Computing scientist wins SFU’s top entrepreneur award
Maryam Sadeghi, founder of an award-winning health technology company, MetaOptima Technology Inc., is Simon Fraser University’s 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year.
Sadeghi was among 10 young SFU inventors who pitched their businesses in a Dragon’s Den-style competition, before a panel of industry experts, at SFU Surrey on the weekend.
Sadeghi also leads SFU’s new Digital Health Hub, based at SFU Surrey and aimed at accelerating health technologies developed by SFU students and researchers.
Sadeghi, who received a PhD in computing science in June, has received international recognition for her research that has led to significant breakthroughs in the computer-aided diagnosis of skin cancers, enabling them to be made earlier than previously possible.
“Up to 70 per cent of deadly skin cancers are initially detected by patients themselves or a family member who have never had access to professional imaging devices to spot the cancer early at a highly treatable stage,” explains Sadeghi. “My research is all about empowering patients with advanced technologies and innovative digital health solutions for early detection of skin cancer.”
She is developing related apps, including one called MoleScope, as a simple tool to give individuals the knowledge and ability to detect skin cancer in its early stages. She is working on a low-cost professional imaging device that people can use at home to image capture suspicious-looking moles for further analysis.
MetaOptima, created to further the development of these products, was recognized earlier this fall with an award at the 2013 BCIC Ventures competition. The company is currently an incubator client at SFU’s Venture Connection. Venture Connection, in partnership with Coast Capital Savings, provides entrepreneurship training services and opportunities for SFU students and recent alumni, and since 2008 has engaged over 3,100 students.
Sadeghi has also received numerous awards for her research, including the Gold award at the World Congress of Dermatology in Seoul, Korea, and the Silver Medal for ACM Student Research Competition from Microsoft Research and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI).
All 10 teams made it to the semi-finalist round following two rounds of preliminary judging. Four moved on to the final round to showcase their businesses in hopes of winning $3,000 in prize funding, a free registered trademark, media and video packages, mentoring sessions, and the prestigious title.
Enactus SFU, a student organization that leads numerous initiatives supporting student entrepreneurship, presents the competition annually. The judging panel for the SFU award is comprised of highly recognized individuals in the local business community and makes its choice based on a number of evaluation criteria, including team background, innovation of the product or service, competitive analysis, financial road map, and overall presentation.
Second place went to students Selena Bell and Cindy Cheng for Salv/Edge Bags, a company that turns old banners into bags and backpacks and works with underemployed women.
Simon Fraser University is consistently one of Canada's top-ranked comprehensive universities and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.
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