Sivakumar Palaniswamy, 26--Cofounder and CTO, NeoLight LLC
Trained as a biomedical engineer, Palaniswamy cofounded Neolight, a company focused on innovative medical devices for infants. He was inspired to develop the company's business model after observing overcrowding in neonatal intensive care units in India. He helped develop the company's first product, the Skylife device for phototherapy jaundice treatment for newborns. The device can be used in hospitals and at home. According to information on the company's website, the next product in development will address infant hypothermia.
What's next--in his own words: "With generous support from Dignity Health and Children's hospital Los Angeles, we are applying for FDA approval of Skylife in the fourth quarter of this year. We are developing several other devices in the neonatal space which will be introduced early next year. We are working to position Neolight as a thought leader in neonatology by developing empathy-driven solutions for the newborn care market. Our next steps involve developing state-of-the-art in-home treatments to reduce medical costs, provide increased comfort, and minimize hospital readmission rates. By integrating digital health and data analytics into traditional medical devices, I envision point-of-care access to currently inaccessible medical technologies at an affordable cost, currently driven up by insurance costs in the medical field."
What are the biggest factors that helped you become a young innovator? "My curiosity and desire to bring a positive change through my endeavors has allowed me to become an innovator at a young age. Starting as a collaborator on the SmartCane project at the age of 21, I focused on radically improving quality of life for the blind. I knew I wanted to use my engineering knowledge to inspire and build advancements in medical technology. When I witnessed the outdated halogen lamps causing dehydration and ineffective treatment to jaundiced newborns in India, I witnessed a clear gap in treatment, inspiring the need for an effective solution. My determination to create a sustainable improvement in this field, despite many obstacles and uncertainties, is what empowered me to bring new ideas to the medtech community."
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far? "Our company's story is a happy one--one of spreading hope and healing; however, it is also a story of persistence despite overwhelming odds. The biggest challenge I have faced has been dealing with feelings of uncertainty during the early days of our company's formation. After founding our company, we searched high and low for investments to begin our work and realize our vision. One afternoon, we met the Bill Gates Foundation at a networking event. They were intrigued by our project and [expressed] interest [in] writ[ing] us a check that same day. Needless to say, we were ecstatic and thought this would be our big break. The meeting was inexplicably cancelled and our hopes were crushed. Despite our feelings of utter discouragement, we scoured the community for investments for an entire year, without salaries and fueled only by hope and determination. A golden opportunity arose and we were in correspondence with a potential investor for three months, but this, too, did not work [out] as we had hoped. At that point, it was so tempting to give up, but we still kept searching. Despite feelings of discouragement, we eventually were successful. Finally, we met interesting investors looking to invest in young entrepreneurs, and a $550,000 deal was finalized out of nowhere in just seven days. This story is a testament to the fact that sometimes the best things happen when they are least expected."
|[Image courtesy of SIVAKUMAR PALANISWAMY]|