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Breathe easy

Alumna's low-cost ventilator design to help developing countries

Student Life

By Ryan Howell

A Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science alumna took home first place honours in Genesis’ summer 2021 Pitch and Pick competition.

Katie Stone (B.Eng.’21) won for her pneumatic ventilator system, Aeolus.

Early stage tech startups

Taking place three times a year, the competition is part of Evolution, Genesis’ pre-incubator program.

It’s designed for early stage technology startups and provides assistance with identifying markets for the businesses’ products and services, validating their ideas and connecting the entrepreneurs with Genesis’ wide range of advisors.

The competitors present their business ideas to a panel of judges that includes industry professionals, investors, public sector funders and other entrepreneurs.

Highlighted inequalities

Aeolus originated as a capstone design project for electrical engineering students Ms. Stone, Desiree van Heerden and Rachel Tobin; Ms. Stone is the only founder who continued with the project post-graduation.

“The Aeolus system is a fraction of the cost of a traditional ventilator.” — Katie Stone

The team developed a portable and self-contained pneumatic ventilator system designed around a traditional valve mask, the goal of which is to provide safe, hands-free patient ventilation at a low price in developing countries.

“The COVID-19 pandemic really revealed the stark difference between healthcare equipment and infrastructure in developed countries and  developing countries,” said Ms. Stone.

“The Aeolus system is a fraction of the cost of a traditional ventilator, with the hope that it can provide cost-effective equipment but still ensuring quality care.”

Ms. Stone says there are less than 2,000 functional ventilators in 41 African countries, so the need for a product like Aeolus is tremendous.

She also has first-hand knowledge of the crisis through completing two international engineering co-operative education placements — one of those being working on the ground in Ghana for UNICEF, which she believes was a factor in Aeolus winning the Pitch and Pick competition.

In addition to winning $1,500 for winning the competition, Aeolus also won the Community Choice Award, voted on and chosen by the general audience.

Passion to succeed

While Ms. Stone says she has spent “countless” hours researching her design, she says the Genesis team was influential in making Aeolus a reality.

“Genesis allowed me to meet with industry professionals and the opportunity to expand my knowledge of the business aspect of starting a new venture.”

And for next steps?

Ms. Stone is enroled in the Bounce Health MedTech Readiness Program offered in the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial and working with program facilitators to get matched with industry mentors with technology backgrounds.

She credits the program for being crucial in understanding where further development is needed.

“I believe my passion for this project will continue to show. I am very excited for the Aeolus journey.”

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