(from left to right) Dr. John Matheson, Medical Innovation Fellow, Western University; Dr. Mohammad Ali Tavallaei, Medical Innovation Fellow, Western University; Jeff Courtney, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO), FACIT; Dr. Nicholas Power, Lawson researcher; and Dr. Asha Parekh, Medical Innovation Fellow, Western University.
Do you have what it takes to pitch an invention or idea on a show like Dragons’ Den? Dr. Nicholas Power, a researcher at Lawson Health Research Institute and urologic oncologist at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), recently put his skills to the test by competing and succeeding in a similar pitch competition called the FACIT Falcons’ Fortunes event.
The Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust (FACIT) holds this annual competition to award funding for innovative cancer research projects while promoting a culture of commercialization in Ontario. Researchers are given ten minutes to pitch their idea to a four-member panel called the ‘Falcons’ and convince them of their project’s value.
Dr. Power and his team were awarded the 2016 competition’s Ernsting Entrepreneurship Award for their ‘MY-osto-ME’ project pitch. Worth $50,000, the award is named after the late Dr. Mark Ernsting who was a Senior Biomedical Engineer at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR). Dr. Power competed against five other teams for the award.
The ‘MY-osto-ME’ project aims to improve the quality of life for patients who require the use of a stoma. A stoma is an artificial opening of the bowel or urinary system that is attached to the skin of the abdomen. Stomas are used with a collection system in order to divert urine or bowel content in those patients, such as those with bladder cancer, where natural drainage is not possible.
“Patients that use the current collection system often encounter many problems after surgery,” said Dr. Power, who is also an assistant professor in the Departments of Urology and Surgery at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University. “Many times, even after the surgery has healed, patients are left with a collection system that does not fit properly, leaks, is difficult to use and causes skin irritation.”
To address these issues, Dr. Power has developed the ‘MY-osto-ME’ project which consists of a new and improved economical port, bag and belt system. The goal of the project is to not only reduce complications of the current collection system, but also the social stigma associated with the use of a stoma.
“My inspiration for the project is one of my patients. Unfortunately, she encountered many problems with her collection device and charged me with the task of coming up with a better solution,” said Dr. Power. “The FACIT Falcons’ Fortunes competition was a perfect venue to not only see if the idea was viable, but also to get some much needed seed funding to build a prototype.”
This was Dr. Power’s second year participating in the FACIT Falcons’ Fortunes event. While he was not awarded in last year’s competition, Dr. Power used the experience to improve this year’s pitch. He also recruited the help of Western University’s 2015-16 Medical Innovation Fellows: Drs. Mohammad Ali Tavallaei, John Matheson and Asha Parekh. Working together, the team developed a pitch that won them the Ernsting Entrepreneurship Award as well as the event’s Audience Choice Award.
“The recognition was particularly special and moving for me,” said Dr. Power. “I was not aware that Dr. Ernsting’s family was in the audience, but they approached me afterwards to thank me for embodying the spirit that Dr. Ernsting had inspired and championed through his work at OICR.”