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How This Med Tech Startup Pivoted to Fight the Pandemic

Across the world in 2019, UNICEF reports that over 2.4 million infants died in their first month of life, the vast majority in the developing world. 

The situation in sub-Saharan Africa is particularly dire: an infant born in that region is 10 times more likely to die during its first month of life than a child born in a high-income country. Most of these deaths are preventable. 

It was statistics like these that inspired biomedical engineers Sona Shah and Teresa Cauvel to found Neopenda in 2015.

Neopenda, a Cisco social entrepreneurship prize winner, is a social enterprise that develops innovative technologies for health systems in underserved populations. 

Its first product, neoGuard, a cost-effective wearable device for infants, measures vital signs and alerts medical workers when a baby is in distress. 

For overcrowded and under-resourced hospitals, the four-in-one monitor provides critical information in one place — to a tablet monitored by nurses  increasing the efficiency of staff on the ground and providing more consistent monitoring and timely care for at-risk newborns.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Neopenda team, based in both Uganda and Chicago, worked on modifying its neoGuard product and accelerated development so it could be used for both adult and pediatric patients affected by the coronavirus. 

The wearable device can be used both in the hospital and remotely to monitor patients who are recovering from COVID-19 at home. 

“COVID-19 has threatened already fragile health infrastructures and disproportionately affects minorities; Neopenda is working towards providing equitable access to high-quality health care globally,” said Shah, CEO and co-founder of Neopenda.  

Neopenda’s neoGuard device won the $100,000 Cisco Global Problem Solver Prize in 2016, part of the Rice Business Plan Competition. Since then, the device has evolved through three design iterations and completed several clinical trials involving patients both in the US and Uganda. Cisco supports Neopenda as part of its commitment to power an inclusive future for all. 

For more information on Neopenda and their partnership with Cisco, click here