What would happen if tomorrow you woke up with numbness and tingling in your foot, a potential sign of a blocked artery? Or if you went to a hospital with only a 4-6 hour window to treat a blood clot. You would need to get an intravascular procedure, one of millions done every year in North America, where physicians operate inside an artery or vein, with potentially life changing consequences. Vena Medical aims to make these procedures faster, easier, and safer, and has developed a microcatheter to do it. They’re now fresh off a 1st place win from QEC, and $50,000 in funding,* to build on that vision and change the face of a new area in MedTech.

As two University of Waterloo graduates of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering, Co-founders Michael Phillips and Phillip Cooper started Vena Medical as a 4th year Capstone Design Project. They recognized that current treatment methods for intravascular procedures, which involve injecting an iodine dye into the veins of the patient and using an x-ray to see where the veins and arteries are, have health risks, and set out to build a better way to navigate veins and arteries during an operation.

To develop their venture, Vena Medical sought out Velocity Science a partnership with the Faculty of Science that offers lab space and mentorship to help students initiate a science startup. Since then, the team has won more than $200,000 in funding, including $10,000 at the Velocity Fund Finals. They are now based out of the Velocity Garage startup incubator, with big plans for the future. Last October, the team conducted their first successful animal study on a calf at TMCx, a MedTech accelerator in Texas, working with Dr. Billy Cohn at the Texas Medical Centre. Vena’s microcatheter was inserted into the femoral artery of the calf and went down the leg through the popliteal artery by the knee, allowing the team of scientists to see inside the artery. Vena Medical is now focused on shrinking the device down from 2mm (pictured above beside a dime), down to 1mm, which they aim to unveil this March, and which will allow physicians to operate on smaller veins and arteries throughout the body.

“My father had one of these procedures performed a couple years ago, and it didn’t go as planned. Had the physicians been able to use our device at the time, it would have gone off without a hitch. There’s more than 4 million patients each year in North America that have similar procedures done, and we have the potential to impact every single one of them.”
– Michael Phillips, Co-founder of Vena Medical

It may sound like futuristic science, but for patients who needs these intravascular procedures, this new device will mean fewer side effects, and open up new opportunities for treatment. Current treatment methods have a 7% incidence of kidney injury for patients with low kidney function, as a reaction to the harmful effects of the iodine dye and x-rays used in conventional treatment. For doctors, the device represents the potential for improved patient care and a shorter operation time.

Moving forward, Vena Medical intends to use the funding they’ve won at QEC and elsewhere to hire their first full-time employee, who will work towards establishing quality control, and meeting the standards of the FDA. Long-term, the team aims to continue to refine their microcatheter and integrate it into more physician tools so that the technology is accessible in 100% of intravascular procedures.

* Congratulations also to QEC winners and Velocity companies Borealis Wind (who won $25,000), and Helpwear (who won $5,000). Borealis Wind is developing a wind turbine de-icing solution, and Helpwear is developing a 24/7 wearable heart monitoring system.