Neeti Kailas has always been passionate about healthcare. While in the Industrial Design graduate program at ArtCenter, her pregnancy risk-assessment kit, Aadhya, was exhibited in the Student Gallery.
Today, inspired by a childhood friend in India who was born deaf, Kailas is working to address another critical yet largely ignored healthcare need in resource-poor communities worldwide—routine hearing screening of newborns, crucial to their future language development.
An inexpensive, easy-to-use, portable diagnostic device that she designed with engineer Nitin Sisodia has been turning heads.
In 2014, as one of five visionary Young Laureates, Kailas received the prestigious Rolex Award for Enterprise; and this year Forbes India included her on its “30 Under 30” list. The ensuing international press attention, says Kailas, has been great for the startup Sohum Innovation Lab that she and Sisodia co-founded.
“To me, design is about problem solving, and thinking about how I can have maximum impact on society. Some of the problems we are trying to solve are systemic—they cannot be solved in isolation, but need more than one type of innovation to be effective and sustainable.”
Using Rolex Award funds to conduct a clinical evaluation of the prototype device, the duo have been setting up a network of healthcare professionals in India who can diagnose or treat deafness. Now it’s up to investors and other supporters to help bring the project to scale.