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Sunnybrook Inventors: Dr. Brian Courtney

Dr. Brian Courtney
Written by Anna McClellan

Scientists at Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) are inventing the future of healthcare by developing innovative tools and devices that aim to solve some of healthcare’s most complex challenges. By working with trusted partners in both public and private sectors, our scientists can identify, innovate and protect new technologies, and bring discoveries to the medical marketplace so they reach and benefit more patients. From bench to bedside, Sunnybrook inventors are working to trailblaze patient care one idea at a time.

Dr. Brian Courtney, interventional cardiologist and clinician-scientist in the Schulich Heart Program, develops new medical innovations with a focus on imaging and therapeutic catheters for minimally-invasive cardiovascular procedures. While working at Sunnybrook, Dr. Courtney invented the world’s first catheter-based system that combines ultrasound and optical coherence tomography imaging, enabling doctors to guide coronary angioplasty and stenting with greater precision. Dr. Courtney’s technologies help physicians better visualize disease in the arteries, potentially reducing complications in common procedures like angioplasty. In 2007, Dr. Courtney co-founded Conavi Medical, a spin-off company that commercializes the technologies he initially invented at SRI.

Dr. Courtney also used his knowledge and experience developing and commercializing medical technologies, to help create Medventions, a program founded by Sunnybrook, that drives medical innovation in Canada by nurturing talent and equipping young medical professionals and entrepreneurs with the knowledge, experience and networks they need to translate their ideas into products with life-saving impacts on patients.

Dr. Brian Courtney

What inspired you to become an inventor and create new medical devices?

I’ve always been someone that’s liked to build things, and this is one of the reasons I originally pursued engineering in my undergrad. I was inspired to take this interest and use it in a way that could help people. I discovered my passion for medtech after working for a company that designed digital healthcare devices, and I realized that in order to truly understand the real problems facing healthcare I would need to gain clinical exposure.

How did your training as a physician help you as an inventor?

My work as an interventional cardiologist plays a crucial part in identifying subtle ways that new technologies could influence care. Working in a clinical environment, I experienced these opportunities for improvement first-hand which helps fuel my understanding of the challenges facing clinicians and patients.

My experience as a physician enables me to more easily communicate the benefit of new technologies and demonstrate their impact. I have the knowledge to speak to the medical concepts required to design the device and am aware of the policies that may support or impede advancing the device in the system.

What advice would you give to others wanting to develop a medical device or healthcare company to commercialize their inventions?

Above all else, you need to be motivated by curiosity and the desire to help and work with people. There are many stakeholders involved when it comes to designing and commercializing a new medical technology and you gain a lot of insight when working interprofessionally with these different groups. Given the collaborative nature of medtech, networking is a powerful tool when looking to invent a new device. Learning from individuals that have gone through the commercialization process can help you avoid common mistakes and move you in the right direction.

There are several resources at SRI that help support inventors during the commercialization process. The Technology Transfer Office at Sunnybrook bridges the gap between scientific discoveries and their application in the real world by collaborating with its network of partners to enable further development and commercialization.

There are a number of communities that connect seasoned and aspiring medtech entrepreneurs. INOVAIT, a platform hosted by SRI, is a network dedicated to advancing and commercializing image-guided therapy technologies by bring together medical science companies and institutions of all sizes. These networks play an integral part in fueling innovation that will ultimately advance the future of health care and patient outcomes.

About the author

Anna McClellan

Anna McClellan is a Communications Specialist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Have a question about this post? Get in touch.