UBC Sauder students place first in Life Sciences competition for wearable chronic pain monitor

Posted 2017-03-21

Curos Labs – a chronic pain management start-up founded in a joint UBC Sauder and Applied Sciences course – has won first place at the second annual Life Sciences Start-up Competition.

Curos was chosen for their product, CheckPoint, a wearable device that empowers chronic pain sufferers to self-report at the click of a button. The team was awarded a $5,000 cash prize, which they are putting towards their upcoming product testing phase.

“The opportunity is amazing, our team is still taking it all in,” said fourth-year Bachelor of Commerce student and Curos co-founder, Suzanne Liu, “A chance at commercializing our idea in a low-risk space with the support of experts adds so much value to our education.”

The Life Sciences Start-up Competition, run by UBC’s Life Sciences Institute, is an annual event open for teams of UBC students, post docs, and research associates to explore life sciences business opportunities. It prepares entrepreneurs for a successful launch with support from its partner, entrepreneurship@UBC – a one-stop shop for start-up resources at UBC.

About one in five Canadian adults live in chronic pain, half of whom have endured it for more than 10 years. The condition is associated with the worst qualify of life as compared with other chronic diseases such as lung or heart disease , which is what motivated Liu and her team to build CheckPoint.

“Two of our six team members suffer from chronic back pain,” said Liu. “So we had firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to live with pain, and what patients need help with.”

Self-reporting is a key challenge faced by chronic pain sufferers. It’s not easy to journal throughout a busy day, and bias can creep into the perception of pain, especially if time has passed since the episode.

“What we really want to achieve is avoiding the problem of ambiguity when describing pain to a physiotherapist, which will increase the efficiency of the recovery process and improve the patient’s experience,” said Liu.

Curos is a two-part product: an app that synchronizes to a wearable band. Users log pain episodes with the click of a button, and measure severity with the twist of a dial. The app also monitors data like weather, temperature and activity level, which can help care providers find other environmental influences.

Liu and her team have nearly finalized two prototypes of CheckPoint and they’re looking to test the product with potential customers by the end of March, supported by the Life Science Award’s cash prize.

Also on the Curos Lab team are BCom students Tristan Burgoyne and Abhilasha Gnawli, as well as UBC Applied Science students Armin Rezaiean-Asel, Aftab Narsimhan and Alex Toews.

Second place in this year’s life sciences competition went to Theratrix, a company that develops innovative technologies to control pathological tissue repair. Tesseract Technologies placed third for their work on new material for treating brain aneurisms.

Curos Labs got its start in New Venture Design (NVD), an interdisciplinary course that pairs UBC Sauder and APSC students to develop start-ups. Other NVD teams have also enjoyed competition success with their class-born ventures; two NVD teams will present alongside a third competitor on March 23 in the final round UBC’s ninth-annual Pacific Venture Capital Conference and Competition, North America’s premier undergraduate and MBA venture capital conference and competition.