Class of 2013

In the second year of the OBI Entrepreneurs Program, the OBI partnered with the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) to provide funding for eight outstanding candidates.  In addition, all selected entrepreneurs received advice and support from our external network of experts and mentors, as well as a rich variety of training and networking opportunities.
Please see below for the short description of each entrepreneur and their project.

Hisham Alshaer

Hisham Alshaer is a medical doctor and biomedical engineer. During his PhD studies, he developed a innovative home diagnostic device for sleep apnea, ApneaDx

Q1/2 progressHisham has successfully completed a prototype of his sleep apnea device, ApneaDx, and has developed a method to detect a patient’s stage of sleep based on breath sound patterns.  The presentation of his research findings at the 2014 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (ICASSP) will be published as part of the IEEE proceedings, and he has also started business development activities to break into international markets.  The next steps for iDAPT Somno Inc. will include the completion of a multi-center clinical trial with support from MaRS EXCITE and the development of a paediatric version of the device.  Hisham is mentored by Mark Steedman, VP Business Development at Interface Biologics.

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iDAPT Somno is a UHN and MaRS Innovation spin-off company. Our disruptive technology is a highly accurate, self-contained, low-cost monitor for sleep apnea diagnosis. It is designed for independent and easy use by patients in the comfort of their home. We have started manufacturing and anticipate receiving the first few hundred devices by fall 2013.  
Website coming soon

Bardia Bina

Bardia is exploring the educational and surgical applications of Augmented Reality in neuroscience and neurosurgery.  Augmented Reality provides users with an enriched view of the real world environment where relevant information and virtual objects are superimposed onto what the user sees on a monitor or a head mounted display.  Bardia started out his career as an aerospace engineer and later specialized in human-machine interface and display design. 

Q1/2 progress: Bardia has finished a demo prototype of his augmented reality display system and is currently testing it for further refinement.  He is in the process of conducting additional market research and assessment and developing his business model.  His future projects will include software and application activities as well as exploring incorporation of his display into smart glasses technology.  Bardia is mentored by Ranil Sonnadara, Behavioural Neuroscientist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at McMaster University.

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His new company, Interaptix, is a Toronto based startup specializing in the design and development of innovative Augmented Reality display systems as a tool for visualizing information in a more intuitive and effective way. 

Interaptix website

Natasha D'Souza

Natasha D'Souza, M.Eng. is founder and CEO of Virtual EyeSee a technology solutions and consulting company. She has 15 years of experience with various technology companies, non-profit organizations and startups. After building leading edge solutions for her clients she is now combining her creativity, analytic skills and knack for building successful teams to develop mobile solutions for children with special needs.

She is a regular guest speaker who is passionate about technology and inspiring people to develop unique solutions to complex problems.

Q1/2 progress: Natasha has launched the first module of a virtual therapy system for children with special needs based on existing research and the need for services for children and their families. The current module is for organizations and schools that offer services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum and Traumatic Brain Injury. It is available on iTunes. Natasha applied and successfully completed the Lead To Win program in Ottawa and is now part of the Global Start program.  Her next steps will be to launch a Multilanguage version of her system and engage with researchers and clinicians for future trial collaborations.  Her mentor is Steven Muegge, Assistant Professor Technology Innovation Management, Carleton University. 

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Zeely Adventures is an innovative app for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Aspergers Syndrome or ADHD.  Children are motivated by the engaging game-based approach to recognize and interpret facial expressions.  Parents, educators and professionals appreciate the consistent reporting and data collection.  Zeely Adventures is an fun and affordable way to complement the traditional therapy experience. 

Virtual EyeSee websiteZeely Adventures


Abraham Heifets

Abraham Heifets is the CEO of Chematria, a new company that seeks to make drug development radically faster and cheaper using the power of high-performance computing and sophisticated statistical modeling.  Abraham is also a Massey Fellow at the University of Toronto, where his doctoral work uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help plan organic syntheses, a long-standing challenge in chemistry.  Previously, Abraham researched high-performance XML data processing at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center and contributed to the world-champion robotic soccer team of Cornell University, from which he holds two previous degrees.  Abraham has presented his work at the National Institutes of Health, the American Chemical Society, and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.  He is an author on 19 papers, patents, and patent applications. 

Q1/2 progress:  Abraham has completed and is currently testing an alpha prototype for his virtual high-throughput drug screening platform.  He has established an excellent Scientific Advisory Board for Chematria, which includes Brain Schoichet, a researcher in molecular docking, and Ruslan Salakhutdinov, an expert in the approach used in their technology.  Abraham has also filed for a US provisional patent on their technology.  Next steps include further refinement of machine learning algorithms for the screening platform and identifying service providers that could perform wet lab experiments to support computer predictions.  Abraham is mentored by Richard McAloney, Director of Technology Management for the BioOptics Program at the University of Toronto and Cynthia Goh, Entrepreneur and Director of the Impact Centre, University of Toronto.

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Chematria makes drug discovery more efficient by computationally predicting small molecule binding.  They currently focus on drug repurposing, with additional applications in toxicity prediction and early-stage lead discovery.  Chematria's large databases, advanced machine learning, and powerful computers help solve some of the problems that have confounded this kind of prediction before, such as solvation effects and ligand flexibility.  In particular, Chematria's models are built on the most powerful supercomputer in Canada. 

Chematria website

Jack Lee

Jack completed his Master’s degree from the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Western Ontario, in Skin Cancer research. With a scholarship from the Stiller Centre, Jack joined the London Movement Disorders Centre in September 2012 as a clinical research associate and business developer in accelerating the commercialization process, supervised by Dr. Mandar Jog. His current main project is looking at treating patients suffering from tremor. Having successfully secured the OBI-OCE Entrepreneur scholarship, Jack is working towards finding additional funding and collaborating with industry partners. 

Q1/2 progress:  Jack has obtained Health Canada approval for TremorTek, a class II medical device which aims to reduce the severity of tremor in patients diagnosed with Essential Tremors and Parkinson's Disease.  His team is in the process of training physicians and other health care professionals in its use and their next steps will be to start clinical trials with their device in the late fall.  MDDT Inc. has received over $200K in funding and Jack is mentored by Deniz Temelli, Business Analyst at TechAlliance and Nick Hoffman, Serial Entrepreneur.

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At MDDT, Jack is helping to make the treatment for tremor more accessible to the public and away from the research setting by getting the technology to the next stage though his collaboration with health regulators in not only Canada, but United States and in Europe. 

MDDT website


Amir Manbachi

Amir Manbachi is a Bioengineer and PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto, where he also obtained his degrees in Engineering Science (2008), as well as MASc in Biomedical Engineering (2010). While an undergraduate, he interned in Harvard Medical School which resulted in a number of scientific publications. He also carries the experience of international industrial internships. Last summer he interned with Stryker Navigation’s R&D headquarter in Germany. Stryker is one of the top five global medical corporations designing, marketing and selling surgical navigation products. Over the last three years, he has been actively teaching Medical Imaging and mentoring Engineering students for which he made it to the 12 shortlisted candidates (out of 192 nominated) for the UToronto's TATP Teaching Excellence Award in 2013.

For his PhD thesis, he is focusing on design and fabrication of an image-guided surgical navigation. Consisting of a sensor on the end of a surgical drill kit, the device uses ultrasound technology to give surgeons a clearer picture during delicate operations where screws are inserted into the spine. The technology could prevent navigational errors, decrease training time and significantly reduce the rate of revision surgeries.

Q1/2 progress: In collaboration with the Device Development lab at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Amir has completed the development of three PedicProbeTM prototypes, a device that allows visualization of screw positioning during insertion into the spine and one design prototype.  With their partner CIMTEC, they have been testing their prototype in bone phantoms to prepare for an improved beta version.  Spinesonics Inc. has also completed the filing of three international patents for their technology and have received over $250,000 in funding from a number of sources including OCE, MaRS Innovation, and NSERC. Amir is being mentored by Richard McAloney, Director of Technology Management for the BioOptics Program at the University of Toronto and Cynthia Goh, Entrepreneur and Director of the Impact Centre.

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With the help of his supervisors, Dr. Howard Ginsberg and Dr. Richard Cobbold, his efforts have resulted in receiving a $50k grant from Ontario Centres of Excellence for commercialization of this technology. In addition, Amir is the recipient of The Ontario Brain Institute and Ontario Centres of Excellence 2013 Entrepreneurial Fellowship ($50k) for commercialization of his technology, called Pedicprobe and his recently incorporated company is named “Spinesonics Medical Inc.”. 

Spinesonics Medical website

Joost Schulte

As Co-founder of Oxalys Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Dr. Joost Schulte is developing novel therapeutics for Huntington’s Disease. Dr. Schulte holds a PhD in neuroscience from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and completed his postdoctoral work at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Q1/2 progress: Oxalys Pharmaceuticals develops novel therapeutic molecules for neurodegenerative diseases, and their Huntington’s Disease therapeutic has been recently given FDA orphan drug designation.  Joost has attended the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) conference as part of the OBI’s NeuroTech delegation two years running, and pitched at 48 hours in the hub in Boston and MaRS Healthkick.  He has advanced his patents to nationalization phase and will continue to identify and engage potential corporate partners and investors. Joost is mentored by Rick Bozzato, Senior Advisor Health at MaRS.

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Oxalys is developing small molecule therapeutics for the treatment of Huntington’s disease

Oxalys website

Peter Siegler

Dr. Siegler has a PhD in Physics from the Heidelberg University, Germany. He is an expert in medical imaging with a focus in magnetic resonance and tomographic imaging. He has previously established the technique of supine breast magnetic resonance imaging at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto and has worked as a Research Scientist at a successful medical device company. Dr. Siegler’s area of expertise focuses on medical imaging including both software algorithm development and hardware design.

Q1/2 progress: Peter has developed four prototypes and has completed preliminary in vivo studies which demonstrated the successful navigation of five cranial surgical procedures.  They will continue working on device optimization and further in vivo testing while filing for IP of their technology.  7D Surgical has received Series A financing which they will use to take their technology to the point of market entry.  Peter is mentored by Mark Steedman, VP Business Development at Interface Biologics.

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Surgical navigation enables surgeons to localize the position of surgical instruments relative to the human body without having full visual access during surgery. A remaining problem for navigation of needle biopsies is the possible bending of the needle by the tissue during insertion. The new developed technique accurately detects the bending of the needle and its spatial position during insertion in the tissue. This innovation provides detailed information to the surgeon such that they can accurately guide the biopsy needle to the correct location in the tissue. 

7D Surgical website