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.
“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, affecting 1% to 2% of the general population.
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.”
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; even just to start oral pills, they must be hospitalized for three days of monitoring. Her solution was to use engineering to automate the process of EKG monitoring, meaning more convenience for the physicians and clinical team, and fewer hospitalizations and easier access to important medications for patients.
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.
“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 make arrhythmia monitoring automatic and remote, aimed to replace costly hospital stays just to start taking pills.”
While Dr. Navara’s idea for SafeBeat Rx was developed prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 created “a golden era for telehealth” and moving patient care out of the hospital and—when possible—into their homes.
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 early as 2022 with FDA approval,” says Dr. Navara.