Skip to main content

Arena match

May 09, 2024

Biomedical engineering student Keeley McCormick’s presentation at Arena Pitch did two things. It mirrored the next-generation vaginal speculum that she and her co-founders at Revyn Medical Technologies are developing: smooth, seamless and lacking the clanking sound effects of 19th-century technology. And it wowed the judges through round after round—six in all— of the national competition to bring home top honours and $13,500.

The Arena program, run by the Arthur L. Irving Entrepreneurship Centre at St. Mary’s University, draws aspiring entrepreneurs from across Canada who hone their business ideas and presentation skills for a chance at the $10,000 first-place prize plus $3,500 in in-kind marketing help from one of the judges.

“This all started in our Human Factors class in January 2023,” explains McCormick, who wrote her last exam in April. “The professor, Stephanie Willerth, set us an assignment to identify a medical device that could be improved.”

The five teammates, Devon Carmichael, Zoë Crookshank, Joshua Latimer, Samantha Sperling and McCormick, were searching for an idea when Latimer, the only male on the team, attended an emergency medical procedure with his partner and saw a vaginal speculum in action.

“He was in disbelief that this device was being used,” McCormick says. “It was so obviously uncomfortable. It speaks volumes about gynecological care in general; it speaks to the lack of innovation in gynecology.”

As McCormick explained in her stellar Arena pitch, with the current design, 87 per cent of the 600 patients Revyn surveyed experience physical discomfort and pain; 79 per cent experience anxiety, fear, stress or shame; and 42 per cent delay or avoid preventative care.

So the five got started. After that course wrapped up, they used their idea as the capstone project for their summer term. In September, they founded Revyn.

A 3D render of the new speculum design
CAD model image of the vaginal speculum redesign

They’ve been supported throughout their entrepreneurial journey by UVic’s Coast Capital Innovation Centre and continue to proactively pursue opportunities. They captured second place – and the $10,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation prize – at the Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge this February. They’re working with AccelerateIP to finalize their intellectual property protection and will file their patent applications in the next month. With Camosun Innovates, they’re honing their prototyping skills and through the Tech-Access Canada Interactive Visit Initiative, they paid $250 for 20 hours of prototyping, which McCormick calls “an incredible deal.” 

Four Revyn company members: Joshua Latimer, Devon Carmichael, Keeley McCormick, Samantha Sperling stand with Jessica Roberto – Assistant Director of the Holloman Health Innovation Challenge at the University of Washington who is presenting the group with a large cheque
Left to right: Revyn company members Joshua Latimer, Devon Carmichael, Keeley McCormick, Samantha Sperling, and Jessica Roberto – Assistant Director of the Holloman Health Innovation Challenge at the University of Washington. Not pictured: company member Zoë Crookshank

Four of the co-founders have completed their engineering degrees and Sperling will graduate in August. They’re realistic about the need to have other jobs for now, but they are on the lookout for more funding programs so they can continue to develop their product. Based on the average timeline for medical device development, McCormick expects they might reach commercialization in five to six years.

But perhaps—especially if there are people with cervixes on the review panels—they won’t have to wait that long to bring the speculum into the twenty-first century.


Rachel Goldsworthy