SFU research integrates with community to help drive Innovation Boulevard

October 20, 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 and into the community as part of SFU’s contribution to Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard initiative.

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 Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, who came to 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 SFU’s 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,” adds D’Arcy.

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 partnership is enabling researchers, together with health providers, residents and their families, to 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 alongside 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.

Meanwhile at SFU’s Surrey campus, research teams are also at work developing health-related computing products through the Digital Health Hub. The Health Tech Innovation Foundation is the most recent space to open, focusing on bringing 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,” said President Andrew Petter.

Steve Dooley, executive director of SFU’s 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.”

Since its launch, notes D’Arcy, “Innovation Boulevard 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.”

Adds D’Arcy: “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

SFU researchers embedded in the community represent an interdisciplinary group of faculty and students:

Dr. Carolyn Sparrey in the School of Mechatronics Systems Engineering (MSE) creates 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.

Dr. Siamak Arzanpour, 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.

Director of SFU’s Digital Health Hub Dr. Maryam Sadeghi, CEO of MetaOptima Technology, has developed a computerized skin cancer and wound measurement system. The system allows clinicians to evaluate and develop a treatment plan for wound patients remotely in order to save valuable time and resources.

Engineering scientist Dr. 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.

Dr. 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.

Dr. 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 to develop interventions and engineering approaches to preventing fall-related injuries.

Dr. Ryan D’Arcy’s portable device that measures brain vital signs is intended to revolutionize treatment in concussion, other brain injuries and diseases like dementia. These point-of-care enabled devices are planned to monitor brain waves much like a home blood pressure cuff, to make it possible to quickly and easily evaluate changes in brain function.

As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement.  SFU was founded almost 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is a leader amongst Canada's comprehensive research universities and is ranked one of the top universities in the world under 50 years of age. With campuses in British Columbia's three largest cities—Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby—SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 30,000 students, and boasts more than 130,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world.

Marianne Meadahl, University Communications, 778.782.9017, 604.209.5770; Marianne_Meadahl@sfu.ca
Karen Lee, Faculty/Applied Sciences comm. manager, 778.782.8923, 604.649.9888; k_lee@sfu.ca


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

Photos: http://at.sfu.ca/LTEJnY