Nfld. & Labrador

Biomedicine company aims to enhance women's health training with 3D-printed vaginas

"It's a hands-on learning tool for women to understand their bodies a bit better, and the devices that could possibly help them," Christine Goudie said.

Products come from need for more hands-on training

Granville Biomedical are creating 3D-printed models of the female anatomy to help enhance training for medical practitioners and patient education. (Christine Goudie)

A biomedicine company with roots in Newfoundland and Labrador is working to change the way medical professionals and patients are educated about women's health using 3D printing technology.

Christine Goudie, who co-founded Granville Biomedical in 2019 with registered nurse Crystal Northcott, said the idea for the company came from gaps the pair found in women's health from practitioners and in health care institutions.

"There's a lot of research that needs to be done in women's health, there was just a lot of training gaps," Goudie, originally from Mount Pearl, told Here & Now on Friday.

"Especially with the obstetrics and gynecology departments of health-care institutions. We just wanted to allow people to have more hands-on training at that academic level, and that just kind of spun into a company."

Over the past year, Granville has been creating 3D-printed models of the female anatomy aimed at enhancing training and patient education.

"Really, it's a hands-on learning tool for women to understand their bodies a bit better, and the devices that could possibly help them," she said.

"People just need more hands-on training, because there's an emphasis on patient safety," Goudie added. "The more that we can increase collaboratively around the world that hands-on training, the safer we'll be when we go in to have procedures done. And also the more confidence our practitioners will have when they perform procedures on our bodies."

Goudie said model sales have stayed steady through the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the push for online learning.

Christine Goudie is the co-founder and CEO of Granville Biomedical. (CBC)

Goudie said the 3D models also serve as a way to break down the stigma she sees surrounding women's health, creating a less expensive product made for women, by women.

"[There's] a lot of questions surrounding conditions that affect women, devices that can help us. There's a lot of confusion around how things are inserted, how devices are extracted," she said.

"There was a lot of practitioners turning to the sex industry to look at sex toys to use as training tools," she added. "We felt like that was almost a disservice to women's health.… People were choosing to use things like car-washing sponges and cow tongues, and they're still using those items to replicate female anatomy. I always joke and say if this was a male problem, they wouldn't be using paper towel holders and hot dogs to simulate male anatomy."

Pivoting through a pandemic

Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, Goudie said her team tried to find ways to stay afloat through the uncertainty of the early months.

Equipped with a 3D printer, Granville decided to pivot toward COVID-19 testing swabs, which Goudie said are in low supply across the globe.

"We started 3D-printing prototypes of a swab that would be cost-effective, and also as effective in terms of collecting a specimen, for example, as the traditional swabs that were in health care," she said.

Goudie says the team hopes to be part of a COVID-19 testing swab clinical trial in November. (Christine Goudie)

"We started seeing swabs emerge from the U.S.. There was a lot of 3D-printed designs that were starting to come to the surface. Our team does a lot of 3D printing in general, so we decided that that was definitely a lane we could contribute toward."

The team decided to create their own design for a swab, instead of working to try to validate an already completed design. Granville has completed 28 designs so far, with 11 going through rigorous testing.

Goudie hopes the team's design will be ready for a Health Canada clinical trial in Brazil in November and that the swabs will be ready for a commercial release in December.

"It's a big financial risk, but the future is bright."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Here & Now

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