October 2014 (Georgia Straight) – SFU Neuroscientist Ryan D’Arcy is spearheading efforts to turn the area around Surrey Memorial Hospital into a hub for commercializing technologies to help neurological patients and people living in care homes.
NEUROSCIENTIST RYAN D’ARCY likes to dream big. Sitting in the boardroom of the Neurotech Lab on the southwest corner of the Surrey Memorial Hospital site, he lays out a grand ambition that has the potential to shatter stereotypes about the Lower Mainland’s second-largest city.
The 41-year-old Simon Fraser University professor points out that the San Francisco Bay Area has a globally famous collection of high-tech firms based in Silicon Valley. Boston is home to a large cluster of biotech companies. There’s also a zone called LifeScience Alley, formerly called Medical Alley, in Minnesota.
D’Arcy hopes to create something similar in Surrey City Centre. So for the past year-and-a-half, he’s cochaired a partnership between academic institutions, Fraser Health, and the City of Surrey that’s trying to attract large and small health-related tech companies along what is dubbed Innovation Boulevard. It’s located in the 2.5-square-kilometre area between, and including, SFU’s Surrey Centre campus and Surrey Memorial Hospital.
“We recognize that there’s limited public-sector funding to address the health-care challenge to deliver high-quality care to as many people as we can,” D’Arcy tells the Georgia Straight. “So you have to go into partnerships with the universities. That’s why SFU, UBC, BCIT, and Kwantlen [Polytechnic University] are here to provide innovative solutions.”
Surrey Memorial is in eye of storm
He acknowledges that some people have wondered why Surrey was chosen over other municipalities as a destination for high-tech entrepreneurs. But he says that with the city attracting 1,000 new residents per month and having only one acute-care hospital with an emergency room, this is where the model is most needed. In fact, Surrey Memorial Hospital has the busiest emergency room in the province.
“We all hear about the health-care crisis,” D’Arcy states. “These guys face it on a daily basis. They’re one of the first to hit it hard.”
In developing new health technologies, D’Arcy maintains that the best predictor of success is giving innovators access to busy hospital environments. He says that this enables products to become more clinically useful and competitive. “Without that, without good people and clinical integration, a good idea cannot go through commercialization and get out in the world,” he states.