Navigating arteries faster, easier, and safer

When thinking about the important features of a camera, most people think about the number of megapixels rather than how well it can see through blood.

Mechanical engineering graduates Michael Phillips and Phillip Cooper co-founded Vena Medical to create an endoscope that provides a real-time navigational perspective for physicians through SWIRVE, an acronym for shortwave infrared vascular endoscope. The instrument will assist in making interventional procedures faster and easier for physicians and safer for patients.

Two men smiling.

Beginning as a Capstone Design project, Vena Medical soon grew into a startup that has raised more than $150,000 in grants, including AC JumpStart, which provided $60,000. Funded by FedDev Ontario and the University of Waterloo, AC JumpStart is delivered through the Accelerator Centre and provides early stage technology startups with the seed capital, mentorship, and market-readiness tools needed to build a business in today’s knowledge economy. Phillips and Cooper are hoping to raise more money through seed grants to leverage their success.

“We know physicians were struggling with being able to navigate through X-ray images and we want to create and market a solution,” says Phillips. “It’s incredibly difficult to see through blood using the current technologies that are available to physicians.”

In order to better understand how problematic navigation is in interventional procedures, Phillips and Cooper observed procedures at Victoria Hospital in London to witness these procedures firsthand.

Phillips’ father experienced the need for an endoscope with a real-time navigational perspective as a patient when he needed a clot removed from his calf. After undergoing surgery unsuccessfully the first time, he had to have a second surgery, which could have been avoided if the surgeons were able to see through the blood more clearly. Cooper’s father is an interventional radiologist who performs these procedures and suggested the idea.

Since Phillips’ and Cooper’s parents are doctors, they have a more advanced medical vocabulary than the average engineer and can have their medical questions answered quickly.

This fall, they’ll have the opportunity to attend the TMCx Accelerator, an incubator in Houston that provides pioneering health startups with the space and facilities to advance their health and medical technology companies.

“It’s hard on patients and physicians to have to perform and undergo multiple surgeries when they can be avoided,” says Phillips. “It’s also costly on the health care system to have to go back and do revisions. We want to create a solution that will benefit everyone.”