A newborn baby dies in Ghana every 15 minutes, this researcher is doing something about it

Northeastern University doctoral candidate Solomon Mensah is traveling through Ghana and India this month on a quest to address a critical health need in the developing world: helping babies breathe.

Mensah co-founded Therapeutic Innovations in 2014 with the goal of redesigning cheaper, easier-to-use medical devices for developing countries. The company has since built a prototype, called the Airbaby, which features a facemask that delivers a combination of ambient air and oxygen to babies to help their lungs actuate and retain oxygen.

On a previous trip to Ghana, Mensah learned that respiratory problems among newborns, particularly premature babies, are common, but equipment to help them was scarce. Having grown up poor in Ghana, he said he’s driven to help others like him—using the knowledge, engineering skills, and entrepreneurial spirit he’s gained at Northeastern. “I realized I could do something about this,” he said.

Therapeutic Innovations has also tapped into Northeastern’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The company received gap funding from IDEA, the student-led venture accelerator, to help build the prototype and develop a market strategy. The company also connected with Boston-area mentors through the university’s Health Sciences Entrepreneurs program and partnered with the student-led organization Generate to test the device’s heating method to humidify the air it pumps into a baby’s lungs. In May, Mensah presented at the university’s Experiential PhD Expo.

The company was accepted into MassChallenge in 2016 and received a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation as part of its I-CORPS program in 2017. The program helps scientists and engineers extend their work beyond the university laboratory and accelerates projects ready to move toward commercialization.

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