NAYA| Woman of the Month: From Beirut to Silicon Valley...The Story of Farah Charafeddine

The creation was a micro-heart pump with a diameter less than that of a pencil. It takes the functionality of the heart when the heart is too weak to do its job, and most importantly, its insertion into the body doesn't require any open chest surgery.
by Sary Al Hishi

26 August 2019 | 18:39

Source: by Annahar

  • by Sary Al Hishi
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 26 August 2019 | 18:39

Photo shows Farah Charafeddine

Each month, NAYA’s Woman of the Month series honors one pioneering Lebanese woman who has created change in her field. The series introduces you to these women and highlight their stories. For nominating Lebanese women for this series, you can contact NAYA Editor Sally Farhat: Sally.farhat@annahar.com.lb

BEIRUT: After witnessing her friend's death due to childbirth, Farah Charafeddine developed a device that could have saved her friend's life.

Charafeddine graduated from the American University of Beirut in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with emphasis in biomedical. She also obtained her MBA from ESMT Berlin 12 years later.

In October 2015, Charafeddine's friend was delivering her third baby. She had a normal delivery that was presumed to be successful, up until she started fading away due to internal bleeding. Her heart was too weak to properly intervene and overcome the bleeding, which lead to her passing.

“It gave me immense grief and anger to know that patients in our region have to risk their lives for such a procedure," Charafeddine told Annahar. "They are condemned to death just because we lack access to a tool that can save their lives.” 

This incident hit Charafeddine hard and drove her to try developing with her sister Dr. Fatme Charafeddine, an Honorary Electrophysiology Fellow in the Department of Cardiology at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Australia, a device that could help the heart when it is too weak to function on its own.

“With the little resources we had in Lebanon, the tons of challenges faced entering an extremely high-risk industry, and the zero expertise in cardiac assist devices in the whole MENA region, we were still able to manufacture our first working prototype," Charafeddine said.

The creation is a micro-heart pump with a diameter less than that of a pencil. It takes the functionality of the heart when the heart is too weak to do its job, and most importantly, its insertion into the body doesn't require any open chest surgery.

This invention gave Charafeddine the opportunity to showcase her model at a conference for startups, San Francisco. The conference provided her with many connections and the power to launch her device to new heights.

“I was the only woman entrepreneur there and the only Lebanese. Accordingly, everyone was eager to see what I developed,” Charafeddine told Annahar. “I felt proud representing women and Lebanon.”

Following the conference, Charafeddine realized that the United States might help her invention grow more than Lebanon.  

“It was much easier to pitch our idea in the United States than in Lebanon. The higher level of expertise in the industry made it easier for investors to quickly assess the market need for the device. Fortunately though, we were still able to get some Lebanese investors on board, because I always wanted a 'root' in Lebanon,” Charafeddine told Annahar.

In order to take her device to the market, Charafeddine incorporated a firm called Modeus into her project.

Currently, Modeus Inc. is a Silicon Valley company with a team of senior professionals with over 150 years of combined experience in the cardiac assist device industry. It was recently valued by experts at around 34 million US dollars.

“I started working on the early stages of Modeus` in a local hub for start-ups. When I told people about my dream of creating this device, they would instantly try to bring me down by bringing up my family and how I will never be able to coordinate between the two," expressed Charafeddine. “I faced so many problems along the way that it looked like they were right; however, being told that I should quit was what made me never give up and eventually make it this far.”

Charafeddine has two important pieces of advice to all Lebanese women who are trying to make it far:

“Always surround yourself by positive people and seek their support, you will always need them to encourage you and boost your energy.”

Adding, “don’t make excuses; your kids, your family, or your cultural background. Nothing can hinder your progress and success, it’s your decision.”

For the next couple of years, Modeus will be working on renovating their prototype to come up with the optimal device. The apparatus has to go through many tests, including animal testing, before eventually making it to market.

“It is very hard to get a medical device that is inserted into the body approved. We need to work on engineering it very precisely to come up with the best possible model,” Charafeddine told Annahar.

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Welcome to “Naya”, the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations-Naya editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.farhat@annahar.com.lb

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