The Ontario government is investing more than $1.5 million in digitized textile maker Myant Inc. to help commercialize “connected wearables” that can sense and monitor symptoms linked to health concerns, including those associated with COVID-19.

A Toronto-based Communitech member, Myant has developed a “textile computing” platform that involves embedding biometric sensors into everyday clothing, such as underwear. The wearer’s vital signs can be tracked and the information shared with family and health-care providers, enabling remote patient monitoring and real-time decisions for patient care, according to a news release.

“Ontario has world-leading talent in the innovation and life sciences sectors,” said Vic Fedeli, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “In today's knowledge-based economy, our government is pleased to collaborate with companies like Myant and support projects that create jobs and transform how we receive the health-care services we need.”

The government’s investment, to come from the province’s COVID-related Ontario Together Fund, is expected to help create 80 jobs. The company, headquartered in Toronto with a satellite office in New Jersey, employs between 100 and 150 people.

Myant said the funding will help it test how to deploy its solution with key stakeholders, including hospitals, public health institutions, physicians and home-care workers. The company is planning a community deployment of its Skiin line of digitized wearables in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Skiin garments will be distributed to about 2,500 trial participants in partnership with Algoma University and the Sault Area Hospital. Participants will wear the clothing for three to four months. Clinicians will monitor their health through Myant’s mobile app and data platform, and university students studying computer science or biomedical engineering will monitor the experiences of participants and clinicians.

The goal is to replicate the type of environment and recipients that the product is designed to serve, including homebound elderly people, Indigenous people and those who experience difficulty getting access to care when needed.

“While COVID-19 has caused incredible challenges to health care, it has also encouraged us to embrace new and transformative ways of taking care of each other,” said Ilaria Varoli, Executive Vice-President, Myant. “With the support of the Ontario government, Myant’s deployment of Skiin will help health professionals bridge physical distances and deliver the preventative care needed to ensure the ongoing well-being of the most vulnerable communities in the Sault Ste. Marie area. We look forward to expanding our support to other communities across Ontario and Canada in the near future.”

The company said it anticipates a full launch of its Skiin line of wearables by summer 2021. Once commercialized, Skiin products will be manufactured at the company’s facility in Toronto, Myant said.

Myant was launched by CEO Tony Chahine who formerly started Battery Plus and later purchased and ran the Cotton Ginny retail chain, among other ventures.