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To enable patients to take their medication as prescribed, a Toronto-based startup collaborated with Centennial College’s innovation arm to develop a programmable pill dispenser.

According to the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists, studies indicate that one-half of Canadians do not take their prescription medications as prescribed, and drug "non-compliance" is the cause of 10 per cent of all hospital admissions, 25 per cent of those pertaining to the elderly and 23 per cent of all nursing home admissions. In addition to needless suffering, this lack of "medical adherence" is a significant cost driver to the Canadian health care system.

To create an adherence solution, exactMed Ltd., a Toronto-based start-up, initiated a collaborative project with the Wearable, Interactive and Mobile Technologies Access Centre in Health (WIMTACH), Centennial College's innovation arm. WIMTACH developed a programmable pill dispenser device that can release a single pill at predetermined times according to the patient's prescription.

"With its bench strengths in electronic and mechanical engineering, Centennial College had the technical expertise to design and build the prototypes of the pill dispenser and its vials, which are currently in the testing phase," says project leader Dr. Pouria Tavakkoli Avval.

WIMTACH has become the go-to for industry partners looking to develop innovative solutions to the health care sector, he adds. "It is our mission to catalyze innovation in the health care industry by assisting small and mid-sized companies in converting ideas into products by providing them with access to expert faculty members and skilled student researchers, as well as state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment," he explains.

Industry partners and clients participate in research projects with WIMTACH confident that they will never lose control of their ideas. "Intellectual property is owned and retained by the industry partner," he says. "At the end of the process, all project deliverables including CAD files and source codes are turned over to the partner, who can then proceed to the manufacturing phase."

exactMed's pill dispenser is one of many "disruptive technologies" that has been developed within the applied research setting provided by Centennial, adds Dr. Tavakkoli Avval. Others include an IV-bag monitor that alerts hospital staff when a bag needs changing, and a "smart" child seat booster for automobiles that ensures children are strapped in appropriately for their size and age. On the fun side, WIMTACH also helped Ontario's Lake Harbour Ltd. enhance their hockey goalie simulator to provide performance feedback to shooters and coaches alike in order to more rapidly develop on-ice skills.

Looking ahead, Dr. Tavakkoli Avval says WIMTACH will continue to build on Centennial's impressive record for delivering college-industry innovation in health technologies that so far comprises 60 companies engaged and 40 products developed, including 30 that have been commercialized.

About Colleges and Institutes Canada

Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) represents Canada's publicly supported colleges, institutes, cegeps and polytechnics, which work with industry and social sectors to train learners of all ages and backgrounds at over 420 campuses serving urban, rural and remote communities across Canada.

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