The Queen's Partnerships and Innovation (QPI) team supports the University’s strategic goal to build community partnerships and fully embed Queen’s in the community. With support from external funding, the QPI team offers numerous services, resources, and programs to support entrepreneurs, including those from Queen’s, and to accelerate the growth of startups and small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within Kingston and Eastern Ontario.

One of the keys to business success is addressing a pain point for your intended market. Aqeela Somani, founder of Nephron.Health, knows her market’s pain point well having cared for a family member who suffered from kidney failure.

“When people are grappling with something like kidney failure, they are dealing with major life changes as well as a complex health system,” says Somani. “This landscape is difficult to navigate, not just for the patients but for their caregivers as well.”

The company’s Chief Design Officer, Natasha Murji, is also familiar with the journey having experienced kidney failure and having received a kidney transplant. She is the inspiration and key driver of Nephron.Health. And the third co-founder, Roger Ma, takes a different perspective. He is the Director of Client Care and Decision Support with Carefirst, where he oversees at home dialysis care. Through his work and the experience he has with kidney patients, Ma is motivated to do more. He believes health tech can help patients enjoy a better quality of life.

Headshots of the Nephron.Health founders: Aqeela Somani, Natasha Murji and Roger MaFor Nephron.Health, the business is more than just a passion project – the team is living the experiences themselves.

At each stage of the kidney failure process, patients face new obstacles. That’s where Nephron.Health hopes to make a difference. The company offers coaching by those who have lived through the experience and provides education and guidance for those whose daily lives have undergone dramatic changes. The Nephron.Health digital companion app allows users to book and complete coaching sessions, track their progress, and insert diary entries.

“Through our market research we’ve found that coaching does help patients and their caregivers,” says Somani. “It improves health outcomes and quality of life for the patients, and it reduces the number of hospital visits.”

Over the late spring and early summer, Somani attended and completed QPI’s Wings Acceleration program for early-stage startups. The program provides startup founders with tools and guidance to help them assess the feasibility of their business idea, validate their proposed value proposition, and begin the development of a viable business model.

“The program required us to conduct interviews and research, which helped us realize that our first customers should be our end users,” says Somani. “The program facilitators were able to provide many resources to help us evaluate our value statements, which we ended up revising as a result of our learnings.”

As for next steps, the team sees additional options being added to the digital companion app such as medication and vitals trackers, patient health diaries, and even educational resources.

“Not only are we helping patients in this process, we are also freeing resources in the healthcare industry by taking some load off practitioners as well,” says Somani. “That’s a win for the health industry overall.”

The Wings Acceleration program is offered through the Scale-Up Platform, an initiative led by Invest Ottawa in Eastern Ontario and in which Queen’s is a regional partner. The Scale-Up Platform Project is supported by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).