Kukec's People: Glenview entrepreneur seeks to help kids with asthma
A quotation by Mahatma Gandhi inspired his namesake Prasanthi Gandhi of Glenview.
"You must be the change you wish to see in this world," he said.
That quote was the common thread that's got Prasanthi Gandhi from Detroit to St. Louis, to New York and ultimately Glenview, where she has launched her company called Exhale, an air collection test for allergens to help guide asthma suffers seeking relief. She worked with biophysicist Julian Gordon of Lake Bluff, as well as researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Labs.
"This quote has been very strong for me and it's been my passion to work in the health field and to be an advocate for children," Gandhi said,
Born in Detroit, Gandhi grew up in Milwaukee before earning a bachelor's degree in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and studied in its pre-med program before moving to New York to earn at master's degree in public health at Columbia University.
Her parents and brother are all doctors. She assumed that is what she would do, too.
"But I realized I wanted to do more, something on a larger scale and health was always important to me," she said.
She set up the U.S. arm of Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India, also known as SAATHII, which helps strengthens HIV prevention and treatment. She set up the offices and managed a team in New York and then transitioned that work to others when she and her husband moved to Boston, where he earned his masters of business administration. They later moved to the Chicago area and she earned her MBA at Northwestern University and worked for Sara Lee and CocaCola.
By 2011, she decided to start Exhale to help children, like her own, who have asthma. She also has asthma. She secured a first round of funding of $350,000 from Breakout Labs, lead by Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder and investor in Facebook now worth roughly $2.7 billion, according to Forbes. She also partnered with biophysicist Julian Gordon, who worked with a team at Abbott that developed the technology behind the first home pregnancy tests.
The air-testing kit from Exhale is used to capture an air sample for five days in the home and then sent to a lab for testing of allergens. A report and action plan are provided along with resources and other information.
While the prevention of asthma and allergies hasn't changed much in many years, Gandhi said she wanted to help change that.
"We want to walk people through the game plan so they feel better in their home," she said.
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