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NeoLight, cofounded by ASU alumni, wins AZBio Fast Lane Award

Vivek Kopparthi (right), co-founder and CEO of NeoLight, accepts a 2018 AZBio Fast Lane Award on Wednesday, October 3, during the AZBio Awards at the Phoenix Convention Center. Photo courtesy of Arizona Bioindustry Association

This week the Arizona Bioindustry Association recognized NeoLight, a company cofounded by a team of Arizona State University students in 2014, won a 2018 AZBio Fast Lane Award for the company’s success moving from the initial development stage to commercialization.

In the short time since cofounders Vivek Kopparthi, Sivakumar Palaniswamy, Chase Garrett and Deepak Krishnaraju won $7,000 in funding from ASU after winning the Edson student entrepreneurship competition, they’ve been able to make a difference in the lives of infants around the world affected by neonatal jaundice.

“The AZBio Fast Lane is awarded on a competitive basis to the select few companies that have achieved outstanding milestones in the past 18 months as measured by clinical results, regulatory approvals, certifications, collaborations, funding awards, product launches, job growth or product sales milestones,” says Joan Koerber-Walker, president and CEO of AZBio. “NeoLight has made significant progress in all of these areas and they are just getting started.”

Neonatal jaundice, which occurs in about half of all newborns, is caused when a baby’s blood contains an excess of bilirubin, a yellow pigment of red blood cells that is toxic to brain cells.

If left untreated, high levels of bilirubin can result in severe jaundice and increase the risk of bilirubin passing into the brain, a condition called acute bilirubin encephalopathy.

Jaundice is readily treatable with phototherapy, and if treated promptly, can prevent significant lasting damage to newborns. However, access to the devices and electricity for this treatment is scarce in the developing world. NeoLight was created to help solve this issue.

four students holding a piece of wood that says NeoLight

Above: The co-founders of Neolight (L-R): Sivakumar Palaniswamy, Deepak Krishnaraju, Chase Garrett and Vivek Kopparthi in their days as ASU students. Photographer: Hayden Taylor

Helping the developing world

Each day the deaths of more than 200 infants in Africa and more than 1,000 cases of brain damage or death in Southeast Asia are the direct result of severe jaundice.

While working at a hospital in India, NeoLight’s Chief Technology Officer Sivakumar Palaniswamy, an Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering alumnus, witnessed the shortcomings of current jaundice treatment firsthand.

Palaniswamy says it was heartbreaking to see multiple jaundiced babies under a single blue halogen bulb hanging from the ceiling. He knew there had to be a better way.

He and the rest of the team created NeoLight to develop improved phototherapy technology that overcame the drawbacks of prior treatment methods used to treat jaundice.

NeoLight’s phototherapy device uses cost-effective LED lights that emit light on a narrow spectrum as opposed to halogen or compact fluorescent tube lamps used in others devices. Neolight’s technology speeds up treatment and eliminates side effects such as dehydration, skin irritation and erythema. The device’s simple design also enables it to be used without skilled labor due to it being compact and modular.

NeoLight’s mission is to reinvent newborn health care through empathy-driven solutions. The company is filled with passionate entrepreneurs who want to change the approach to newborn care by focusing on people first and technology second.

The NeoLight team was honored by Arizona’s bioscience and business communities at the 2018 AZBio Awards on October 3 at the Phoenix Convention Center as part of Arizona Bioscience Week.

About The Author

Erik Wirtanen

Erik Wirtanen graduated from Arizona State in 2001 with a B.S. in Recreation Management and Tourism. He got his start in the communications field as an undergrad with the ASU Athletics Media Relations office. He worked at UC Irvine from 2002 until 2014 in the Department of Athletics and then The Henry Samueli School of Engineering. In August of 2014, Wirtanen joined the communications office at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Media Contact: erik.wirtanen@asu.edu | 480-727-1957 | Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Communications

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