Alumna creates groundbreaking medical device to control blood loss


Western Engineering News | April 6, 2021

Passion, motivation, and taking calculated risks are all inherent parts of an entrepreneurial mindset. Western Engineering alumna Asha Parekh (BESc’07, MESc’11, PhD’15) never planned on co-founding medical device company Front Line Medical Technologies, but she was willing to take the risk of transitioning to entrepreneurship and hasn’t looked back since.

“My journey from PhD studies to where I am now has very much unfolded organically in a very exciting way,” said Parekh, Co-Founder and CEO of Front Line.

Parekh started her journey with Western Engineering as an undergraduate student pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in biochemical engineering. She then went on to complete her Master’s degree in biomaterials, followed by her PhD in biomedical engineering.

“Engineering is the very foundation of everything I do. From problem-solving to teamwork, I truly believe engineering has prepared me to be successful in any endeavour I take on in life.”

A natural next step for Parekh was to participate in Western’s Medical Innovation Fellowship (MIF). Participants are recruited for the fellowship program and placed among other highly talented young scientists, engineers and clinicians, where they are immersed in training and research environments that build innovation leaders and create novel medical technologies.

While taking part in MIF, Parekh met her now business partner Dr. Adam Power, Co-Founder and CMO of Front Line.

cobra.pngTogether, the pair worked on a few projects and later developed what is now COBRA-OS (Control of Bleeding, Resuscitation, Arterial Occlusion System), an innovative, easy-to-use device for temporary hemorrhage control and resuscitation. In February 2021, Front Line announced that they officially received Health Canada approval for the COBRA-OS™.

“We both saw the incredible value that this type of device could offer globally, and we have always been passionate about making that impact a real one,” said Parekh. “So, when we received some initial funding and had the opportunity to put a significant effort into the project, we did just that. I took the leap from my anticipated engineering pathway into entrepreneurship and have been dedicated full time on Front Line ever since.”

Parekh based her decision to pursue entrepreneurialism on three main factors:

  1. Her passion for the project, which stemmed from wanting to work on something related to the field of biomedical engineering, wanting to work on a project translatable to the real world, and always wanting to truly help people;
  2. The people she would be working with, as Power’s support for the project and for Parekh was very important to their success; and
  3. Financial stability – Parekh and Power had enough funding, at the time, to get them through one year.

Parekh’s motivation for founding Front Line stemmed from the problem of patients who die from internal bleeding: 90% of patients who suffer from non-compressible torso hemorrhage (NCTH) outside of a hospital die before they get there.

“Power is a front line surgeon who saw this issue firsthand, and we decided to work together to make a real-world difference for these patients,” said Parekh.

Although this type of device is primarily used in trauma, it has broader applications such as postpartum hemorrhage and non-traumatic cardiac arrest, where it can have a dramatic life-saving impact, Parekh adds.

“Our device can ultimately save patients’ suffering in these types of situations, but it also has a broader social impact, as saving lives in turn impacts families, friends, and communities. ; and if we are able to provide the front-line workers with a tool that is easier for them to use, it lowers the barriers in performing such procedures and helps achieve the ultimate goal of saving lives.”

The fundamentals of engineering play a big role at Front Line in a variety of ways, from study designs to product development. Parekh notes that her engineering education serves as the basis of her work. It has informed her way of thinking and, in turn, has had a corresponding impact on her actions.

“Engineering is the very foundation of everything I do. From problem-solving to teamwork, I truly believe engineering has prepared me to be successful in any endeavour I take on in life.”