A smartphone app to cut emergency room waiting times and a new user-friendly menstrual cup solution are two award-winning ideas from students of McMaster University’s Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization program (BDC) program.

Ron Galaev, founder of EmergConnect and current BDC student, recently won $30,000 in Innovation Factory’s 2021 Lion’s Lair pitch competition for EmergConnect’s new app connecting patients to hospital emergency rooms (ERs). The Innovation Factory is a Hamilton-based business accelerator.

Christopher Juman, a recent master’s graduate of the BDC program, and his venture Dahlia won The Forge Startup Survivor Pitch Competition’s grand prize of $15,000 for a novel feminine hygiene product that combines the utility of a menstrual cup and with the familiar form of a tampon. Funded by McMaster, The Forge business incubator supports Hamilton-area start-ups.

EmergConnect aims to improve the patient experience while enhancing patient care and saving hospitals money by letting patients triage, register and get their individualized wait time while still at home before heading to the emergency department.

EmergConnect is approved for a pilot at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, William Osler Health System in Peel Region. St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton is also in the final stages of approvals with an EmergConnect pilot. The start-up has also attracted $350,000 in pre-seed funds.

“Everybody has a horror story with the ER, where they’re injured or in pain, told they’re going to wait 30 minutes but then they’re stuck in the waiting room for eight hours,” said Galaev in his Lion’s Lair pitch.

“At EmergConnect, we’ve created the first ever digital front door for same-day care that lets you register, triage and in future even wait at home before arriving at a hospital that’s ready to treat you, all while directing you to the care that best suits your needs.”

Galaev said his company had worked with hospitals “from day one,” to reduce risks, cut costs, improve patient experience and decrease physician workloads.

He said there is a huge potential market for his new app, including 1,200 Canadian and another 7,000 American ERs, many of whom struggle with long wait times.

“Our system aligns perfectly with Ontario Health’s current goals and commitment to digital health and virtual care,” said Galaev.

The Lions Lair competition is presented by the Innovation Factory in collaboration with the City of Hamilton’s Economic Development Office, and there were 15 teams who pitched their ideas during the 2021 competition.

Juman and his team are refining Dahlia’s new menstrual health product with hopes of having an initial product launch in the United Kingdom and eventually throughout North America.

“We believe that we have the perfect product at the perfect time,” said Juman in his pitch. “I believe that we can usher in a new era in menstrual health.”

“Many people who menstruate are cognizant of the cost and waste produced by traditional menstrual products such as pads and tampons. We’ve also found that many of those same people, although aware of menstrual cups, are apprehensive to try them due to a variety of prohibitive factors,” he said.

“Our goal was to address those prohibitive factors and develop a product that people who may or may not be familiar with cups can feel comfortable using.”

He added: “Our experience with the Forge Startup Survivor program has been incredibly valuable. We entered the competition looking to gain guidance on our first steps in launching our business while also hoping to gain some funds along the way.

“We never would have imagined how many skills we would develop, all the while having the opportunity to build connections with valuable mentors and other co-founders who have helped shape our business.

“Startup Survivor has helped catapult Dahlia forward and we are very grateful for this experience.”

The Forge competition is a four-month innovation program open to McMaster students and recent alumni, and this year’s competition had 10 finalists. 

For students with two years of previous university training, the BDC program offers a two-year bachelor plus a one-year master’s program which combines advance training in biomedical discovery with the fundamentals of business.

The program offered by the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences along with the DeGroote School of Business, includes a four to eight-month internship in the health sciences sector.



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