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e@UBC Venture Case Study: Arbutus Medical

Published on Monday, August 24, 2015

arbutus

e@UBC Venture Case Studies is an ongoing series highlighting top ventures from our fully integrated programs. Check out more e@UBC ventures here.

Improving bone surgeries in the developing world

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(Left to right: Lawrence Buchan, Florin Gheorghe, Elise Huisman, Michael Cancilla, Matthew Anderson)

Arbutus Medical aims to become the leading provider of surgical technology for the developing world. Their main product, a sterilizable drill cover, allows surgeons to safely use a low-cost hardware drill within a clean surgical environment.

Arbutus’ drill cover replaces the ‘manual’ hand-crank drill surgeons use in developing countries, such as Haiti, with low-cost electric drills from any hardware store. Their innovation ensures sterility in the operating room and results in faster surgery times per patient.

“This device has a significant impact on wait times for bone surgeries and increases the number of surgeries that can be performed per day,” said Florin Gheorghe, CEO of Arbutus Medical. “It also reduces the cost of a country’s healthcare system by limiting the complications of surgery in the developing world.”

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(Arbutus’ flagship product, a sterilizable drill cover)

Challenge

After making the drill cover in the ‘Engineers in Scrubs’ graduate program, which pairs engineers with doctors to find solutions for hospitals, Arbutus Medical aimed to enter the international market.

“The team had a product that was well developed and that people really liked, but we weren’t clear on the market opportunity,” said Gheorghe. “We also didn’t have a strategy to enter an international market effectively at the time.”

The team joined the e@UBC Accelerator in January 2014 to define their key hypotheses about surgeons and operating rooms in developing countries and to develop their investor pitch deck.

Solution

The Arbutus team tested their hypotheses for the international medical device market by talking to approximately 50 customers over the five-week program. The customer discussions helped them refine their customer segments to two main segments, hospitals in emerging markets and disaster relief organizations globally. The team also worked closely with e@UBC EiRs and mentors to develop investor relationships to help scale their business, focusing their investor pitch on a for-profit model while still maintaining a social impact business.

Results

The Arbutus Medical team have brought their business to the next stage of development with prototypes in seven countries and have launched pilots with major global aid partners, such as Save the Children. The team has also supplied drill covers to disaster relief organizations in Syria, Ukraine and Haiti, including a successful crowdfunding campaign to provide drill covers for hospitals in Nepal after the large earthquake in April 2015.

The Arbutus team has won numerous awards, such as the BC MedTech Award and the Paul Geyer Biomedical Engineering Award. They have also received notable media coverage on Al Jazeera, CBC Radio Canada, Toronto Star and the Vancouver Sun. Arbutus is currently raising a seed round of investment, increasing the distribution of their drill cover and working with surgeons to start developing their next affordable medical device.