30 Under 30: Engineer Lawrence Buchan is helping hospitals with Arbutus Medical

In his first year as chief executive, Buchan grew Arbutus Medical's revenue 3.3 times.

Lawrence Buchan, 29

Co-founder + CEO, Arbutus Medical

Life Story: While doing a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at UBC, Lawrence Buchan took a class called Engineers in Scrubs, which connects engineers with health-care providers to develop technologies to transform the medical field. Orthopedic surgeons at Vancouver General Hospital challenged Port Moody–raised Buchan and four other students to solve a problem: conventional surgical drills cost about $30,000 each, and surgeons in Kampala, Uganda, need access to safe and affordable surgical equipment.

Buchan, who did his undergrad in mechanical engineering at University of Toronto, helped develop what has become Vancouver-based Arbutus Medical’s flagship drill cover product. The students took an off-the-shelf power tool–a Stanley Black & Decker DeWalt drill, which retails for around $180–and created a made-in-Canada, liquid-proof, pathogen-resistant cover for it that can be sterilized after use.

“It became clear pretty quickly…that [our product] could have a global impact,” says Buchan, who started as Arbutus Medical’s director of operations at its founding in 2014 and now leads the team of 13 as CEO, a position he’s held since late 2018. The company is located at Vancouver General Hospital, allowing the Arbutus Medical team to continue collaborating with staff in the orthopedic trauma department.

Bottom Line: In his first year as chief executive, Buchan grew Arbutus Medical’s revenue 3.3 times and crossed a significant milestone: the company’s products had enabled 50,000 surgeries in more than 30 countries, including Canada and the U.S., plus 35,000 veterinary surgeries in North America and Europe.

Arbutus has raised some $4 million and is seeking another round of funding in 2020, to help reach its goal of five million patients treated by 2027.