Some people just aren’t made for an ordinary, routine, calm, commute-work-sleep kind of life. This is the case for Jean-François Tardif, founder of Archimed Medical in Sherbrooke. Starting a life sciences business and being the father of two young children would already be enough to fill most people’s days! But it wasn’t enough for Jean-François, who also plans to scale Mount Everest in the spring of 2016.
I decided to write a series of blog posts on him, his journey, company, and project because they are really fascinating topics to read about and it is an adventure that he would like to share with as many people as possible.
P.S. Jean-François takes off for Nepal on April 1st. After reaching the base camp of Mount Everest, he will take time to acclimatize by climbing the nearby mountains. The “real climbing” toward the roof of the world will begin in late May.
Latest news (April 21, 2016): Jean-François has reached base camp of Everest (5334 m), after several days of trekking. His acclimatization is going well, although he still has a bad cough to cure. The air quality does not help: heat comes from… dried yak dung. On April 25th, he will begin back and forth trips between camps 1 (5943 m) and 2 (6400 m), before doing the same to camp 3 (7162 m). At -15°C, the nights are not still cold enough to use the milkweed fiber suit. It won’t take long: the temperature felt on the top of the world can drop to -60°C.
His education, experience, and career path
Yes, going to school is important, but if you’re starting to get a sense of Jean-François’ personality, you might suspect that he wasn’t a model student who wisely spent hours absorbing the words of his brilliant teachers. He is a person always on the move, always full of ideas, and above all, who hates talking about numbers! Despite this, he studied business administration; he has always known that he would be an entrepreneur and have his own business.
He was involved in the creation of an aviation business (Universal Propulsion) in the United States, and helped create the Plattsburgh airport’s development plan. He is also a pilot who has racked up nearly 800 flight hours.
Jean-François has always been a visionary. After a ski trip in Austria when he was 17, he returned to North America and tried to call managers at companies in the automobile industry to tell them that the future was in small cars! Do you think he was successful? Yet, it’s a major trend today!
He began his foray into life sciences while working for a company in the region that makes patient lift slings. He was always amazed by health care equipment, which is often very expensive and has a relatively short lifespan. He spent quite a bit of time visiting his ailing grandfather in various health care institutions. He kept telling himself that he could design good, affordable products that are both comfortable for the patient and for the care provider. This idea was never far from his mind, so he founded Archimed.
Out of curiosity, I always ask the entrepreneurs I work with how they chose the name of their company. “Archimedes was simply the greatest scientist of all time,” Jean-François said enthusiastically. “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” This is what inspired the name of the business and its logo—a lever within the “A” of Archimed—as well as its slogan—a lever for the world.
Archimed on Everest: mixing business with pleasure!?
Mount Everest, as I’ve already told you, was always one of Jean-François’s personal dreams. The otherworldly experience of standing at the planet’s highest point—high enough to be free from the world’s negative energy—he feels drawn to it like a magnet. But what was the spark that turned this dream into a reality? Simply put, a meeting.
Archimed Medical, Jean-François’ company, is particularly interested in technical fabrics and their various properties. During a meeting with François Simard from Protec-Style, Jean-François heard others discussing milkweed, a plant that is seen as a common weed in Québec, whose fibres have phenomenal properties.
Mr. Simard envisioned their application in the field of oil absorbent pads, but being the sportsman that he is, Jean-François was inspired to incorporate the fibres into winter sports apparel. In fact, milkweed fibres are extremely water resistant, and, weight-for-weight, are warmer than down. That’s what created the spark, or rather the explosion, given the speed at which things unfolded for Jean-François and François. When two visionaries share a flash of inspiration, things move quickly…
These two men wanted to take the world by storm when launching the product. Jean-François pointed out that in Québec, most people know of two major mountains: Kilimanjaro and Everest. As Mount Kilimanjaro wasn’t of interest to him, it only took a second to decide it would be Everest; with the new clothing line from his partner, Fibre Monark, to test them out. Quite a PR stunt for those involved!
Now that’s what I call mixing business and pleasure! Over time, the project has expanded. Another Archimed product will be altitude-tested—a hyperbaric chamber.
A hyperbaric chamber on Mount Everest?
Yes, in addition to all the usual equipment, Jean-François is bringing one of his products with him—a portable hyperbaric chamber. In its larger, fixed version, this equipment is primarily known for its efficiency and effectiveness in treating scuba diving injuries, but it has many applications. Among them, it helps the body recover and regenerate by making it easier for oxygen to penetrate the body’s tissues.
Archimed’s hyperbaric chamber makes it possible to virtually bring someone back to sea level in a few minutes. Therefore, this equipment could help save lives at Everest’s base camp, as it is not unusual to see climbers with pulmonary edema or even cerebral edema.
In this case, the chamber will be set up at the base camp, and Jean-François will spend periods of up to 15 minutes in it. Although it helps with recovery, the hyperbaric chamber may cause the body to lose its ability to acclimatize to altitude if too much time is spent in it; in which case climbing Everest would be impossible. A series of tests will be performed by our mountaineer to determine the ideal exposure times, etc.
Other organizations from the region will also benefit from this expedition. A collaborative endeavour involving the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS and the Sherbrooke company Imeka is in the works. Jean-François will undergo an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the brain before leaving and upon his return to study the impacts on the human brain of spending time at a high altitude.
In the 3rd part: Everest’s summit without supplemental oxygen