Sona Shah ’16SEAS and Teresa Cauvel ’16SEAS Are on a Mission to Save Millions of Newborns

Inc.’s 11th annual 30 Under 30 list features the young founders taking on some of the world’s biggest challenges. Here, meet Neopenda.

In Uganda alone, nearly 600,000 newborns require medical intervention for complications at birth. That’s a problem that Teresa Cauvel and Sona Shah are on a mission to solve. Neopenda, the health tech startup they founded in 2015, makes wearables that monitor four newborn vitals: Heart rate, respiration, blood oxygen saturation, and temperature.

Cauvel and Shah met at Columbia University, where they received master’s degrees in biomedical engineering. The two partnered up in a bio-design class to create a prototype addressing an unmet clinical need, and eventually to develop a business model to bring that solution to life. It was during their first trip to Uganda when the budding engineers really put their early work on the project into context.

“We spent a lot of time in the overcrowded Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU), watching the nurses do so much with so little,” says Cauvel. “I heard firsthand from the doctors that vital-signs monitoring would make a huge difference in their newborn patients’ lives.” After the trip, Cauvel and Shah decided to commit to building company full-time.

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