With a focus on promoting brain health, the OBI ONtrepreneurs Program was established in 2012 to provide early-stage entrepreneurs an opportunity to bring their ingenious neurotech ideas to life. The program offers an investment of $50,000 as well as 12-months of training opportunities, one-on-one mentorship and commercialization support to help entrepreneurs build neurotech companies.
Currently in our ninth year, we are proud to introduce our latest cohort of 2020 ONtrepreneurs – recipients of Canada’s single largest award for early-stage neurotech entrepreneurs.
Meet OBI’s 2020 ONtrepreneurs – learn about their personal stories, passions and the neurotech they’re working on.
Hello Mathew, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hello, I’m Matthew Rosato, President & Founder at PROVA Innovations Ltd. – a former aerospace engineer and business executive prior to making a career shift with the goal of supporting my son with cerebral palsy.
What are you working on?
PROVA Innovations is developing a suite of smart wearables that aid in motor control and neurorehabilitation for children and adults with limited mobility due to a brain injury or neurological disorder
What was the motivation behind starting PROVA Innovations Ltd.?
My son was born with cerebral palsy, and during his scheduled physical therapy sessions I would watch him make significant gains with his mobility and gait pattern. When we returned home, I immediately noticed that without the oversight from the therapist, my son would revert to old habits.
As an aerospace engineer and business executive prior to becoming a full-time caregiver for my child, I decided to transfer these skills to creating a wearable shoe cover with the ability to measure foot position and deliver bio-feedback through the foot’s sole.
The product is positioned to ultimately give my son, and thousands of others with cerebral palsy and other motor impairments, the ability to take the lessons they learn in physical therapy and make sure they are employed in day-to-day life.
What does it mean to you to be an OBI ONtrepreneur?
I am extremely excited to be a part of OBI’s 2020 ONtrepreneurs program. This is a tremendous opportunity for our company to gain awareness and to build meaningful relationships through OBI’s large network of experts.
I wanted to make life easier for my child, and I was in a unique position to use my professional expertise to make that happen. Launching PROVA Innovations Ltd. has allowed me to merge the first-hand experience with my son and my engineering background, but what I was lacking was the expertise in neurology and life sciences to make sure we were on the right track. The partnership, training and mentoring from OBI will have a profound impact on our businesses’ trajectory.
Hello Chris, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi, I’m Chris Ahuja, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at Inteligex. I’m currently completing my residency training in Neurosurgery at the University of Toronto, and as a member of the Surgeon-Scientist Training Program, I specialise in developing translationally relevant bioengineering human stem cell therapies for spinal cord injury.
What are you building?
Inteligex is a healthcare company focused on developing neural stem cell (NSC)-based therapies for currently untreatable brain and spinal cord diseases. We use innovative techniques to bioengineer human NSCs to break past regenerative barriers and allow patients to gain back lost functions.
What is unique about your technology?
We have combined several decades of leading-edge research in neuroscience, neurosurgery, and stem cell biology to create bioengineered NSC products. These unique NSC therapies are specifically designed to overcome the biologic barriers that limit conventional stem cell therapies in the brain and spinal cord.
What does it mean to be an OBI ONtrepreneur?
The OBI ONtrepreneurs program serves as a link to a phenomenal network of innovators, field leaders, and patient advocates. The training and mentorship will allow us to further develop key entrepreneurial skills in order to better communicate our vision, develop sound financial planning and cultivate strong leadership skills to prepare for our organization to expand.
OBI has an outstanding track record of supporting meaningful advances in neuroscience. Being a part of the OBI ecosystem extends our reach and provides a well-recognized acknowledgement of the potential impact of our therapeutics.
Hello Iana, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi, I’m Iana Dogel, Vice President of Business Development and Co-founder at TeleMag Health Solutions and a PhD and MBA with a focus on technology commercialization.
What are you working on?
We are developing a portable repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) device – a non-invasive form of brain stimulation to treat depression. Our portable rTMS device is very similar to the clinical rTMS machines, but the difference is that our machine does not need to be operated in a specialized clinic.
It consists of two key components. The first component is a portable power supply that can be put in a medium-size suitcase and wheeled from place to place, or from one patient’s home to another. The second component is an rTMS helmet with stimulator coil that can easily be fixed on the patient’s head without a bulky supportive mechanism. The coil sends magnetic field pulses to a specific area of the patient’s brain responsible for depression.
What’s novel about your product?
There are other ways to address depression, but not all of them work perfectly and some can make things even worse. rTMS, on the other hand, is highly effective especially for so-called difficult cases (treatment-resistant depression) and has very minor side effects. Even though there are clinics that can administer rTMS treatment, many patients cannot access the treatment because of its cost and the inaccessibility of the clinics. Our portable rTMS device is very similar to the clinical rTMS but does not need to be operated in a specialized clinic.
What does it mean to be an ONtrepreneur?
The Ontario Brain Institute has a history of supporting high-growth, high-potential companies and I am thrilled to be one of the entrepreneurs awarded this year’s funding.
Our company is at the beginning of its growth and we need the mentorship and leadership offered through this initiative to help us navigate a path to success. Together, with the other two founders of TeleMag Health Solutions, we welcome the guidance and training that the ONtrepreneurs initiative offers; having established my own consulting company, I know very well that having the right training at the right time can make the difference between just a good idea, and a good idea coming to life.
Hello Rozhin, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hello, I’m Rozhin, Co-Founder at CerebTalk Inc. and a PhD in biomedical engineering – My passion for engineering and using my skills to find everyday solutions is what brings me here today.
What are you working on?
We are developing a brain-computer interface (BCI), specifically for people with severe motor impairments enabling our users to control electronic devices including laptops and smartphones.
This interface is meant to support individuals who have lost their speaking and writing abilities. Our solution gives them an alternative way of communication by reading their brain signals.
Can you tell us a bit more on how your product works?
Users need to wear a headset that measures their brain activity and sends the data to a computer or a smartphone. Then, using our application, which can be installed on any smart device, users can select elements on the screen by simply gazing at them. This is achieved by modifying the user interface of the device and by analyzing the brain activity in real-time using artificial intelligence.
The range of commands that our product supports includes but not limited to sending a message, searching the web, controlling a virtual assistant (e.g., Alexa), and selecting a movie on Netflix.
What does it mean to be an ONtrepreneur?
We are so thrilled and incredibly grateful to have been chosen as one of the recipients of the Ontario Brain Institute’s ONtrepreneurs award.
Our goal is to provide an alternative communication channel for those who have lost their ability to communicate in conventional ways. These include disorders and conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy, brain and spinal cord injury, stroke, and non-verbal autism and more.
Our audience also includes healthcare professionals who help these individuals find the right assistive technologies. Thanks to OBI, we will have access to a network of talented advisors and mentors, and the funding will help us build a viable product and conduct clinical studies for further evaluation – all moving us more quickly on the path to getting this communication support into the hands of people who need it the most.
Ontario ranks in the top five globally for science productivity and is home to over 800 neuroscientists – one of the highest concentrations of professionals in the world. The OBI ONtrepreneurs Program has played a key role in advancing the province’s standing as a leader in neurotechnology development with a total of $2.85M in funding given out since the inception of the program. Currently, OBI has 81 neurotech companies in its growing portfolio through ONtrepreneurs and NERD Programs.
More information on the individual OBI ONtrepreneurs award recipients can be found here.