Startup wins pitch competition for cancer innovations

Friday, February 5, 2021

A startup company launched by researchers at Waterloo Engineering won $50,000 this week in a pitch competition for cancer innovations.

Air Microfluidic Systems was co-founded last year by Carolyn Ren, a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering, and one of her graduate students, PhD candidate Run Ze Gao.

Researchers at Waterloo Engineering have developed a compression sleeve to prevent lymphedema.

Researchers have developed a compression sleeve to prevent lymphedema.

Gao, CEO of the Waterloo-based company, delivered the winning pitch at the Falcons’ Fortune event staged by FACIT, a commercialization venture firm for cancer innovations in Ontario.

His presentation involved development of an active compression sleeve – enabled by air microfluidics – to prevent lymphedema, or severe pain and swelling of the arms and legs, caused by lymph node damage or removal during treatment for breast cancer.

'Cultivating emerging entrepreneurs'

Six entrepreneurs were picked as finalists to pitch their innovations at the eighth-annual event to a panel of experienced investors in the field.

“Cultivating emerging entrepreneurs and highlighting exciting startups and innovations, like the ones we recognize and celebrate today, are important milestones in the future impact on patients living with cancer,” Dr. David O’Neill, president of FACIT, said in a media release.

The sleek compression sleeve, which is controlled by a smartphone-sized wearable box, uses small air bladders to sequentially squeeze the arm from the wrist to shoulder to reduce swelling.

Ren is director of the Waterloo Microfluidics Laboratory, where Gao is working on his doctorate.