SOURCE: Innovate Calgary

Innovate Calgary

May 16, 2016 15:57 ET

A University of Calgary Invention Is Used Around the Globe

CALGARY, AB--(Marketwired - May 16, 2016) -  Growth charts, used during infancy and childhood, are a familiar tool to parents and doctors. At regular intervals, a child's height and weight are plotted on the charts, ensuring appropriate growth rates. Appropriate growth is a good indication that all is well.

Growth charts used for full-term infants (9 months or 40 weeks), are not useful for babies who are born early or preterm, since they are born before the start of the standard charts.

Dr. Tanis Fenton, Adjunct Associate Professor and Epidemiologist in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine, developed the Fenton Preterm Growth Charts, which are used across Canada and on every continent.

"Health care practitioners who work with preterm infants needed a tool that helps them to understand how well the baby is growing," explains Fenton, also a member of the university's Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute and O'Brien Institute for Public Health. "Growth assessments are particularly important for the babies that are born very early, since they are too immature to breast or bottle feed, so we really need a way to determine whether we are feeding them the right amounts for their needs. We do this by carefully monitoring their growth."

These charts are used frequently to assess a preterm baby's healthy development, and journey from the neonatal intensive care unit into the family's home.

Working as a neonatal dietitian in the neonatal intensive care unit, Fenton identified a need for a comprehensive preterm growth chart.

"We had all these little babies and we didn't have a good growth chart; some of the charts we were working with were over 50 years old," says Fenton. "When you work in healthcare you learn what is needed to support good care. A useful and relevant preterm growth chart was missing, so I decided to develop one, and now it is being used around the world."

The original Fenton Preterm Growth Chart, developed in 2003, became the standard in many hospitals in Canada and around the world. The newest iteration, developed in 2013, is electronic, which keeps up with the evolution of record keeping in healthcare.

Electronic growth charts help health practitioners accurately assess the growth of preterm babies.

"There are many advantages to electronic growth charts," explains Fenton. "You have automatic and consistent plotting which supports accurate interpretation. Using electronic growth charts is especially important for preterm babies, who are often weighed and measured daily. An electronic growth chart presents the data in real time, without inaccuracies that can occur with human plotting."

As healthcare professionals and medical facilities have progressively moved toward electronic record keeping, they have recognized the need for Fenton's growth chart apps. Links to these apps are available through Fenton's webpage:

The Fenton Preterm Growth Charts have been translated into: French, Spanish, Arabic, and Croatian. These growth charts are included in 24 text books, including the Merck Manual, a peer reviewed medical textbook.

With increased cases of microcephaly in Latin America, the preterm growth chart provides added support to countries needing a reliable and well-known growth reference.

"People in countries where there are high rates of Zika virus infections have been contacting me about using my chart to assess the head sizes of the infants who are born early," says Fenton.

Innovate Calgary is assisting Fenton to disseminate the growth chart data through licensing agreements with hospitals and electronic health record companies. In the last year there have been numerous data licenses signed with electronic healthcare providers around the world (Australia, Canada, India, the Netherlands, the United States, Germany, Brazil, New Zealand, USA, Korea, United Arab Emirates, Peru, Colombia, Belgium, China, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, and France). As well, the charts are being used in research studies in Canada, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Britain, New Zealand, and the United States.

"Licensing allows us to distribute data widely while maintaining its quality and integrity," says Rishi Batra, licensing manager, Innovate Calgary.

Innovate Calgary works with University of Calgary researchers in efforts to identify innovations with a social impact and knowledge translation potential. The Fenton Preterm Growth Chart is a great example of a clinically relevant social innovation.

"We have tremendous opportunities to distribute social innovations such as the Growth Chart beyond traditional academic outlets" says Ken Porter, vice-president, Intellectual Property Management, Innovate Calgary. "Our client list is quickly growing, showing us that there is a great demand for the private sector to play an important role in making social innovations available to the public world-wide."

For licensing inquiries please contact Rishi Batra, 403-270-2429 or email

About Innovate Calgary

As a leading technology transfer and commercialization centre, Innovate Calgary works closely with startups, entrepreneurs, researchers and investors from the advanced tech sector to take innovation and ideas to the next stage of growth. Innovate Calgary has been successfully contributing to the growth and acceleration of the advanced technology sector for more than 30 years. Our integrated approach to commercialization focuses on facilitating connections among stakeholders and offering a comprehensive range of programs and services to achieve success.

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