Philip Edgcumbe

Philip Edgcumbe
Engineering - Summer 2017

This month, we spoke with alumnus Philip Edgcumbe. Read about his time at UBC and what he has accomplished since.

Read about how Philip Edgcumbe (BASc '11 ENPH) created a community at UBC and why mentorship is an invaluable experience. Philip is currently completing his MDPHD at UBC.

Can you tell us a little bit about the kind of work that you do?

I am an innovator, entrepreneur, scientist and UBC Med Student. My aim is to positively impact the health of a billion people by connecting medicine, biomedical research to investors and entrepreneurs. I am completing my MDPhD here at UBC where I conduct research with medical doctors and scientists. I have patented and licensed a medical device and I have been part of two biomedical start-up companies. My work is at the interface of medicine and engineering. We are in an exciting time of exponential technology growth and disruptive innovation. Everyday I work towards unlocking the potential of that technology to create a better and more personalized healthcare system.

I spent the summer of 2016 in Silicon Valley at Singularity University applying exponential technologies to medical innovation. In May, 2017 I started as Bold Innovator (Project Lead) for the Alzheimer’s XPRIZE. We are presently developing a multi-million dollar incentive prize that will catalyze a major breakthrough in Alzheimer's research.

My interests include neuroscience, computational biophysics, microfluidics, and augmented reality surgical navigation with surgical robotics. In 2013 I was the medical expert for a company focusing on early Alzheimer’s detection and in 2016 I co-founded Lume Biotics, a company developing a device for phototherapy treatment of antibiotic infections.

Undergrad classes were enriched with a Go Global semester at IIT, New Delhi, and with a Rise Program Internship at Max Plank Institute, Freie University, Berlin. During grad school, I received a Vanier Scholarship and UBC’s top leadership award (Nestor Korchinsky).

What is a fact about your work that people might find surprising?

I am a third generation UBC student and I’m entering my 12th year as a UBC student (5 years as an Engineering Physics Undergrad and 7 year in the UBC MDPhD program). UBC is really starting to feel like home!

I likely took UBC Geering Up Lego Robots to the most remote place they have ever been. Geering Up is a UBC program that offers engineering and science workshops for elementary and high school students consisting of exciting demonstrations, interactive experiments, and hands-on activities. While I was doing my undergrad at UBC, I travelled to India for a four-month academic exchange at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, and a two month position as a volunteer teacher at Joybells School and Orphanage. Joybells is in a village 300 kilometers north of Delhi. I borrowed two Lego Robots from UBC Geering Up I could teach the 60 students at Joybells basic engineering and design principles.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in life so far (personal, professional, or both)?

On a professional level, I’m proud of the research I did as PhD student in biomedical engineering. In 2014 I received the Outstanding Young Scientist award at the International Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Interventions (MICCAI) conference for inventing the Pico Lantern, a miniature projector for minimally invasive surgery. One of its applications is to project the outline of a tumour onto the surface of a patient during a surgery so that the surgeon can more accurately visualize and excise the cancerous tumour. I worked with the UBC University-Industry Liaison Office to file a patent and license the Pico Lantern to a Canadian Biomedical Engineering company.

On a personal level, I’m proud of the community that I have helped to build at UBC. It’s clear to me that we need to leverage all of the innovative energy that we have in order to address the grand medical challenges of our time. I believe that it is important to create opportunities for collaboration and innovative thinking amongst my peers. I make it a goal to bring people together – innovation is a team effort. As such, I co-founded the Technology in Medicine Club (www.ubctimclub.com) at UBC which hosts workshops and events that activate medical students and biomedical engineers to be innovators. Our club mission is to provide a forum for interdisciplinary discourse where medical challenges can be turned into engineering opportunities – tangible solutions for Canadians. Our club has over 200 members and has received over $1,000 of funding this past year.

Starting the Technology in Medicine Club came after many years of supporting student initiatives within student government. I served as the Science One Survivors President in 07-08 and the Engineering Physics Board of Studies representative in 08-11. I also served for three years on the UBC Senate and in my third year was elected as Vice-Chair of the UBC Senate and Co-Chair of the UBC Student Senate Caucus. Finally, I served on the UBC AMS Advisory Board for Business and Administration from 2012-15 and was its Chair in 2015. Thus, I helped to shape the businesses and the business strategy in the new Student Union Building, the Nest.

In terms of concrete UBC awards, I received the UBC Thunderbird Men's Field Hockey Award, the Ahmad Bhimani Memorial Scholarship, the UBC Wesbrook Scholar Award, the HSBC Emerging Leader Scholarship Award, the Howard Webster Foundation Fellowship, the Nestor Korchinsky Award and was selected to be the student speaker at one of the UBC engineering graduating ceremony.

What was your favourite thing to do on campus as a UBC student?

UBC is a beautiful campus which is surrounded by ocean and forests. I loved going for runs in the University Endowment Lands and Pacific Spirt Park woods. My favourite place to visit with friends, brainstorm new ideas, or reflect about life was on a long run in the woods. The foliage and winding paths were a source of inspiration for me.

Visiting friends, brainstorming new ideas

We live in an incredible time of technological innovation. Powered by Moore’s Law, a doubling of computer power every two years, technology is improving at an exponential rate. I love brainstorming with friends, getting into an exponential mindset, and using that mindset to try and predict the future. Trying to predict the future is important so we can open our minds to new possibilities and address the critical question of how we can harness the technological innovation for good and create a world that is better for everyone. It is important to remember that experts overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade. Experts are also really good at telling the world what cannot be done.

Exponential technologies include artificial intelligence, augmented & virtual reality, digital biology & biotech, medicine & neuroscience, nanotech & digital fabrication, networks & computing systems and robotics. Identifying opportunities amongst the convergence of all of those technologies is exhilarating.

What was your 'aha' moment?

When I realized that mentoring was a key to success. I’m fortunate to have several mentors who have known me for over 10 years. They have much more experience than I do in both research and in business and know me extremely well as a person. I have worked hard to cultivate those mentorship relationships because early on in my undergrad I realized how important they could be. A good mentor is truly invaluable. They will open doors and opportunities that you never dreamed of. They will challenge you to think bigger, stretch yourself, find your passion and live your life to its full potential. It can be difficult to find mentors. However, I remind people that it doesn’t hurt to ask and that it is often a reciprocal relationship – people will get a lot out of mentoring you!

I have taken on several mentees and have really enjoyed sharing my experience and wisdom with them. Spending time with younger mentees keeps me energized and my ideas fresh.