A teen advancing med tech
At 15, this young entrepreneur will soon have an EpiPen for diabetes on the market
“I’ve been able to create something that I think is cool and will impact people’s lives.”
Innovation is often born of necessity, and that is certainly the case when it comes to the work of 15-year-old entrepreneur and Upper Canada College ( UCC) student Shaan Hooey.
His younger sister was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age four, foisting financial pressure and undue stress on the family.
If his sister’s blood sugar gets dangerously low, she’ll need a glucagon injection, which revives someone in a vulnerable diabetic state but takes a five-minute, five-step process to administer. And that wasn’t good enough for Hooey.
“You can imagine, in emergency situations like that, a glucagon injection kit is probably not the best device, considering the time it takes to inject,” Hooey says. “I thought about repurposing the device, using a concept similar to the EpiPen.”
Hooey developed his concept last summer at the Ryerson DMZ Basecamp — a six- week accelerator program that mentors high school and university students and helps them gain market and customer validation for their innovative ideas. Hooey made it to the pitch stage and won $5,000 for his work.
He is also a member of an exclusive company/incubator called the Knowledge Society that supports the best and brightest young innovators and entrepreneurs across Ontario.
GlucaMed, Hooey’s proposed model, is a dual-chamber auto-injector that takes 30 seconds and just three steps to administer: twist off the safety cap; pull the needle out to pierce the plastic membrane mixing the two glucagon-forming compounds; then inject.
“I’ve been able to create something that I think is cool and that will impact people’s lives.”
Hooey is now working toward selling the device to companies currently in the market but sees other potential applications for the dual-chamber auto-injector technology.
As for the future, Hooey sees his career path as a hybrid of engineer and entrepreneur, creating feasible and practical products while thinking big picture and getting investors involved.
“Engineering in a broad sense teaches you the proper way to think,” Hooey says, “and if I combine that with business, I think that will set me up the best for an entrepreneurial venture because I’ll have the skills to think around problems.”
Entrepreneurship isn’t Hooey’s only focus, however. He’s also making a difference at his school. In Grade 9, he and a fellow classmate started the Amnesty International Club, with the goal of getting the UCC school community more involved in important national issues such as the tension in the relationship between Indigenous and non- Indigenous Canadians.
“You can’t really focus on issues outside of Canada when you haven’t even addressed one of the biggest problems in Canadian society today,” Hooey says.
He was inspired by the actions of the soccer team at Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School, which in 2016 travelled to Attawapiskat — the First Nation community that experienced a suicide crisis — and taught local children soccer. That created a bond between school and community, and for the past two years, Hooey has worked toward a similar goal. He’s created a council that discusses the need for true reconciliation.
“Ultimately, we may not be guilty for oppressing Indigenous people,” Hooey says, “but we are all responsible to be a part of the solution.”
Hooey says that juggling school work, community service and his entrepreneurial aspirations hasn’t been difficult — in fact, most of his UCC teachers don’t even know about his business.
But he definitely has role models to look up to: namely, Elon Musk. Hooey hopes to model himself after the SpaceX founder, describing how Musk dreams big but also makes those dreams a reality.
“[He has] taken so many risks, almost lost it all numerous times, and even still he pushes through with the most ambitious projects ever,” Hooey says of Musk.
And even though Hooey is more than 30 years younger than Musk, the high schooler doesn’t see age as a barrier. He encourages other young entrepreneurs to see their ideas through while they’re unencumbered by the responsibilities of adulthood.
“No matter how young you are, you don’t have to use your age as a disadvantage or a reason why you can’t do something,” Hooey says. “The impact you can still make is tremendous.”
With his level of ambition and his skills, Hooey sees no reason why he can’t be at the forefront of Canadian innovation when he “grows up,” so to speak.
“Ultimately, I want to be someone who pushes the ideas forward that I think are going to make the biggest change in the world.”
Hooey (L) with the funding his project received from Ryerson’s incubator program