Dr Winnie Chu
founder & CTO of Nanozen
“Saving Lives Worldwide”
Dr. Winnie Chu, founder, and CTO of Nanozen, tenacity is her biggest strength. She has that essential entrepreneurial quality of not giving up when faced with obstacles. This was crucial when founding a startup with extremely limited resources and a new brand and not yet recognized by the industry. Her second biggest strength is her ability to empathize with others. Her empathy, plus her effort to truly listen to customers and understand their pain points, has guided Nanozen’s product and service development. Winnie’s laser focus on solving critical occupational health and industrial safety challenges across multiple industries has created billion-dollar opportunities for Nanozen.
Winnie has participated in female entrepreneurial panels sharing her experience with local women entrepreneur groups. But more importantly, starting from her time at the University of British Columbia as a faculty member, Dr. Chu continues to take on young women scientists and engineers consciously. She mentors and trains these young women while providing opportunities to earn work experience and gain confidence as young professionals. Winnie believes work experiences and confidence building are critical cornerstones in establishing a young women’s future career.
Nanozen was born from Winnie’s frustration with existing inefficient and inadequate methods of measuring inhalation levels of toxic airborne particles in industries such as mining and pharmaceuticals. Regulatory-approved methods still required companies to draw air using a pump, collect airborne hazardous materials onto a filter, and then ship the filters to an accredited lab to wait for the results. “Critical safety data can take anywhere from weeks to months to be determined; meanwhile workers handling hazardous materials continue to be exposed,” explains Dr. Chu. “The lack of timely data and information also makes it very challenging to establish how and where the exposure happened and to prevent instances from reoccurring.” Nanozen’s patented technology is a perfect fit for an IIoT aerosol sensor to protect workers and the community within the framework of this digital transformation.
Nanozen’s specialty is its personal, wearable sensor that determines an individual’s exposure in real-time as they perform their daily work. Dr. Chu recruited a talented group of specialists in spectroscopy, aerosol physics, fluidic dynamics, optics and digital signal processing to form a strong research and development team. “Together, we are building chemical speciation aerosol spectrometers utilizing artificial intelligence that are generations ahead of the competition.”
In 2018, a $400 million settlement was reached between six global mining companies and South African miners who suffered deadly health issues due to silica inhalation on the job. Nanozen’s sensors offer an effective method of determining the concentration of silica dust in workers’ breathing zones. Ten of the top 15 global mining companies have adopted Nanozen’s DustCount 9000 to alert workers when high levels of silica dust are present. Teck Resources in Canada describes how crystalline silica dust can enter a worker’s breathing zone during mining operations. Teck took advantage of Nanozen’s innovative real-time dust monitoring technology to gain detailed, real-time data on dust exposure levels. Teck Resources’ Vice President of Health and Safety, Lawrence Watkins’ comments, “This advancement in real-time particulate monitoring represents a fundamental shift for the industry and helps us improve on our commitment to protecting the long-term health of Teck employees.”
In pharmaceutical industries where manual handling of Highly Potent Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (HPAPI’s) remains part of the production and R&D process, HPAPI’s pose hazards to workers and potential cross-contamination of batches during drug production. Such crucial information cannot depend on the traditional method of sending sample filters to the laboratory and waiting for results. Now 6 of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies utilize Nanozen’s technology to protect workers better and prevent cross-contamination when handling HPAPI’s. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has given a presentation on the advantage of using Nanozen’s real-time monitors to understand and determine exposure in real-time instead of waiting weeks and months for the results.
“The marriage of our wearable sensor with portable Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometers (FTIR) to quantify exposure to specific chemicals immediately after each shift has revolutionized communication of crucial safety data and the prevention of cross contamination,” says Dr. Chu. “This novel approach has also saved millions of dollars per year for all industries involved so far.” IEWL
Dr Winnie Chu
founder & CTO of Nanozen
Nanozen Industries Inc. pioneers innovative approaches to aerosol exposure analysis for industrial workplace environments. Nanozen’s mission is to build, test, and market leading edge technologies that drive new, emerging standards for workplace analysis, worker protection and timely corrective action in the Occupational Health and Safety industry. Know the air your breathe!