Hamed Hanafi is Taking NovaResp from Box to Business

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Lauren Ramey’s day is full of exciting challenges. Like many co-op students she is working hard, taking meetings, and focused on getting the most out of her co-op experience. She is also responsible for leading the mechanical development of a medical device that will save lives.

Welcome to NovaResp, the newest graduate of the Emera ideaHUB and a business that is poised to disrupt the $65B respiratory device market in the next five years. The company has developed the first AI driven predictive software platform for respiratory devices called cMAP. They are currently focused on sleep apnea, but the company’s goal is to make all respiratory assistance predictive and preventive. Saving lives and saving the healthcare system billions in the process.

Founder and CEO of NovaResp, Dr Hamed Hanafi, has a personal connection to sleep apnea as his father suffers from the disease. He also has firsthand experience with the lack of compliance in patients as his father also stubbornly refuses to use his prescribed CPAP device. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device is a common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. The machine uses a hose and mask or nosepiece and is bulky and uncomfortable for many users.

It was through Hamed’s Masters and PhD studies in Biomedical Engineering at Dalhousie University that he established the groundwork to launch NovaResp.

Although the seed of the technology that would become NovaResp was born during Hanafi’s PhD research in respiratory mechanics it wasn’t until he transitioned into a postdoc role at Dalhousie that he really began to develop the innovation and prepare for the prototype process. He accustomed himself to the entrepreneurial grind early, spending his days teaching and his evenings and weekends working on the technology.

It was also during his postdoc that he began to build the network of connections that would help NovaResp thrive. Hamed met Margaret Palmeter in 2016 when the ground was first breaking for construction on the site that would eventually house the Emera ideaHUB. At the time Hamed was a completing a collaborative industry-research Mitacs Accelerate project with local startup DMF Medical. He already had inventions to his name, as a co-inventor with Biomedical Engineering Department Head Dr. Geoff Maksym. Mentorship from the founders of DMF Medical, including Dalhousie Faculty of Management Professor Dr. David Roach further fanned Hamed’s determination and helped identify a path to solve the CPAP issue he saw his father struggling with.

As Hamed humbly puts it, “We keep improving on everything by not being a one man show. It’s a team, and together we all come up with better and better ideas.”

When the ideaHUB officially opened its doors in 2019 Hamed was one of the first calls Margaret made. Hamed jumped at the chance to join and found a home base at the ideaHUB that helped his company flourish. It was time for him to bring on employees and build his engineering team to advance prototype development of his novel technology– Exactly the activity that the ideaHUB was designed to support.

He could often be found trudging up and down the Halifax hills with his device in a box vising the world class labs that populate Dalhousie’s campuses. Having those resources in walking distance is a unique competitive advantage for cutting edge technology companies like NovaResp.

It is the home base and specialized equipment and support the ideaHUB provides, coupled with the world class research labs that surround it, that gave Hamed the ability to take that protype from device to business. A business that now boasts 8+ staff and has moved into office and lab space at ideaHUB’s ecosystem partner and Nova Scotia VC & Incubation Facility Innovacorp.

As all good founders know people are the difference between success and failure. Following from Hamed’s leadership, NovaResp has built a team of incredibly smart, passionate people. Including Dalhousie Engineering student, Lauren, who is now embarking on her 3rd co-op with NovaResp. Other team members include international engineers who are newcomers to Canada, as well as Dalhousie alumni and more current students and post-docs.

As Hamed humbly puts it, “We keep improving on everything by not being a one man show. It’s a team, and together we all come up with better and better ideas.”

Its not just people that have helped NovaResp grow, its also access to an entrepreneurial ecosystem. The ideaHUB was launched to fill a gap to support product development for teams at a stage when they would struggle on their own. By accessing these resources, NovaResp was able to validate the prototype and provide the data needed to secure financing to stand on their own. As an ecosystem player, the ideaHUB supported NovaResp in collaboration with Dalhousie and Nova Scotia Health, as well as in accessing programs like Innovacorp’s Early Stage Commercialization Fund (ESCF), the Mitacs eAccelerate program, ACOA BDP program, and the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program, among many others.

“The innovation community that exists here is second to none,” says Hamed. “Having been a part of incubator programs internationally it became apparent to me very quickly that there is nothing that can compete with the Emera ideaHUB at Dalhousie. As the most recent alumni of the ideaHUB we are excited to be on track to launch our product globally in 2023, an incredible timeline for a medical device company. We cannot wait to continue to grow our team from its current count of 8 to many more and we anticipate hiring exclusively from the incredible talent at Dalhousie. We are proud to be Dalhousie engineering alumni and to continue to grow our business here. We plan to help fuel growth in Nova Scotia for many years to come.”

In reflecting on her time with the company Lauren shares, “I couldn’t ask for a better career opportunity than the one NovaResp has provided. I’ve always loved building things and my career aspirations have always been to do something meaningful that will help people in their everyday lives. To get to do all that without having to leave Nova Scotia is a dream come true.”