TV show gives innovators a chance to pitch ideas on how to improve health care in N.B.

A Dragons' Den inspired competition that aims to advance health care in the region with half a million dollars on the line is set to hit the screen next month, after the pandemic forced the Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation to pivot.

The Lions' Den involves three teams of medical professionals pitching to a team of investors in the hopes of receiving the top funding prize to help make their innovative ideas a reality.

"With the pandemic, we wanted to create something that was safe, first and foremost, and also unique and engaging," says Shannon Hunter, marketing and communications director with the Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation. "So, instead of just doing a virtual broadcast of the teams in the room, we've been filming for about nine months."

Filming finally wrapped last week with final scene showcasing which idea has been chosen – a production process that was complicated by COVID-19 lockdowns across the country.

"Some days were very complex in terms of the technology side," says Hunter, "having three film crews across Canada filming at the same time a virtual meeting."

"But all in all it was a fantastic experience and I think the medical teams are really happy with the end result."

Three-minute pitch videos were sent to each of the five lions – Bob Owens, Miranda Hubbs, Scott McCain, Mike Webb, and Dr. David Elias.

The ideas include improving the speed and accuracy of drug detection with the purchase of a tandem mass spectrometer, an imaging enhancement centre where clinicians can hold 3D-printed replicas of the body parts they'll be working on, and enhanced lung cancer care for patients at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

"This is really an opportunity to highlight some of the unbelievable work done at the hospital," says president and CEO of the Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation Jamie Gallagher.

"And to give people a sense that we're really leading edge, we're working right on the edge here in Saint John and we're doing some great things."

The lions, however, are not the only judges – along with the top prize of $500,000 there's also a $75,000 prize for the runner-up called the community choice award, which is given to the team voted by the public as the most deserving.

To unlock that money, however, the community has to match that same amount in donations.

The Lions' Den premieres on Sept. 10.