“I realized this lack of equipment to help babies breathe was a huge problem that needed to be solved… I am a living example of the success that Northeastern’s entrepreneurship ecosystem can bring.”
Thousands of premature babies die each year in developing countries because hospitals lack affordable medical equipment to help them breathe. Solomon Mensah, a doctoral candidate in bioengineering, plans to change that. The company he co-founded while at Northeastern, Therapeutic Innovations, built a low-cost, transportable, and easy-to-maintain “bubble continuous positive airway pressure” (CPAP) device that delivers lifesaving oxygen [DR3] to newborns. Mensah’s team successfully tested a near-final prototype with clinicians in Africa and India in the summer of 2018.
Northeastern’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem has supported the inventors through Airbaby’s extensive product-development process with seed funding, design and building assistance, and regulatory and intellectual property expertise. The company aims to sell the reengineered machine at a fraction of the cost of a traditional bubble CPAP.
For this “hands-on guy” who grew up in Ghana and graduated from City College of New York, Northeastern has also been an ideal place to pursue his doctorate. His dissertation research, inspired by his late grandmother’s illnesses and supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Award, involves investigating the role played by glycocalyx, a sticky, hydrated sugar membrane covering endothelial cells. This layer is known to degrade, resulting in the progression of cardiovascular disease and cancer. He was first author on a PLOS ONE paper about glycocalyx regeneration [DR4] in 2017. Mensah envisions a “hybrid career” in which he continues to grow Therapeutic Innovations while teaching at the university level — “so I can pass on my knowledge about product development to students.”
“My goal is to bring entrepreneurship and business education to engineering, because I had to learn all these things the hard way.”