Small thinking

A doctor's itch to follow through on a simple idea leads to a better needle tip

Dr. Michael Fernando and Joe Kerr. The duo formed Fernando Kerr Design to produce and patent a new sheathed needle tip HOW DO MEDICAL breakthroughs happen? Oft en, it begins with a small idea. Some of these breakthroughs have happened right here in London. Ever since Frederick Banting, a part-time instructor at the University of Western Ontario, had a brainwave one sleepless night that led to the discovery of insulin, many other individuals and companies have been developing smaller ideas into 16 | businesslondon.ca | SEPTEMBER 2012 bigger ones. One of these local health sciences entrepreneurs is Dr. Michael Fernando, who recently came up with an idea to improve a commonly used medical device. Aft er emigrating from England and arriving in London last October, Fernando says that while he was waiting for his medical residency application to go through, he "got the bug" to develop an idea to improve the technology used in arterial blood gas sampling. Th e blood test is a regular practice in hospital emergency rooms to ascertain crucial blood results in critically ill patients. It is performed with a heparinized syringe, the needle of which is inserted into the radial artery in the wrist of the patient. "It's bulky and impractical," Fernando explains, "and the problem is that the needles oft en stick." He says the situation is fraught with danger for medical professionals performing the test because blood-fi lled needles are exposed and can lead to needle stick injuries. "I've never had an injury myself, but I've treated many professionals who have been." Because of his training in England, in both medicine and public health specializing in emergency medicine, Fernando used his knowledge to conceptualize a needle tip that sheathes itself throughout the procedure. In order to develop the idea further, he teamed up with Joe Kerr, a Londonbased industrial designer and mechanical engineer, and formed a company called Fernando Kerr Design to fi nalize the design of the needle and create prototypes. It is currently being patented, and testing is anticipated to be fi nished this fall. "It was literally just an idea," Fernando says, "but now it has the potential to solve safety issues for other needle tips as well." Fernando and Kerr intend to leverage their skill sets in the medical and design fi elds to commercialize future ideas they come up with, as well as help others turn their medical device concepts into products. This month, the achievements of health sciences companies and entrepreneurs across Canada are being celebrated during National Biotechnology Week, September 14 to 17. For event details, visit www.imagenenation.ca. ?

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