Recap: Health Startup Day 2019

On March 29th, the Health Innovation Initiative hosted the 2019 Health Startup Day. This day connected startups, industry, community organizations, and graduate students with a shared passion for health innovation. Industry and community organizations had the opportunity to meet some of McGill’s emerging scientific leaders, while the graduate students were provided with an introduction to industry approaches for health innovation.


The event got kicked off by one of our very own, Renjie Butalid.

Renjie hosted a business model canvas workshop, which presented the graduate students with the idea of a strategic management and lean startup template for developing new or documenting existing business models.

He explained how it is a visual chart with elements describing a firm’s or product’s value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances, and how the formation of this canvas plays a vital role in a business’s development.


The workshop was followed by keynote talks presented by some of the best and brightest in their field:

Francois Bilodeau is the Business Development Director of Mitacs; a not-for-profit national research organization that, in partnerships with Canadian academia, private industry and government, operates research and training programs in fields related to industrial and social innovation.

Francois gave the graduate students insight into the different programs they offered, such as Accelerate, Elevate and Globalink.


Justin Lessard-Wajcer is a 21 years young individual who has made big strides in the area of science and entrepreneurship. He was invited by the Canadian government to represent the country at the World Science Conference in Jerusalem.

He is a Research Associate in Psychiatry and Head of Imaging Innovation at the prestigious Dr. Kieffer Lab at the Douglas Institute of Mental Health at McGill.

In addition to his studies and research, he began his own business, Clarity Tech Lab – a company designed to democratize innovative technologies in neuroscience to increase the effectiveness of medical research.

He also founded the first journal dedicated to mental health, Neuropresse, to reduce the terrible stigma of mental health in our universities and society.

His philanthropic contribution is also marked by his involvement in organizations such as The Montreal Children’s Hospital, The Canadian Hereditary Cancer Foundation, and Youth Science Canada.

During the event he spoke about his journey, and key values he obtained along the way.

“I was facing two limits – time and money. I wanted to beat them both.”


Jeremi Lavoie is a Cofounder and the CEO of Arctic Fox AI, a company that uses AI-powered radiology tools for the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases, beginning with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. They allow clinicians & scientists to use the full potential of brain MRIs by extracting data that would be invisible to the human eye.

Jeremi shared his company’s vision with the graduate students and gave them tips on starting and maintaining a business:

  • Complementary partnerships are a key ingredient in running a successful company.
  • Market research comes 1st and the tech comes 2nd.
  • It is important to get continuous feedback to evolve the company.
  • Some days you’ll need to think irrationally and take a leap of faith.


Clarity Gerbrandt is the VP in Strategic Partnerships of Carebook Technologies, a company that uses the science of preventative health and the art of human engagement to empower individuals and engage organizations in a commitment to wellness.

Clarity started off as the Creative Director for Disney’s Club Penguin, the world’s largest online virtual world for kids. Now, in her current position, she uses her skills to build rich experiences that help empower people to take a more active and proactive role in their personal health.

During her presentation, she shared, what she believed to be the “abcd’s” of startup life:

  • Adapt – Adapt to culture, adapt to the process at hand and adapt your purpose.
  • Bridge – Bridge together your theories, the tests you’ve carried out and eventually the solutions.
  • Care – Care about the value you add, and the impact you have on the people around you.
  • Distill – Distill your company into a simple idea which demonstrates its purpose.


The keynote talks were followed by a captivating panel discussion consisting of professionals from a variety of scientific backgrounds:

  1. Francis Arseneau is the Head of Operations at Innodem Neurosciences, a Montreal-based company building AI-driven eye-tracking technology for use in healthcare.

  2. Sonia Israel is a Co-founder of Aifred Health, a Montreal-based health-tech startup that uses AI to help physicians make better treatment decisions in mental healthcare.

  3. Laila Benameur is a Co-founder of Impactful Health R&D, a start-up that develops active packaging solutions to prolong the shelf life of fresh fish.

  4. Justin Lessard-Wajcer – Mentioned above.

  5. Clarity Gerbrandt – Mentioned above.

  6. Olivia Novac – See more below.


The event concluded with guest speakers who spoke about their areas of expertise:

  1. Tatiana Ruiz is the Lab-to-World Entrepreneurship Course TA and Translational PhD stream coordinator at McGill University.

  2. Olivia Novac is the Associate Director of Technology Transfer at McGill University. She is responsible for the knowledge and technology transfer activities associated to innovation and inventions at McGill. This includes the assessment and management of the IP, including filing and prosecution of patent applications, as well as the identification of inventions, maturation of the technologies, and valourization through licensing or spinoff creation.

  3. Bobbi Bidochka is a Research Officer at the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics at McGill University. Furthermore she is the Founder of EATScience, an initiative that unites food and cocktails with science, to deliver the message of the amazing research happening right now out McGill University, in the most dynamic and immersive setting Montreal has to offer.

  4. Jesse Ehrlick is an Academic Associate within Biomedical Engineering at McGill University and is responsible for launching a new Master’s program within the Biomedical Engineering department.

  5. Andrew Dixon holds a M.D, C.M  degree from McGill University. He is the CHASM Operations Executive; CHASM is an incubator that scales up community health and social ventures to help some of the city’s most marginalized residents. Their program takes the most innovative aspects of start-up culture and blends them into a practical, project-based model, where they nurture the ideas of community-based ventures and connect them to business and nonprofit leaders.

  6. Matthew Dickinson is a member of the Investment Team of Front Row Ventures, a company that is the first student-run venture capital fund entirely managed by students in Canada. Launched in September 2017 in partnership with Real Ventures, Front Row Ventures will invest 600,000$ over the next four years in 24 student startups.

To find out about more events like this one, follow the Health Innovative Initiative so you don’t miss out!