Established in 2018, Lean Med is a LLC registered in the state of Pennsylvania and headquartered in Pittsburgh. Lean Med adopts a social mission at its core, with the aim of bringing essential treatments to low-resource environments through innovative technologies.

The inspiration for Lean Med came originally from Founder James Newton as a first year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh. With a keen interest in global health innovation, numerous conversations with global health experts led him to recognize the common complaint of inadequate supplemental O2 availability in low resource areas. Research into the topic further validated the need for O2, while creating a solution seemed achievable. Since that time, we have had a number of accomplishments:


Winner of the 2018 Blast Furnace Competition: Blast Furnace is the University of Pittsburgh’s student accelerator that provides emerging entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills they need to form a corporation and grow and develop their business.

O2 Cube Functional Prototype: With the Blast Furnace funding, we 1) procured the materials to build a functional O2 Cube prototype 2) legally established the company 3) retained an industrial design firm for concept development and 4) retained a marketing firm to develop our brand image.


Idea Foundry Funding: Idea Foundry invests in and works alongside entrepreneurs to transform innovative business ideas into viable commercial activities, facilitates business growth, and leverages global programs to attract talent, capital, and business to the Pittsburgh area.

Malawi Pulse Oximetry Project: With the Idea Foundry funding, we launched a project to collect pulse oximetry data from the Balaka District in Malawi while building relations with their healthcare system. See more below on this project.


3rd Place in the University of Duquesne New Venture Competition (DNVC): Finished 3rd place out of 70 applicants. The DNVC is a platform for entrepreneurship education to help them develop and execute their business models.

Duquesne Student Project: We currently have a team of biomedical students at Duquesne building an improved O2 Cube prototype as an independent study project that will provide them hands on design, build, and test experience.

UnitaidExplore: We have an active application with Unitaid (part of the World Health Organization) for their call: Innovations to Increase Access to Oxygen Therapy. It is focused on pediatric pneumonia, recognizing it as a deadly killer of children. We have successfully moved onto the final round of the challenge.


With the financial support of Idea Foundry and the logistical support of H.E.L.P. Malawi, Lean Med was able to conduct its own data collection program in the Balaka District of Malawi. The purpose of the program was to validate the frequency of patients that require supplemental oxygen. In order to achieve our objective, we used the blood-oxygen levels of incoming patients at various rural health centers over the course of 3 months. Beyond H.E.L.P. Malawi, we were fortunate to work with Dr. Eugene Katenga-Kaunda, Balaka’s District Health Officer, in determining specific rural health centers and securing agreements with the staffs.

In total, we chose to work with 7 rural health centers spread across the entire Balaka District. Each of these centers is run by an Officer-in-Charge, who you can also see below:

  1. Kalembo Health Center: Run by Julius Chinong’one
  2. Kankao Health Center: Run by Darlico Majawa
  3. Kwitanda Health Center: Run by Chikumbutso Malinga
  4. Mbera Health Center: Run by Frezar Chakukuma
  5. Nandumbo Health Center: Run by Alfred Chisale (supported by H.E.L.P. Malawi)
  6. Phalula Health Center: Run by Kondwani Chikakuda
  7. Phimbi Health Center: Run by James Afuwa

We supplied each health facility with a wireless pulse oximeter and a smartphone for communication and data collection. Additionally, we developed and provided some additional equipment for securing and recharging the electronics at the facility. After training the staff on the use of the pulse oximeters and associated smartphone tools, we revisited various facilities, such as Kwitanda and Kalembo, to ensure that the training protocols and guides were successful.

We followed the health centers over the course of 3 months. Our communication served not only to collect data, but also to determine the reception and impact of the pulse oximeters. These centers had never used pulse oximeters before, and were not aware of the World Health Organization’s (W.H.O.) recommendations for determining patients in need of oxygen. Furthermore, we served as technical support when difficulties arose with the technology or the smartphone applications. Overall, we were proud to see the warm reactions that we received from the staff:

“Of course, [the pulse oximeters] do suit (fit)… it also gives hope to the patient that he or she’s receiving proper treatment.” – Kondwani Chikakuda

“Introduction of pulse oximeters is a welcome development at this facility.” – Frezar Chakukuma

“The coming in of or the provision of this technology is another new landmark in the history of health service delivery in Malawi, Balaka in particular.” – Darlico Majawa

In the end, our work served to help validate how dire the oxygen situation is in countries like Malawi. Over the course of the 3 months, the centers tested 3,890 patients for their oxygen saturation levels. An astounding 37% of these patients were found to have levels below 90%, at which point the W.H.O. recommends they receive supplemental oxygen. Even adjusting for potential false-positives with pulse oximeters, the data revealed that an average of 12 patients per week required supplemental oxygen at any given center. We have continued to use this data to guide our own development of the O2 Cube, while each of the centers have continued to make use of the pulse oximeters to this day!

Meet the Balaka District Facility Officers!