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Using LED lights, NeoLight aims to help tens of thousands of newborns every year

March 30, 2020

ASU alumni-run company wants to make infant jaundice a thing of the past

Each year, around 60% of newborns will come into the world with jaundice, a condition that manifests as a yellowing of the baby’s skin. Infant jaundice is easily treatable and is often treated with phototherapy, which involves exposing the newborn to blue light for a few days after birth. But in parts of the developing world that lack access to electricity or medical supplies, tens of thousands of infants die or develop brain damage each year from untreated jaundice. 

Sivakumar Palaniswamy, a 2016 Arizona State University graduate with an MS in bioengineering, saw this tragedy firsthand while working in a hospital in India, where several newborns shared a single light. In the summer of 2014, Palaniswamy partnered with three then-fellow ASU students to found NeoLight, a medical startup aimed at eradicating deaths from infant jaundice with a new approach to phototherapy. 

“Siva saw a problem and it struck a chord in his heart,” said NeoLight CEO Vivek Kopparthi, ’14 MS in management. “When he returned to ASU, we started discussing this and applying the biomedical concepts we learned in school to engineer an efficient solution.”

NeoLight got an early boost with a $25,000 grant from ASU’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative. The team parlayed the grant into a further $600,000 seed investment from angel investors in Phoenix that they used to navigate the complex regulatory approval process for medical devices; in 2017, the device was approved by the FDA. To date, the company has raised around $7.5 million from investors, including NFL quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and has developed a partnership with Phoenix-based HonorHealth to further study the device.

Known as Skylife, the device uses LED-based phototherapy to treat infant jaundice in both hospitals and homes. LEDs are highly efficient, using 98% less electricity than a standard incubator, so they can be used in places without reliable electricity, and they don’t have many of the side effects of other phototherapy devices like excess heat that can dry a baby’s skin. Furthermore, the device has been shown to send jaundiced babies home from the hospital 40% faster than competitors’ products.

The company is also developing a diagnostic device that detects and monitors jaundice on the spot in newborns without the need for a lab test. With these devices, the NeoLight team hopes it will soon make untreated infant jaundice a thing of the past.  

Written by Daniel Oberhaus. He is a graduate of Barrett, The Honors College who earned a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and philosophy in 2015, a staff writer at Wired magazine and the author of “Extraterrestrial Languages” (MIT Press). This story originally appeared in the spring 2020 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. 

Top photo: The FDA-approved Skylife, shown here under a baby, treats newborns for jaundice in homes or hospitals. The founders won a $25,000 grant from ASU’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative and parlayed that into an additional $600,000 seed investment. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

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The power of small wins

March 30, 2020

Doing a little at a time is the best way to reach your big ambitious goals

Editor's note: This piece was written by May Busch, senior adviser and executive in residence in ASU’s Office of the President. She is also a professor of practice in the W. P. Carey School of Business and chairs the Idea Enterprise. Find her at

We often associate “big wins” like closing an important deal for your company or a job promotion you’ve been working toward with career success and satisfaction.

But as you focus on the big wins, it’s easy to lose sight of the small wins along the way that mark your progress toward achieving those big wins. And that’s a mistake.

Big wins take time and hard work, so when you neglect your small wins it can feel like you’re not making progress even when you are. Like hiking up a mountain but feeling like the summit is no closer at lunchtime than when you set out.

Not only is this discouraging, it can even derail your progress toward those bigger goals.

Winning as progress

Instead of waiting until the big win to celebrate, why not reframe “winning” to mean progress?

This means looking for milestones that represent progress toward your big win. Celebrating each progress step as a “small win” builds positive momentum, the kind that keeps you (and your team) motivated to move forward.

“When you neglect your small wins it can feel like you’re not making progress even when you are. Like hiking up a mountain but feeling like the summit is no closer at lunchtime than when you set out.”

Small wins are everywhere once you learn to spot them. Like finally getting a call back from a client that you’ve been calling and calling, getting a compliment from your department head, or beating the traffic to get to the office in time for an important meeting.

The beauty of “small wins” is they can lead to bigger impact and broader implications later on. Celebrating small wins as significant steps toward your larger goals helps you focus on the path or the process rather than the endpoint alone. This in turn changes how you feel and perform … for the better.

How to create small wins in your career

Many small wins will be things you’re already doing without giving yourself credit, like finishing a presentation deck on time or helping a new colleague navigate office politics. Start celebrating them!

Other small wins will be the kind you create by investing in your development, which stacks the deck in your favor. Instead of just speaking up at a meeting, you could develop the skill of speaking with impact. And rather than run from meeting to meeting without time to think, you could learn strategies for getting a grip on your calendar and finally feel productive.

It all comes down to what you aspire to in terms of the “big wins” in your career and life. Is it a job promotion? Growing your business? Or something else entirely?

Whatever those future “big wins” look like for you, start focusing on the path by asking yourself:

  • What are the “small wins” I can celebrate?
  • What investments can I make in my development along the way?

The best way to create more small wins (that lead to big wins) is to make your career development part of your normal day. Don’t wait until “later” when you have “more time” to work on your big ambitious goals because we all know that time never comes.

Take a moment to ask yourself, “What small win will I celebrate today?”

This story originally appeared in the spring 2020 issue of ASU Thrive magazine.