Two Northern Ontario teams selected to receive funding from Vale COVID-19 Challenge

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Two Canadian solutions are among the eleven winners of the Vale COVID-19 Challenge, a competition collectively offering up to $1 million USD to help solutions developed by companies, institutions, or professionals, go to market.

Nearly 1,800 solutions were submitted to the challenge globally, of which over 300 came from Canada. Startup FloSonics Medical and robotics team First Team 1305, both based in Northern Ontario, were selected as funding recipients.

The challenge sought solutions that could be deployed within 15 days of the approval date.

The challenge was launched in Canada, and solutions were reviewed by a select group of employees from Vale Base Metals, which operates in 10 countries, as well as external partners and supporters. Some of the Canadian partners included Norcat, MaRS Discovery District, Telus Health, and the University Health Network.

The competition sought low to zero-cost solutions that could be deployed to the end-user within 15 days of their approval date. The challenge was open to a variety of solutions, including those addressing risk management and prevention, patient monitoring, health process improvements, and logistics, among others.

“The participation on this initiative was incredible … and is a great example of how open innovation can bring people together globally as partners in finding innovative solutions to critical problems,” said Afzal Jessa, chief digital officer of Vale Base Metals.

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FloSonics Medical is a venture-backed startup based in Sudbury, Ontario, that develops and commercializes wearable sensors aimed to improve the management of critically ill patients both inside and outside of the hospital.

To help during the current pandemic, FloSonics developed a wearable, wireless, single-use monitor, which allows clinicians to access critical information about a COVID-19 patient’s cardiovascular state remotely via Bluetooth. The funds received from Vale will help FloSonics increase the capacity to produce and deliver these devices which have already been cleared for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration.

“FloSonics is pleased to partner with Vale in this important initiative,” said Joe Eibl, CEO of FloSonics Medical. “Our aim with this solution is to facilitate monitoring where resources are limited, and to help support clinical decisions to improve patient outcomes.”

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First Team 1305, a group of high school robotics students from North Bay, Ont., created a do-it-yourself ultra-violet (UV) sterilizer that cleans personal protective equipment. The team currently has two prototypes being used at the North Bay Regional Health Centre in its emergency department and intensive care unit.

The funds from the challenge will allow the team to keep developing these prototypes and build an open-source model to be shared globally. First Team 1305 also plans to purchase materials to build 50 units to donate to local hospitals and medical centers.

“The funds provided by Vale for the UV Sterilizer Project will have a positive impact on the people at risk of COVID-19 in our community and will help others to make a difference in their community as well,” said Fionna Truong, a First Team 1305 student.

“The safety equipment and masks are key in keeping our first responders and those at risk safe. By being able to sterilize and reuse masks we will be able to continue protecting our community, and with the help from Vale, others will now be able to help their community,” Truong added.

Image source Unsplash. Photo by Avel Chuklanov.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Writer, globetrotter, drone pilot & David Attenborough enthusiast