If you were to meet Melissa Manice in person, you’d feel an instant connection. When a person is described as being someone who makes you feel like “you’re the only person in the room”….well, that would be Melissa. Once you get past her charming personality, you realize that she is wicked smart, brilliant perhaps. She is the definition of multi-faceted; a wife and mother first, a dazzling businesswoman and lifelong friend second. It was a privilege peeling back these layers, each one leaving me more in awe of the one before.
You may not recognize the name Melissa Manice now, but it won’t be long before you do. Her company, Cohero Health, is about to transform the healthcare industry.
Breathing is something most of us take for granted, but for the 24 million asthma sufferers in the United States (and 26 million with Adult Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD)), ease of this natural instinct is reliant upon daily medication, frequent visits to the doctor, and the occasional hospital visit.
Melissa’s company has created a solution for this—it’s called an “app enabled device” and is changing the way asthma and COPD are managed and treated worldwide.
At Vanderbilt University, Melissa spent the bulk of her undergraduate education in labs studying cancer research. She used this research to apply for a fellowship after she graduated at the National Cancer Institute in Washington DC.
It was here that Melissa was paired with who she considers to be the most profound mentor in her entire career.
Two months after Melissa began her fellowship, Anita herself was diagnosed with Stage Four aggressive gastric cancer, the very cancer she had studied throughout her career.
The partnership with Anita seemed serendipitous. Here was a woman that Melissa admired deeply, who showed her a noble way of pursuing her career, and her family, wholeheartedly.
Melissa took note, finishing her fellowship and starting a Master’s program in Public Health at John Hopkins University, ultimately transferring to an urban public health program at Hunter College in New York….this time, to be closer to her new fiancé.
She went on to pursue a PHD at Mount Sinai, her thesis focusing on the barriers that physicians, patients, and healthcare systems face to properly treat children with asthma.
And this is where Cohero Health was born.
To break it down for you, what this means is that if you're an asthma sufferer, you can wear Cohero’s device, a mini spirometer (which measures air capacity in your lungs) paired with a smartphone app, and have real time tracking of your medication intake and how your lungs are responding.
The result? Less time spent making trips to the hospital, and more time spent at home.
Two years later, around the fall of 2014, Melissa was armed with a PhD and prototype in hand, ready to bring her product to the forefront of an industry so desperate for this type of technology.
Since then, Melissa has had some incredible milestones:
First, Cohero raised a little under $2M in their first round of startup funding, significantly more than their $1.5M goal. This brought their product to what she calls ‘commercial readiness.’ Backers include big-name investors like Blue Cross Blue Shield, BioAdvance and several other angel investors.
Then this past summer, the FDA approved Cohero’s technology as a medically approved device that can be fully manufactured.
And finally, Melissa and her company were chosen to present at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this past fall. For those of you who don’t follow tech, this is a huge deal. 2,000 new companies are whittled down to 15 across several industry sectors, Cohero being one of two healthcare companies chosen to be profiled.
It was the first time ever Melissa stood onstage and presented her product to one of the savviest audiences ever, an experience Melissa calls ‘humbling and transformative.’
Cohero is currently gearing up for their second round of funding and the manufacturing of several thousand products that will, fingers crossed, be in patient's and doctor’s hands by the end of 2016.
What has it been like being a woman in the startup space?
How have you juggled this? Being a mother to two young boys and starting a company at the same time?
What advice would you give other female entrepreneurs out there?
What's the best advice you've ever received?
To learn more about Melissa’s incredible new technology at Cohero Health, click here.
Next week, on DRIVEN for Women, a Christmas week post, shining a light on one of the most joyful women I've ever met, even amidst tragedy. Meet Lenore Davis-- rockstar mother of Hunter Zen, and founder of the Healing Hunter Foundation and Lightning Cupcakes.
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