St. John’s-based Granville Biomedical is improving women’s health by 3D printing vaginal simulation products that allow healthcare workers to learn about injuries caused by childbirth, disease and genital mutilation.
The company, which formed early last year, has already raised funds and gained clients, and has recently been accepted into Genesis, the innovation hub in St. John’s.
Christine Goudie, who is a co-founder, company CEO and product designer, said the venture is offering a modern, cost-effective solution for teaching hospitals and institutions which currently use either expensive silicone and plastic models or cheap items such as pigs’ anuses, cow tongues and car-washing sponges.
“There’s a lack of innovation in the area of women’s health and there has been for years,” Goudie said. “We aim to produce simulation models at an economical price and get them into the hands of every student.”
The company is working to ensure its products resemble human tissue.
“We are currently developing custom recipes to simulate human soft tissue which will be patented next month,” she said. “That will be an integral part of our market differentiator within our upcoming product line.”
The company is also catering to students who have ethical concerns about using animal products.
“A lot of students, either because they are vegan or for religious reasons, are refusing to use animal parts,” Goudie said. “They’re looking for alternative ways to train.”
Goudie, an industrial designer, first travelled to Bangladesh in 2018 with an outreach mission to teach delegates how to 3D print simulation models.
Goudie said the company’s sales with hospitals and institutions are growing. They also recently filled an order for genital mutilation products for west Africa and will visit Sierra Leone to gauge how effective the models are in developing countries.
“No one else is addressing that topic, that we can find,” she said.
The models show the cutting that occurs in genital mutilation.
“A lot of villagers in the region don’t read or write so this gives them a clearer idea of what the procedures involve and the complications that will arise around childbirth etc.”
She said that, because of immigration, more women who have undergone such procedures now give birth in Canada. She said doctors here either can’t restore a mother’s pre-existing genital surgery or are unwilling to do so.
“Many doctors in North America are not trained in these procedures,” Goudie said. “But they have to make the best decisions around repairing injuries caused by childbirth. Our products help them understand.”
Goudie and co-founder, nurse Crystal Northcott, got their venture off the ground in their native St. John’s by investing their own money. They also received funding from the federal and provincial governments.
The company is planning to raise private investment in the spring, and is looking forward to working with the Genesis Centre, which has already offered the company support and community.
Biomedical engineering research connections mean Granville Biomedical also has an office in Calgary. Goudie said the entrepreneurial network there is also supportive.
“Calgary has hit similar circumstances with the oil and gas crash,” she said. “And it’s beneficial, regarding sales and client acquisition, to be on the both sides of the country.”
Growth means the venture is adding another research nurse from St. John’s and an anatomist from Calgary to the team that includes a researcher/developer and six contractors. They are also seeking a student intern in engineering, who will be based in St. John’s.
There is potential to move into supplying products for other disciplines, such as urology and cosmetic surgery, and the company has already filled an order for a product for men’s urology, but Goudie said the current focus is women’s health.
“There is such need…maternal health, childbirth, endometriosis, cervical cancer etc. We want to help de-stigmatize women’s health,” said Goudie, who plans to grow Granville Biomedical while also studying for a PhD at Memorial University.