Mission Driven Innovation
LeanMed provides hospital grade oxygen to help treat pediatric pneumonia in rural Nigeria
I recently had the opportunity to speak with LeanMed’s CEO Mark Adkins to learn about how its product, the O2 Cube, is making an impact on healthcare in low resource communities.
LeanMed’s story began in 2018 while Mark Adkins worked as an adjunct Bioengineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh. During this time, Mark was teaching a class titled, Managing Medical Product Innovation, which teaches students about the innovation process from idea discovery to product launch. Mark was approached by James Newton who was a medical student taking the class at the time about his recent trip to Malawi . While on the trip, he was shocked by the number of children who were impacted by pneumonia.
James Newton developed a team of students, called Team Oxygen, who were mentored by Mark to start developing a solution for pediatric pneumonia. Each year over 800,000 children die from pneumonia around the world. Newton knew that children were dying from pneumonia because they do not have access to medical-grade oxygen. The reason why these rural communities do not have access to oxygen is due to limited access to electricity. Through this brainstorming phase, the idea for the “O2 Cube” was developed. The O2 Cube is a solar-powered device that provides medical-grade oxygen to low-resource communities without reliable access to electricity or whose poor infrastructure impedes delivery of oxygen tanks.
To jump-start product development, the group participated in a competition at the University of Pittsburgh called Blast Furnace, sponsored by the Innovation Institute, in 2018. The money won in this competition was used to build a functional O2 Cube prototype, to legally establish the company, and to retain an industrial design firm and a marketing firm. In 2019 and 2020, the LeanMed team received funding from Idea Foundry and Duquesne's New Venture Challenge respectively. These funds were used to further develop their prototype. In 2021 LeanMed was accepted into the LifeX Accelerator Program, received recognition from the World Health Organization (WHO), and negotiated a license to Ultrafill technology from Philip Respironics. More funds were received in 2022 from the PINCH competition ($50,000) and WeFunder Crowdfunding ($85,000) which allowed for the development of the first commercialized O2 Cube unit.
In October 2023, Mark Adkins travelled to Nigeria where he met with current users of the O2 Cube. He also witnessed O2 Cube in action to evaluate possible improvements and to connect with new potential customers. To date, two commercial O2 Cubes have been shipped and LeanMed has eight current orders. They expect to have shipped eight units by February 2024. Moving forward, LeanMed looks to scale up and expand where its product is distributed. “We think that one day we will sell tens of thousands of O2 Cubes around the world because there are a billion people today who don’t have access to the oxygen they need.”
Mr. Adkins advises young innovators and entrepreneurs who are planning start-up companies to do three things: (1) have a problem that’s worth solving, (2) make sure that your solution is unique, and (3) get as close to your customers as you possibly can. He advises that the most crucial key to success is “have a never-give-up mentality”.
Learn more about LeanMed’s story here: https://leanmedinnovation.com/