Montreal entrepreneur behind medical smartwatch lands Mitacs Award

The Montreal-based entrepreneur behind a unique medical smartwatch is receiving the Mitacs Social Entrepreneur Award.

Azadeh Dastmalchi, a current PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Ottawa, developed a medical-grade smartwatch. Dastmalchi calls it the first of its kind to continuously measure all five vital signs and provide cardiac monitoring in one device — to serve as an early stage COVID-19 prediction and monitoring solution.

“We originally came up with the idea to combine biosensors and artificial intelligence to monitor blood pressure from the wrist, but we quickly discovered that our approach lent itself well to measuring other vital signs as well,” said Dastmalchi. 

Mitacs is the national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions.

Clinical trials planned for 2021 and 2022 will aim to validate the device for FDA and Health Canada certification. This will both be for remote monitoring of patients at home and post-surgical monitoring.

It appears that the smartwatch was first designed to monitor the one in three adults suffering from high blood pressure in North America. However, the company pivoted to assist with COVID-19 symptom monitoring as well.

“Due to the pandemic, seniors in long-term care facilities are suffering, and to stay safe, they need to monitor their vital signs daily, which is a very difficult and time-consuming task,” said Dastmalchi. “Our device is tailor-made to help.”

Due to its ability to track bio-signals in an easy-to-wear form, VitalTracer’s smartwatch can provide real-time monitoring of flu-like symptoms such as heart rate, fever, cough and increased sleep so that any COVID-19 cases can be detected early and effectively isolated. At the same time, the smartwatch can provide monitoring of hypotension, low blood oxygen saturation and recurring fever to proactively monitor long-term care residents who test positive as a way to enhance their care and improve outcomes.

VitalTracer expects to have a COVID-19 version of its product ready for Canadian researchers to use in long-term care settings by the end of this summer, including a version that can be worn like a patch by people who suffer from dementia.

Dastmalchi is one of five winners of the Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards.

“The global pandemic highlights more than ever how important it is to recognize and support local innovation and Mitacs is extremely proud of the continued creativity and ingenuity shown by our network of young entrepreneurs,” said Mitacs CEO John Hepburn. “Not only will their inventions ultimately help Canada to recover from this crisis, but with continued investment in talent, research and development, they will ensure we keep our spot in the global innovation economy.”

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