Take a deep breath, because treating asthma just got a lot easier after local Canadian medical student David Hodgson created the world’s first-ever pocket-sized inhaler, which helped him win big at a global entrepreneur competition.
The company, Hollo Medical, founded by David Hodgson and his partner Sara Fedullo is celebrating a major win after Hodgson won $50,000 at the 2023 Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA).
After winning the first-place Peter H. Thomas Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence at EO Canada’s GSEA National Competition, Hodgson beat out 1,100 international competitors and six finalists to win.
“I was a little bit in shock at the moment, but afterwards, it was just euphoric. We worked hard to get here, and we’re trying to solve a problem that’s really important to us and to a lot of people around the world,” said Hodgson, GSEA 2023 Global Champion and Co-Founder of Hollo Medical.
“This type of recognition is massive, and it’s the type of thing that helps keeps us motivated.”
With a background in mechanical engineering and while attending Dalhousie Med school in Halifax, Hodgson managed to spearhead the creation of the “Bre-Z Chamber”: a new medical device that is designed to be more user-friendly. The pocket-sized inhaler not only makes breathing easier but increases the portability for those suffering from asthma.
When asked about his journey and what inspired the idea, Hodgson says he’s always had a heightened awareness of respiratory illness because it also affected his father.
The advice I would give next year’s finalists is to remember that the most compelling thing, much more so than your business, is your story.David Hodgson, founder of Hollo Medical
As Hodgson explains, the prevalent use of pressurized inhalers raises significant concerns for patients due to their design, both externally and internally, posing multiple problems in terms of usability and effectiveness.
“It’s acknowledged since they’ve been first conceived. They expel the medication at a very high speed, and it’s a one-and-done thing,” Hodgson said in an interview.
“If you don’t time your breathing appropriately or put It directly in your mouth and you’re using a drug like a steroid, for example, it can impact the surfaces that the drug contacts and potentially not reach the lungs where it’s needed.”
The struggle was present on both sides.
While empathizing with the challenges faced by numerous patients, Hodgson and Fedullo encountered their own array of hurdles during the brainstorming phase on the drawing board.
Fedullo, who is also married to Hodgson, has experienced first-hand what these challenges entail, especially witnessing her partner balance the pressures of medical school and running a start-up business.
“For the majority of Hollo Medical, he was a student entrepreneur, and so he had to face those extra challenges of having to study and deal with an incredibly busy schedule on top of being my co-founder,” said Fedullo, COO and co-founder of Hollo Medical inc.
“David is one of those people that tries his very best to always stay positive when challenges arise, and that’s where innovation for him is really his strong suit”
Amongst a stellar lineup of competitors from around the globe, Hodgson only had minutes to deliver the perfect pitch to impress judges and sell the concept of his device.
He says that he’s so used to telling his story over 10 minutes, so it was quite the challenge when he found out he was only given five.
"The one aspect that I found hardest was deciding what details could be cut/what parts delivered the most impactful and immediate message for the audience. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do this alone, and I had my team, and mentors help me identify things that maybe I couldn’t see myself," Hodgson says.
Nonetheless, Fedullo says that his engineering mindset, coupled with his medical expertise makes him a powerhouse to plow through any problem.
Now, with an extra $50,000 to help fund his start-up, Hodgson says consumers can hopefully expect to see the Bre-Z Chamber hit shelves as early as next year assuming all regulatory requirements are met in time.
“Our main focus is commercialization at the moment. It will help us significantly with that, between regulatory clearance and marketing to generate awareness around the benefits of this new device,” he said.
Both Hodgson and Fedullo are excited for the device to hit the markets so that patients around the world can finally get the proper care they urgently need.