Contributor: Markayle Tolliver

World Business Chicago salutes #WomensHistoryMonth by highlighting entrepreneurs and founders in Life Sciences and Healthcare, one of Chicago’s fastest growing sectors experiencing tremendous innovation through tech. Today, we highlight Sona Shah, the CEO and co-founder of Neopenda, a global health social enterprise creating technologies to reduce neonatal mortality in low-resource settings through the use of a vital signs monitoring system.

Sona tells us how she got her interest in life sciences and healthcare innovation — 

I pursued chemical engineering at Georgia Tech for my undergraduate degree– Chemical engineering has broad applications ranging from pharmaceutical to petroleum to food industries. I was most interested in the healthcare sector given the direct impact the industry has. After my undergraduate degree, I became a teacher in a rural community in Western Kenya for a few months, which exposed me to both a beautiful and warm culture, and a number of inequities. I returned to the US, and started a career in pharmaceutical engineering- pursuing more of my passion in healthcare and engineering. After a couple years, I realized that the kids I taught in Kenya may never see the medications I was helping make, and the inequity grew until I decided to pursue a MS in Biomedical Engineering from Columbia University. It was during the masters program that Tess and I co-founded Neopenda, and we couldn’t imagine doing anything else!”

Sona goes on to share insights on her company’s model — 

At Neopenda, we believe that everyone deserves access to cutting-edge medical technologies. We design needs-based medical devices for emerging markets. Our first product, neoGuard, is a 4-in-1 wearable vital signs monitor that immediately alerts clinicians of patients in distress. We received CE Mark on neoGuard in 2021, and have commercially launched in Kenya and Uganda.”

Sona shares advice to women starting their careers in life sciences and healthcare innovation —

“Healthcare innovation and life sciences is an extraordinary field to pursue a career in. The sector has numerous challenges (which presents opportunities); the value chain includes various stakeholders– purchasers are often different from users and beneficiaries of healthcare innovations, there are significant regulatory hurdles, and the time to market for healthcare innovations is lengthy and expensive. Despite these challenges, we get to wake up every morning knowing that we are directly improving patient’s lives. There is no shortage of problems to solve; uncover a problem worth solving and you will find a way to move mountains to solve the problem.”

For more information about Sona Shah or Neopenda please visit

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