A PhD student in Memorial’s School of Pharmacy and her business partner have created a company to make health care more accessible to rural and mobility-restricted patients.
Bronwyn Bridges and Gordon Genge, an entrepreneur with more than 20 years’ experience, co-founded PragmaClin.
Their first product, PRIMS (Parkinson’s remote interactive monitoring system), will remotely monitor, analyze and rate Parkinson’s disease symptoms according to severity, allowing clinicians to tailor treatments and adjust medications based on high-volume, personalized data.
It’s a business model that recently received a major vote of confidence: PragmaClin was named the 2022 Mel Woodward Cup winner, an event hosted by the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship.
“Since winning the Mel Woodward Cup … we have received many positive words from patients, interest from funding agencies and opportunities for us to put our feet in more doors,” said Ms. Bridges, who is originally from Prince Edward Island. “I truly believe that winning the Mel Woodward Cup has completely changed the future for PragmaClin.”
While volunteering with a Parkinson’s patient in Antigonish, N.S., Ms. Bridges realized she wanted to help improve the lives of people living with chronic diseases.
She decided to pursue a master’s degree at Memorial under the supervision of the School of Pharmacy’s Dr. John Weber.
Meanwhile, Mr. Genge, a Parkinson’s patient, had been investigating devices aimed at helping those with Parkinson’s disease. However, they were plagued with accuracy issues, using them at home wasn’t feasible and they didn’t provide the entire clinical assessment.
A presentation by Dr. Weber brought the two together in the same room, and once they got talking, the idea of PragmaClin was born.
PRIMS is designed to track a full range of Parkinson’s symptoms from the convenience of a patient’s home, without supervision, making high quality care more accessible to rural patients and those with mobility challenges.
“One of the most exciting aspects of PRIMS is the depth of information captured by a system that doesn’t require attachments to a patient, such as strap-on sensors or wearable sensor devices,” said Mr. Genge. “It is a contactless technology, which is significantly beneficial.”
The easy to use solution will feature both patient and physician dashboards and will analyze and rate the severity of symptoms. Clinicians can view the scores as needed to track their patients’ progress.
PRIMS is also poised to impact the research sector, as it offers cost savings and efficiency improvements for researchers and pharmaceutical companies.
Ms. Bridges’ research is leading the charge in this area: this past year she transferred from the master’s program to a PhD, where she is currently preparing to use PRIMS to conduct a national, multi-centre randomized controlled trial involving 250 Parkinson’s patients.
PragmaClin worked with local software development company Compusult to develop a prototype, which is currently undergoing operational testing as part of Ms. Bridges’ doctoral studies.
By testing her product in a clinical trial, she can assess its viability and usability with feedback from neurologists across Canada, allowing her to simultaneously advance both her educational and business goals.
“The ETP has allowed me to learn and develop skills that I didn’t realize would have such a strong impact on the business moving forward.”
The software design also has the potential to be modified to include other diseases, and PragmaClin is currently seeking funding to develop additional solutions.
Their goal is to become a global leader in delivering remote monitoring solutions for the neurological market.
Several faculty members are invested in helping the company succeed.
Dr. Weber serves as PragmaClin’s scientific advisor, while Dr. Kyna Squarey, a neurologist in the Faculty of Medicine, serves as the company’s medical advisor.
Dr. Laurie Twells from the School of Pharmacy and Faculty of Medicine, is one of Ms. Bridges’ thesis committee members.
Ms. Bridges credits several Memorial programs for helping her develop valuable skills, including the Entrepreneurship Training Program, (ETP) offered by Memorial’s School of Graduate Studies, which she attended in fall 2021.
“The ETP has allowed me to learn and develop skills that I didn’t realize would have such a strong impact on the business moving forward. I highly recommend the ETP to anyone considering beginning their entrepreneurship journey.”
In winter 2022, while continuing with the ETP, she also took advantage of supports from Bounce Health Innovation, and joined the Evolution program offered through Memorial’s Genesis Centre.
“I definitely learned a lot, not only just about the business, but myself too,” said Ms. Bridges. “I wasn’t going to do a PhD program, and these programs confirmed my belief, ‘this business could go somewhere’, so I decided to switch to the PhD program so I could see the project through.”