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From prototype to puzzle piece

Heart failure―it’s estimated that 600,000 Canadians live with it, and it’s on the rise. There is no cure, and many patients who require advanced treatment options lack access. Is there a better way?

On this episode of Boldly, Tamara Mason speaks with fourth year medical student Gabriel Georges. Gabriel is a co-founder at Puzzle Medical Devices and a 2019 Joule Innovation grants recipient.

Gabriel shares what sparked his interest in pursuing innovation as an aspiring cardiologist, how he grew his team, where he hopes to see innovation in Canada go—and how medical schools can help us get there.

Listen to learn how Gabriel’s idea, a minimally invasive heart pump that assembles like a puzzle inside the patient, came to be.

tweetable: “Cardiology really regroups both my interests in everything that is this fluid dynamics, but also medicine.”

Key Takeaways

How did Gabriel become interested in cardiology?

  • He has a family with cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure.
  • He was also interested in engineering, but cardiology helps to pair that passion with medicine.
  • Through other experiences, such as studying abroad and work in Montreal, he knew he was on the right path with cardiology.
tweetable: “It made me realize how much innovation really changed, or at least had a huge, large scale impact on patient’s lives.”

What are the current options for patients with heart failure?

  • It is an extremely common and chronic disease.
  • It can become worse over the years―which can burden a patient’s quality of life and the health care system.
  • Nearly all patients with heart disease are under pharmacological treatment.
  • Once the disease has progressed too rapidly, there is less physicians can do.
tweetable: “I love the negative comments just as much as positive ones, because that's how we get better.”

What made Gabriel want to be a physician innovator?

  • Through his experience at a laboratory called EH, which focuses on cancer therapies, he realized innovation have a large-scale impact on the lives of patients.
  • He had a lot of interest in cardiology and heart failure, so he decided to build medical devices.


What is ModulHeart?

  • A new type of minimally invasive heart pump.
  • It’s intended for patients with the most severe forms of heart failure, that are also the most fragile.
  • Assembly of the pump happens is inside the patient.
  • Allows the patients to have a low-risk intervention, as well as hemodynamic support for the long-term.
tweetable: “I feel like what I'm doing is worth it.”

What was the prototype journey for ModulHeart?

  • The first step was purchasing the 3D printer to rapidly create prototypes.
  • Then, showed the first prototypes to physicians to get feedback.
  • Created 100 to 200 different prototypes that were tested every day.
  • Now ModulHeart is created using more sophisticated manufacturing methods.


What has the support been like from the community?

  • Physicians are usually extremely enthusiastic that there are new solutions being developed.
  • Usually, if they’re in the same field, they want to be a part of the solution.
tweetable: “I think if we can push the new generation to increase their will to participate in innovation, and to lead some new projects where medical ideas are brought to people…I think that would be a great strategy for medicine.”

What is next for Puzzle Medical Devices?

  • First, to complete their second pre-clinical trial to prove the efficacy and safety of the device.
  • The next step is to raise more funds and begin clinical trials.
  • The goal is to get the device on the market as soon as possible to try and start saving lives.


Recommended Resources

Heart failure: preventing disease and death worldwide, an article from PubMed

Top 10 causes of death from the World Health Organization

4 tips for adopting an innovation mindset, an article from Boldly

5 Ways You Can Use 3D Printing to Create a Prototype, an article by Machine Design


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The opinions stated by podcast participants are made in a personal capacity and do not reflect those of the Canadian Medical Association and its subsidiaries, including Joule. Joule does not endorse any views, product, service, association, company or industry mentioned in this podcast.