STORY: Getting to the Heart of Engineering

October 18, 2021

As valedictorian and Outstanding Senior Student at the acclaimed Signature School in Indiana, Dr. Rachita Navara ’11 had her pick of top engineering schools from MIT to Caltech—but for her, Olin stood out from all the rest.

“The innovative curriculum with an emphasis on entrepreneurship attracted me right away,” said Dr. Navara. “I knew I wanted to go into medicine and innovate within it, so I needed a special toolkit of engineering and ‘learning how to learn’ to help me succeed. I was also looking for a well-rounded curriculum that could support my interdisciplinary interests. During my bioengineering training, I minored in both creative writing and Hindi/Urdu language. I took sculpture and painting and opera singing through Olin’s co-curricular program—all while preparing for a career in medicine.”

Now Dr. Navara is a bioengineer, entrepreneur, and heart rhythm cardiologist. She discovered her specialty—electrophysiology—during her senior year capstone project at Olin.

A women in white lab coat and red outfit underneath, poses in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Dr. Rachita Navara ’11 poses in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in 2021.

“As a heart rhythm doctor, my field is in debugging the circuits of the heart, which is a perfect blend of engineering and medicine,” said Dr. Navara. “I was first exposed to the heart as one of nature’s most sophisticated machines when working on pacemakers and stents at Olin.”

Through the SCOPE program, she was hired as an engineering consultant by Boston Scientific as an undergraduate student to create new cardiac devices using model polymers.

While attending medical school at UT Southwestern, she delved further into cardiology, using her engineering skills to analyze intravascular ultrasound data and ultimately lead a sub-study of a major four-year clinical trial as a student. During her internal medicine residency at Stanford, Dr. Navara conducted research on the mechanisms of atrial fibrillation—or “AFib”—one of the most common cardiac arrhythmias, with a lifetime risk of 1 in 5, up to 1 in 3 for individuals with risk factors.

She has received international recognition for her research on AFib and was appointed to the American College of Cardiology’s Electrophysiology Leadership Council, where she recently produced a video on “What is AFib.”

Close-up image of a doctor's lab coat with name and MD title listed on it.

A close-up of Dr. Rachita Navara's lab coat with her name and MD title.

Throughout her work and research on arrhythmias and innovation, Dr. Navara recognized a clinical area of improvement for both patients and physicians. Patients with heart rhythm disorders often required frequent trips to the hospital just for electrocardiogram (EKG) monitoring. Her solution was to use engineering to automate the process of EKG monitoring, to allow seamless physician approval of drug dosing, all from a mobile phone. 

Dr. Navara’s idea led to the creation of her company SafeBeat Rx in 2020, which uses software to automate the specific features of EKGs that doctors use to track drug side effects. She went on to co-found SafeBeat Rx with her Chief Technology Officer Dr. Kunj Patel, a pain physician, applied mathematician, and her husband.

A man in white lab coat and tie showing underneath stands with arms crossed, smiling, next to a woman in white lab coat with crossed arms and smiling at camera..

Dr. Rachita Navara ’11 poses with husband and co-founder of SafeBeat Rx, Dr. Kunj Patel.

“Most patients who are diagnosed with common arrhythmias have to be on medications for life, and this often requires many small changes to dosing to optimize effect and safety,” Dr. Navara explains. “With SafeBeat Rx, we apply machine learning and signal processing to streamline arrhythmia monitoring and guide therapeutics.” 

SafeBeat Rx’s earliest investor was Parcel B, Olin’s investment collective. SafeBeat Rx was also selected into the most prestigious and competitive Y Combinator startup accelerator in Silicon Valley, as well as the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program, the MIT Engine startup development program, and BioGenerator’s Grants to Business program. The company has been awarded grants from the Big Ideas Innovation Competition, Missouri TechLaunch IDEA fund, and Skandalaris Venture Competition.

SafeBeat Rx is currently in the first phase of software validation and the team is actively planning a clinical trial. 

 “We’re excited to have SafeBeat Rx’s technology roll out as soon as we get the appropriate regulatory clearances,” says Dr. Navara.