Engineer of the Future Fund Recipient Stories

Vena Medical logo

How do you make an inherently dangerous but necessary medical procedure safer and more effective? This was the problem facing Michael Phillips and Phillip Cooper in their final year of their mechanical engineering studies. Knowing that each year in the US more than 4 million procedures are performed where physicians must navigate a patient’s blood vessels using X-rays and toxic dyes that pose long term risk to patients (and 7% experience serious kidney problems as a result), Michael and Phillip came up with a way to use embedded fiber optics with a forward-viewing navigational perspective. 

working on a project

By using visible light fiber optics and a saline flush to visualize inside of even the tiniest of blood vessels, physicians are now able to quickly navigate vasculature and bifurcations quickly and easily. The Vena Microcatheter also limits prolonged radiation as well as the toxic contrast dyes formerly used.  The next generation of the Vena Catheter will eliminate the use of the saline flush and use short-wave infrared optics that will clearly image through the blood.


Michael Phillips and Phillip CooperTeam Members
Michael Phillips, CEO - BASc Mechanical Engineering
Phillip Cooper, President - BASc Mechanical Engineering

Vena Medical, founded in 2016, is based in Waterloo, Ontario and has three employees. It has completed a high-fidelity prototype and are undertaking its first animal study at the Cardiovascular Research Lab of the Texas Heart Institute, while they attend the Houston-based Texas Medical Center Innovation accelerator program.  In November 2017, they opened their first seed round of $1.5 million USD. 

VivaSpire logo

Oxygen is critical to most forms of life on earth. When things go awry because of medical issues such chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, sleep apnea, cystic fibrosis, chronic asthma, pneumonia or heart disease, patients need supplementary oxygen. We’ve all seen people dragging around a cart holding heavy cartridge of oxygen just so they can breathe; it’s cumbersome and oxygen bottles take up significant space. To combat this, Viva Spire has developed a lightweight oxygen assist solution that is easily worn like a tiny back pack. Building on their proof of concept, with the help of their Engineer of the Future funding, VivaSpire, is refining their technology into a workable prototype.

working on a projectTheir goal is to create an easy-to-carry, unlimited oxygen, long battery life, tangle-free unit that allows patients to stay active while undergoing oxygen therapy. The portable oxygen market has significant competition, and the market is huge even beyond current patients – at least 647,000 Canadians have COPD, but are unwilling to carry the heavy oxygen machines, yet it’s ripe for technological innovation.

VivaSpire Team 

VivaSpire is on track to reach its goals of establishing 92% oxygen concentration via in-lab tests (up from 60% just a few months ago) and has won several significant funding pitch events over the last year.  It has also identified and verified other non-medical markets for its oxygen generator including amateur racing and home brewing (both industries that use oxygen injection). The team is thinking big (because that’s how global success is achieved) - VivaSpire could be used for underwater oxygen generation and perhaps one day supply oxygen to people living on Mars.

Team members
Chris Hajduk - BASc Nanotechnology Engineering
John Grousopoulos - BASc Nanotechnology Engineering