Maryam Sadeghi, director of SFU's Digital Health Hub at Innovation Boulevard.


SFU research integrates with community to help drive Innovation Boulevard

October 23, 2014

Health technology research at Simon Fraser University—from concussion and skin cancer analysis to preventing falls and treating spinal injuries—is streaming from the campus into the community as part of SFU’s contribution to Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard initiative.

SFU a founding partner

Innovation Boulevard was launched 18 months ago as a partnership between the City, Fraser Health, Surrey Memorial Hospital, and SFU and other post-secondary institutions. As a founding partner, SFU is a key contributor to its goal of improving health care through accelerating innovation in medical devices, independent living and digital health.

Innovation Boulevard is a one-square-mile area between SFU’s Surrey campus and the Surrey Memorial Hospital, where more than 180 health service companies and 45 health technology companies are conducting business.

“SFU is an absolute driver in Innovation Boulevard, as a founding member and by taking its labs and putting them into hospitals, care homes and environments where these technologies are needed most,” says Professor Ryan D’Arcy, who joined SFU in 2013 as the Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation BC Leadership Chair in Multimodal Technology for Healthcare Innovation. His role is to establish a leading-edge research program at the Surrey campus in close collaboration with the Fraser Health Authority.

“And as an active participant, we’re translating what we do in a university to things that can benefit us all in health care—and impact some of our biggest health-related challenges,” he says.

New research facility

In June, half a dozen researchers from SFU and other universities began integrating into a spacious new research facility at Retirement Concepts’ Guildford Seniors Village in Surrey.

The researchers, together with health providers, residents and their families, will work alongside each other to test, refine and implement leading-edge products and services related to healthy aging.

SFU researchers also have a presence in the Neurotech Lab, which opened last December on the grounds of Surrey Memorial Hospital. Students are working with researchers and clinicians in the hospital’s teaching labs—helping to bring patient care full circle by investigating and developing potential new technology health outcomes.

At the Surrey campus research teams are developing health-related computing products through the Digital Health Hub.

The Health Tech Innovation Foundation is the most recent space to open. It brings together innovators, clinicians and businesses to get products to market. Future plans include medical imaging and hospital-embedded prototyping facilities to validate devices for clinical use.

“Simon Fraser University’s participation in Innovation Boulevard will enlarge our research presence in the community, helping to advance health care in the region, consistent with our vision as Canada’s Engaged University,” says President Andrew Petter.

Steve Dooley, executive director of the Surrey campus, says it’s gratifying to see SFU research woven into the community.

“In Surrey, in particular, this highlights the strong community connections that are evolving among the many partners, all towards the common goal of tackling the most pressing health issues.”

D’Arcy notes that Innovation Boulevard, since its launch, “has moved quickly beyond the concept to enthusiastic hands-on participation by all players, and the promise that good things will be coming from this, whether it’s innovations, industry partnerships, and even jobs.”

He adds, “By demonstrating what we do well, SFU researchers are making a major contribution to Innovation Boulevard’s success, and not only for Surrey, but as a model for others as well.”

SFU VP Research Joy Johnson says SFU is committed to advancing the high tech health field through its interdisciplinary approach to research, which will continue to serve as an important piece of this community-driven initiative.

“This is another great example of SFU research in action,” she says. “Innovation Boulevard is creating a world-class high-tech cluster in the heart of Surrey, and we are proud to play a key role in achieving its vision.”

Examples of SFU community-embedded research

Professor Carolyn Sparrey, in the School of Mechatronics Systems Engineering (MSE), is creating new ways to evaluate spinal cord injuries, including specialized testing equipment that simulates accident conditions and specific injuries. The results are compared with MRI scans to refine diagnostic methods and improve treatment in individual patients.

Professor Siamak Arzanpour of MSE and MobiSafe Inc., an SFU spin-off company are developing comprehensive and affordable injury protection airbag systems for users of mobility assistive devices such as wheelchairs and scooters.

Maryam Sadeghi, director of SFU’s Digital Health Hub and CEO of MetaOptima Technology, has developed a computerized skin cancer and wound measurement system. Clinicians can use the system to remotely evaluate and develop a treatment plan for wound patients in order to save valuable time and resources.

Engineering professor Carlo Menon’s wearable assistive devices are used to rehabilitate patients recovering from stroke and other acquired brain injuries. They include inexpensive exoskeletons to assist with re-enabling movement to help speed up recovery.

Professor Andrew Sixsmith, of the Department of Gerontology, is exploring how a new type of technology called ambient assistive living can be used to promote active and healthy aging, particularly among people with mild cognitive impairment, who may need additional help and support.

Professor Steve Robinovitch, of the Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, uses digital video cameras to collect and analyze video footage of real-life falls among older adults in common areas. His team hopes to determine why falls occur, and to develop interventions and engineering approaches to preventing fall-related injuries.

Engineering science and computing science professor Ryan D’Arcy’s portable device for measuring the brain’s vital signs is intended to revolutionize treatment in concussion, other brain injuries and diseases like dementia. These point-of-care enabled devices are designed to monitor brain waves, much like a home blood-pressure cuff does, to make it possible to quickly and easily evaluate changes in brain function.