Although the infant mortality rate has decreased the last decades, more than 3 million babies die in their first month of life every year. 98% of these cases occur in the developing world. Primary causes include complications of birth asphyxia, prematurity and infections, all of which are preventable with timely treatment. However, hospitals in developing countries have limited resources, and developing technologies to improve newborn survival and health in these areas are of critical need.
The Chicago-based global health startup Neopenda is determined to engineer healthcare solutions that give newborns in low-resource settings the healthy lives they deserve. They are developing a simple, low-cost, low-power, wearable sensor that continuously monitors key vital signs. The device is integrated in a baby hat and is specifically designed for critically ill newborn cared for in low-resource countries. The sensors are able to measure heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation and temperature, and wirelessly transmit data to a central monitor that alert healthcare workers when the infant is in immediate danger.
The healthcare system in developing countries are severely challenged by limited resources, and newborns are especially vulnerable to these strains. Manpower is often scarce, and the inability to manually measure newborns’ vital signs at the necessary intervals allow babies in distress to go unnoticed. Neopenda has developed a simple, yet innovative solution that is specifically designed for use in developing countries and leapfrogs some of the issues that prevent them from using current technologies. It is low cost and the sensors are powered by rechargeable batteries, which eliminate the reliance on a continuous power supply.
The startup has identified a critical need and not only developed a device for where it is needed the most, but for the most vulnerable patient group. The innovative neonatal healthcare solution could help transform healthcare in low-resource settings, making it more efficient, while giving hope to millions of babies and their families. In 2015, more than 4.5 million deaths occurred within the first year of life. Neopenda and their technology could significantly reduce these numbers, highlighting their huge potential.
The idea of Neopenda started early 2015 while the cofounders, Sona Shah and Teresa Cauvel, took a Masters Biodesign course at Columbia University. They have since gained much recognition and won multiple awards, including won the 2016 Columbia University Women Entrepreneurs Pitch Competition, Cisco Internet of Everything Challenge at the Rice Business Plan Competition, and 2016 Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project. They have also been part of the Relevant Health accelerator, and been a finalist of the 2016 Tamer Fund for Social Ventures, and SXSW Eco Startup Showcase. In 2017, the startup is participating in the new digital health competition, PULSE@MassChallenge.