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Is Med Tech In Atlantic Canada Underrated?

Despite the impressive growth of startups in Atlantic Canada, I feel people don’t fully appreciate the quality of innovation now taking place in medical technology in the region.

I’m a panel reviewer on several national commercialization programs, including  the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Proof of Principle, Business-led Centres of Excellence, and the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization. So I’m routinely exposed to promising Canadian technologies and commercialization initiatives in the medical technology sector. From this perspective, I believe our region underestimates the potential of the medical technology sector here.

There are successful and emerging medical technology companies across Canada and particular clusters of world-class expertise in certain areas. (Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, with its imaging technologies leaps to mind.)  And certainly Halifax’s med tech cluster – the most active centre for this industry in Atlantic Canada — is still very young in its evolution.

But the innovation here is unmistakable – a market pull model in which clinicians themselves are seeking solutions to challenges in their practices. In my opinion, the key to our med tech sector in Halifax is our innovative, engaged and entrepreneurial doctors. We have surgeons, anesthetists, and interventionalists all with an eye to innovation, a growing portfolio of patent filings and a desire to see their technologies become commercial products.

A strength sometimes overlooked in our region is the driving force of doctors searching for solutions to challenges in procedures they perform daily. Think of Dr. Manohar Bance actively seeking improved imaging for the ear, a tangible diagnostic tool for his ENT practice. Or Dr. Michael Dunbar innovating objective measures for triaging patients waiting for joint replacement surgeries.  And Dr. Bob Abraham partnering for safer and visible embolic agents.

Halifax also hosts talented engineers and material scientists who are keen to tackle these medical engineering challenges. I have the privilege of working at the intersect of innovators and engineers, watching such synergies take hold: ABK Biomedical Inc., DeCell Technologies Inc., OrthoMX Inc. and EnginuityMed Inc. to name a few.  The current Entrevestor Survey will provide a comprehensive Atlantic-wide listing of med tech assets.

What do these med tech companies and others bring to Halifax and Atlantic Canada?  The obvious is new clinical trials, new development programs and more HQPs as the companies grow. But more tantalizing is the promise of innovation in diagnostic imaging, orthopaedic pre and post rehabilitation, embolic therapies, chronic wound healing and safer IV systems in the operating room.  Excited yet?


Barbara M. Campbell is the principal of Hammock Facilitation Inc., a Halifax consultancy that brings business development services to life sciences companies.