE (AICE) grant from Alberta Innovates to support its drug development program.
Inspired by a customer request to make an ultra-portable wheelchair lift, Lift2Go provides temporary accessibility at locations where installed elevators, lifts or ramps are not available. Designed by Adaptive Concepts Ltd., Lift2Go was made to address the main barriers to installing wheelchair access solutions: time and cost. Its key features include a lightweight, modular design that is easily transported in a conventional minivan or sport utility vehicle. Unlike conventional installations, set up does not require tools, external power, or site modifications. Deployment itself can be completed in under 12 minutes by just one person. Lift2Go was initially available for rent in Calgary, Alberta, and the company has plans to expand across Canada.
While this is the first product developed by Adaptive Concepts Ltd., the company’s founders have over 35 years’ experience in designing and manufacturing wheelchair lifts.
Developmental hip dysplasia (DDH) is the #1 reason for hip replacement surgery in women under 40 and is 30 times more common in Indigenous Canadians. Edmonton-based MEDO.ai has developed artificial intelligence-based technology to detect DDH in hip ultrasound images. In an academic setting, this analysis has accuracy and reliability equal to or better than expert radiologists.
It is estimated that each day in Alberta four infants are born with DDH, and two adults receive hip replacement surgery for arthritis caused by untreated DDH. If detected in infancy, DDH is treatable by a simple brace with 95 percent success. Unfortunately, current DDH screening tools are not reliable enough to be recommended for universal DDH screening. This leads to diagnosis of DDH being missed in many infants, resulting in premature osteoarthritis, pain, disability, and surgery.
MEDO.ai was a part of Alberta Innovates’ Accelerating Innovations into CarE (AICE) program and was acquired by Exo in 2022.
Mikata Health is a Calgary-based startup using advanced artificial intelligence to help a growing number of clinics and doctors in Alberta transform how medical care is delivered to Albertans. Clinics use Mikata Health’s app technology to send customized text messages for appointment reminders, instructions, and pre-visit conversations.
At the same time, using predictive modeling and information collected from patients, the tool enables clinics to reduce no-show visits and reach out to patients to provide personalized care.
“Clinics told us they were frequently overwhelmed by tasks like phone calls and follow-up. Also, they often didn’t have the right information at their fingertips to make sure they were asking the right questions of patients. We saw an opportunity to alleviate these problems,” says Kyle Nishiyama, CEO and co-founder.
Mikata Health has grown their team from two to nine people. So far, the technology has been introduced at more than 50 clinic locations in Alberta, with more than 250 doctors on its platform and interacting with 300,000 patients.
With the increasing reliance on telehealth and remote medicine, more people are interested in tracking their health. My Normative is a health-tracking app specifically designed for women and people who menstruate. My Normative’s female-focused metrics give users a more accurate picture of their health, through user feedback and biometric readings. That data can give people a better idea of what effect hormone levels can have on sleep, activity level and other important wellness concerns. My Normative aims to change the world of medical research. In many global health studies, differences in gender and sex are controlled for — erasing some of the very real differences in results between different groups and sometimes leading to less accurate results. The My Normative app uses some of the data it collects (with all identifying personal information removed) to train a machine learning algorithm.
My Normative’s algorithm can be used to create data sets, filters, and other methods to make it easier to incorporate more women into medical and health studies.
According to the World Health Organization, about five per cent of adults suffer from depression. Those who try several available treatments without success have treatment-resistant depression. Founded in March 2020, NovusTX Devices is an Alberta-based company developing a focused ultrasound system for treating neurological and psychiatric disorders, including treatment-resistant depression. The technology was developed at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute from a collaboration between three researchers, two of whom moved to the University of Calgary and went on to form the company along with two other co-founders. Their patented biaxial driving technique is used to steer ultrasound beams to target specific areas of the brain, a providing non-invasive intervention that can be done in the clinician’s office without hospitalization.
NovusTX Devices took part in Alberta Innovates’ Life Sciences Fellowship Program, which combines startup funds and lab space with advisory, coaching, and talent development resources to help launch and grow startups.
For those who find themselves in crisis, getting help can be a confusing, stressful experience. But with a few taps, the HelpSeeker app brings up thousands of local and national organizations that offer a wide variety of resources. It offers information on everything from mental health resources to housing supports, to help with food, employment, and COVID-19 resources.
Helpseeker focuses on being free and private. Users don’t need to sign in and the app doesn’t collect any personal data. It works at no cost to either the service provider or the end-user. HelpSeeker also collects anonymized data about how people use their app, offering vital information to service organizations about what resources people are searching for — this can allow them to better tailor their services to be more effective and helpful.
Founded in 2018, HelpSeeker Technologies created the HelpSeeker app to help service providers and those in need navigate the complex world of community care.
Teser Technologies has developed an innovative solution to sanitize medical equipment and electronic devices, quickly and safely. With the global healthcare community desperate to find ways of slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Teser worked around the clock to design an accessible and easy-to-use decontamination chamber capable of killing the virus in under one minute. The extremely powerful light kills pathogens on the surface of any item placed inside the unit. High-use personal devices such as stethoscopes and smartphones can be automatically decontaminated when entering and leaving a patient’s room, reducing the cost of human labour needed to physically clean the object. Scientists tested the unit’s efficiency in killing a range of pathogens and learned that it can accomplish a 99.99% eradication of the COVID-19 virus in under 60 seconds.
To complement their experience in the petroleum steel manufacturing industry, the Teser team partnered with the University of Alberta, InnoTech Alberta, and other organizations, to support development and refine the UV technology.
Calgary-based Ti-DOX EnviroTek has developed HydroxylizAire, an air decontamination device that’s helping people breathe easier. HydroxylizAire is not only capable of combating harmful organisms, but it also instantly destroys toxic chemicals, such as hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, benzene, ammonia, and formaldehyde, with more than 95 percent efficacy under flow-through conditions.
Ti-DOX EnviroTek’s air decontamination is not done using a filter or sorbent device, which only capture particulate. Instead, HydroxylizAire simulates nature’s stratospheric contaminant destruction using a combination of UVC light, heat, retention time, and close proximity, as well as powerful internally contained hydroxyl radical radiation dosages.
Ti-DOX has developed a fully contained system that works 24 hours a day, is safe to use in occupied spaces, and requires little to no maintenance apart from replacing a UVC bulb yearly.
True Angle developed an app-based mobile technology that assists patients with swallowing disorders. Called Mobili-T®, the technology enables patients to practice their swallowing exercises from the comfort of their own homes, while still being connected with a clinician. Difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia, means it takes more time and effort to move food or liquid from your mouth to your stomach.
Dysphagia can be life threatening, and in some cases swallowing may be impossible. The impairment is often caused by medical conditions like cancer or stroke. Mobili-T® was developed in conjunction with the University of Alberta and the Institute for Reconstructive Science in Medicine, a joint venture between the U of A, Alberta Health Services and Covenant Health.
True Angle was a finalist in the Inventures 2020 Startup Pitch competition sponsored by Alberta Innovates.
Umay REST is a preventative daily care device for dry eye relief and wellness. The device helps reset the effects of screen time for better sleep and eye health with a meditation experience you can feel.
Umay REST consists of two soft pads in the shape of armless glasses that a user places over their closed eyes just before going to bed. The eyepiece then runs through a five-to-ten-minute heating, cooling and vibration cycle that helps its user wind down.
Recently featured on the popular Dragons Den TV show, the brother and sister founders of Umay, Sharmin and Ali Habib, were offered $380,000 in exchange for five percent of their company.
In 2022, Umay was a successful participant in the first cohort of the Alberta Accelerator by 500.
To test for nerve damage, a clinician uses a set of monofilaments or a tuning fork to see how sensitive a person’s skin is. This can take a long time and is uncomfortable for both the patient and clinician. Vibratus offers new wearable technologies that allow neurological testing to be done anytime, anywhere, and with greater accuracy. The technology uses vibration-emitting wearable devices, like smartphones and watches, to measure neural responses. The patient and their healthcare provider can exchange the data at chosen intervals, creating a virtual neurology clinic—the first in the world. The technology can be used for a broad range of nerve disorders, including nerve damage caused by Type 2 diabetes or chemotherapy, spinal cord injuries, or stroke.
“It would be great to see our devices in the hands of everyone who does neurological testing. We have the potential to improve outcomes for people with neurological disorders while saving time and money,” says co-founder Ryan Peters.
Calgary’s WaitWell has launched a new digital health technology tool to ensure physical distancing measures are maintained in waiting areas by using line management software to provide real-time status updates by SMS messaging. WaitWell is a virtual queue solution that is 100 percent touchless and does not need an app. Customers can simply text to join a virtual queue, and then receive an instant notification letting them know their position in line and estimated wait time. With WaitWell, customers can avoid wasting time standing in line. Instead, they can be far more productive by performing other tasks while they wait. WaitWell software is designed to eliminate crowded waiting areas and long queue times, which are two factors known to elevate the risk of transmitting COVID-19. Another benefit of the WaitWell virtual cue software solution for business operators is the ability to access to powerful data.
The WaitWell virtual cue software solution was launched in 2020, and is already in use at a number of Alberta Registries. WaitWell’s aim is expansion of market share in post-secondary education, government, retail, restaurants, and salons.
Founded in 2020 by Jeremie Bourqui, Wave View Imaging offers precise monitoring for breast cancer treatment with a non-intrusive imaging technology using microwave signals to measure breast tissue health. Compared to traditional mammography, imaging can be done without discomfort, in a matter of minutes. The microwave signal measures breast tissue properties to actively monitor progress. Microwaves are sensitive to water content in tissues, which reduces as tumours respond to treatment. Currently, oncologists rely on palpation, which is subjective and creates challenges when properly assessing tumour changes. Wave View’s technology is safe, fast, and low-cost. Most importantly, it provides meaningful information on tumour response during cancer treatment, allowing physicians to adapt their approach and providing patients with assurance that treatments are working.
Wave View Imaging improves the patient experience for those undergoing breast cancer treatment, aiming to provide both successful outcomes and peace of mind to individuals in the midst of treatment.