Way back when, when I first started Warmilu, I was a material science engineer at the University of Michigan, in my undergrad program. What had happened was I learned over 1 million infants die from preventable hypothermia and other pre-term birth problems and challenges, like being low birth weight, having issues breathing, and getting access to basic things like incubators and ventilators. And that was really powerful, that resonated with me to learn about, because I was born pre-term, and if not for the incubator where I spent the first 11 days of my life, I would have died. So my life had come full-circle. So myself and my team had been doing research in space age materials and polymer chemistry, and as a result, that led to the first “a ha” moment - what if I applied some of my research to keeping babies warm? Because the technology I’d been working on was purely non-electric, and you can use it to store heat, and be able to generate heat with a press of a disk. The problem was the technologies of the time would over-heat, so 8 years ago, my team and I figured out what if we could add a thermal buffer? So that thermal buffer and the mixture in side the pack stays warm for 5-8 hours. So we got a US patent on that, and that led to the beginning of Warmilu. And then seeing the problem in person - at this point in time, I’ve traveled to India, Kenya, Israel, Uganda, and other areas that are resource-scarce or challenged like Rwanda, Ghana, Bangladesh, Nepal, we’re serving 11 countries now.
But as we were going overseas with these prototypes, communicating with doctors and nurses overseas, seeing this in-person kicked us into overdrive. We saw hospitals where there were 2-6 babies in one incubator, or quintuplets who died the day before we visited their county hospital, they’d been born 1 month pre-term like myself but they all died because they had no source of warmth on the way to the hospital. So all 5 of those babies died. In addition, there were stories from midwives, doctors and nurses: in Uganda there was a midwife who told us about how she had a group of 30 babies in a hospital, and they’d received a flood warning, so they’d transported most of the adult patients all fine, but in the neonatal intensive care unit, all 30 of the babies died, because they had no transport incubator. They tried to put the babies in tubs with heated sand, but it didn’t work, it wasn’t safe. Some of the babies were on ventilators, so all of them ended up dying. So it was stories like that, in a setting where 80% of the babies could die from things that could be prevented like just staying warm. So seeing that stuff in-person, it made it so me, as a person born and raised in Michigan, up until that point I’d never experienced that kind of disparity in healthcare and access. So going overseas, touring these hospitals, it really made me want to do something as a material science engineer. So I was very fortunate that the University of Michigan gave me a grant from their business school, and that helped us to warm babies and to do so from the very beginning - from coming up with the idea, prototyping, and then having the resources to run clinical trials to learn, test, and build a commercial medical device company.