Victoria-Based Starfish Medical Creates Essential Ventilator

Victoria-based StarFish Medical created ventilators in collaboration with Cerebra Health and are tested at ViVitro Labs.

Photo by Chris Mock Cormorant

Publicly tapped by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to develop ventilator technology for Canada in April of 2020, StarFish Medical, with founder and CEO Scott Phillips at its helm, turned what is usually a two-to-three years-long process into a three-month sprint towards a technologically perfect ventilator — a timeline Phillips refers to as “outrageous.”

Originally queried to assess their level of interest in ventilator tech by Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGEN), an Ontario-based non-profit that matches manufacturers with tech developers, StarFish Medical went on to collaborate on the Winnipeg Ventilator with Cerebra Health, who are based in Manitoba. Using the Winnipeg Ventilator’s original plans, the collaborators redesigned every component, ending up with a bar-fridge-sized ventilator that will be used to meet the government’s goal of a 7,500 cache for future contingencies.

While waiting for the project’s final approval by Health Canada’s regulatory body, Phillips is focusing on what the added media exposure has brought to the table.

“We’ve seen a substantial uptick of engagement on our websites, and across our core expertise, so really the benefit is not so much directly in ventilators, although there probably will be some,” says Phillips, adding that June was a record month for signing new clients. “There’s a big carry-over into our core business of medical device innovation.”

Due to the complexities around medical device design and development, StarFish Medical staff has historically always flown to meet potential clients around the world. Now Phillips says they have brokered a number of new contracts via Zoom, and are landing clients in cities like Boston and San Francisco, where their main competitors are based.

“This is the first time in our history that we’ve signed brand-new client contracts with companies we’ve never met face to face before, so I think COVID is changing the buying environment as well,” says Phillips. “For Victoria companies, that bodes quite well because we’re all far away from our markets.”

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