Lean Med: Competition Winners Bring Oxygen to East Africa

After developing an interest in improving global health and many long conversations with experts, Founder James Newton came to the realization that supplemental oxygen is not easily accessible in various parts of the world. During his time as a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh, James was determined to find a solution and execute his vision of providing essential healthcare to developing nations.

James’s idea, the O2 Cube, was first introduced at the University’s 2018 Blast Furnace Competition. As a result of the win, funding was allocated toward creating a functional prototype, growing their company and developing a brand image. He then competed in Duquesne University’s New Venture Competition and placed 3rd, which led to his SBDC referral by the School of Business Administration’s Center for Entrepreneurship.

Co-worker Steven Donahoe used funding from Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry to do target research in Malawi. With the Idea Foundry funding they launched a project to collect pulse oximetry data from the Balaka District in Malawi while building relations with their healthcare system.

The SBDC business consultant assigned to this client helped primarily to guide the Lean Med team to finding new connections in East Africa, specifically with medical device companies. This location was a primary focus for James and his team because of the lack of supplemental oxygen. Countries include Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. As a duo, Lean Med and the SBDC took time to further develop the business plan draft and seek new funding opportunities.

This company’s main goal was to create a technology that checked all the boxes: low cost, portable yet durable, solar power, and the ability to regenerate oxygen. Lean Med does what competing entities cannot. For now, the O2 Cube is targeted at Rural Health Centers (RHC’s), but the company acknowledges the future potential of implementing their innovative technology as a backup source for larger hospitals. Recently, the company has recruited 3 graduate bioengineering students to work on a 5-year road map that will continue to bring essential healthcare to developing nations.