In February of this year, WIMTACH and Ortho Biomed successfully applied for a $150,000 grant sponsored by Health Canada that “seeks technological approaches in Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence to predict the success of possible donor-recipient matches and transplant outcomes to support evidence-based decision-making about organ donation and transplantation.” This was a great demonstration of collaborative success and advancement in the digital health industry. However, the partnership between WIMTACH and Ortho Biomed was long in the making.
Saeid Samiezadeh, CEO and Co-founder of Ortho Biomed (a Canadian company that develops new technologies for healthcare use by designing and developing orthopaedic implants, biomedical sensors, motion capturing for joints) first attended two WIMTACH hackathons in July and August of last year – first as a judge and then as a sponsor. Both times, he was impressed by the innovative solutions students came up. “They came up with a lot of novel solutions that I didn’t expect. In their classes, they’re taught all of these techniques and useful information and they (teachers) share their experience with students from class.”
Experiential learning and networking are two important cornerstones of WIMTACH’s mission. With over 400 students engaged with various activities, WIMTACH remains committed to enriching the student experience with industry experience that will reap long-term networking, job and skill development opportunities. Networking events for industry partners is an opportunity to see experiential learning up close, meet industry professionals and possibly collaborate with WIMTACH on applied research projects, as Samiezadeh did.
After the hackathons, he and his team corresponded over several months with several WIMTACH staff, including machine learning Research Associate Dr. Pouria Tavakkoli Avval.
“We realized that there was potential for collaboration between industry and academia. In particular, we can use the capacity in Centennial College from students and faculty. Then the question was, “Ok, what projects can we collaborate on?””
A proposal was put together with input from stakeholders, WIMTACH staff, the Ortho Biomed team as well as WIMTACH Principal Investigator Dr. Nick Sajadi, who provided the artificial intelligence expertise.
“When we realized there was such opportunity to address this [Health Canada] challenge, we had several meetings to let them frame the innovation and support the process. They (WIMTACH, Nick Sajadi) gathered the team to, while proposal writing, frame the problem, identify tools and data needed as well as project management.”
The success in February meant new innovations were under way. “It was a very important moment for our company because this was the first national project we did,” said Samiezadeh. Weekly meetings and discussions commenced immediately. However, the success in February also meant unexpected interruptions to the project schedule and team correspondence due to the pandemic in March causing a complete close of the Centennial College campus.
“Things changed because our plan was to have students from Centennial to work in a lab at WIMTACH. We had computers, we had all of these plans. Unfortunately, things changed. Our very first meetings in February to March were in-person. But after the College closure, things had to be online which was a challenge; we didn’t plan for this. We had some delays to the project and timeline. Health Canada was very flexible with us. Right now, students are working remotely. At the beginning, it was a huge challenge. But thanks to management teams, especially Dr. Sajadi, we are pulling through.”
The students have been particularly impressive on the project. In fact, the potential that Samiezadeh saw in the students at the previous hackathons “was part of the reason that Centennial was my first choice” for a partner for the Health Canada project. “It was as if we were working with engineers with years of industry experience. The faculty also provided “rich industry experience” that has made the project all the more innovative.
The project has so far position Ortho Biomed to realize other ideas that had potential. “…there were many other things we could do beyond what we proposed that would benefit the healthcare system. [The project] is not limited to kidneys anymore; our tools can be used for matchmaking other organs, which can increase the efficiency of connecting donor to recipient.”
Currently, the project is still underway. Samiezadeh’s advice to other companies that want to innovate is to do their research and develop a thorough understanding of what benefits they can reap from applied research.
“The company should look at the results of the projects that have been done successfully between other past companies and WIMTACH. I looked at those projects [on the website] and the results were really interesting to me. Those were the challenges that they were able to solve. From a company’s perspective, if you want to solve a challenge, it’s going to cost you a lot. You might know more people in industry who may not be experts in the field. But the good thing about WIMTACH is that when I approached them, it’s not one person or one expertise at Centennial. They are able to match you with the right person. The most important thing is the intellectual property (IP) issue. If you have an idea and you want to find solutions and develop a product, one of your concerns would be IP. One of the things working with Centennial is that they aren’t looking for IP based on their policies. It’s a win-win situation.”
Samiezadeh also recommends WIMTACH to other companies because the expertise and collaboration are beneficial in the short and long term:
They match you with the right people. They solve your challenge with the help of faculty and students. My experience was 100% positive and this is just the beginning of a long-term collaboration with Centennial for this project and future projects. And, they (companies) should attend WIMTACH hackathons, events and open houses. Students are very good, very eager. I certainly recommend collaboration between other companies and Centennial.”
To learn more about WIMTACH projects, visit our Projects page.
To inquire about a collaboration, visit our Contact us page.
WIMTACH proudly recognizes funding to support this work from Health Canada.