Youth Entrepreneur of the Year 2023: How VanTech Medical’s Vanessa Lo pinpoints problems in healthcare

Her company's AI-powered smart glasses can help detect veins

Vanessa Lo used to poke a lot of patients as a UBCO student nurse at Burnaby Hospital. Like many other health-care providers, she would try once, twice, sometimes several times before she tapped into a viable vein.

“There was one situation where a patient needed an antibiotic medication that was timed, and his needle had slipped out,” she tells BCBusiness. “We had less than an hour to get it back in or we’d have to restart his entire six weeks of antibiotics all over again… it took over 10 tries, four nurses and one doctor to be able to get that started.”

Difficult intravenous access remains a common issue in health care—one that hasn’t been probed into enough. Current handheld finders have an over-detection problem, says Lo, because they reveal every vein, even unusable ones. That motivated the Vancouverite to start VanTech Medical with Rohith J. Krishnamurthy as a nursing student in 2022. As an entrepreneur, she’s laser-focused on using AI and immersive technology to solve challenges in health care.

“We’ve developed a wearable [device] that can quickly and accurately locate veins in the very first attempt,” says Lo. The solution can be built into smart glasses: put them on, look at an arm and see a map of the most optimal veins for insertion.

The project began with $10,000 Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Impact grant from UBCO. The duo then attracted a Mitacs grant, got VanTech into entrepreneurship@UBC’s Lab2Launch incubator and facilitated partnerships with both SFU and UBC.

With Northern Health’s oncology unit as its first pilot testing partner, VanTech is now preparing for FDA-approval. But even before the glasses enter the market, the startup is already working on a compassionate robot doll to address loneliness and isolation in the aging population.

“I think the beating heart of VanTech is our passion for advancing health care through technology,” says Lo.