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Entrepreneurial encore

Alumna aims for a second healthcare success in her adopted hometown

Her $90 million exit was one of the most successful in modern Cleveland business history. Five years later, CardioInsight co-founder Charu Ramanathan, MS ’00, PhD ’04, is back with an encore, a health-care platform she calls Vitalxchange. 

With an app and web portal launched in January, Ramanathan hopes to empower patients by connecting them with people with insight. Once again, she plans to develop the business in her adopted hometown. 

She came to Cleveland from India to earn her master’s degree in biomedical engineering at the Case School of Engineering. 

“I moved here because it is the land of opportunity, that’s the value proposition of coming to the U.S., and I’ve earned every moment that I’ve lived in this country that I call my own,” she told The Land, an online news magazine in Cleveland. “I take a lot of pride in being an entrepreneur, having created multiple jobs, economic development and life-saving devices.” 

She used her thesis to propose a non-invasive technology to monitor heart activity, then built the device with fellow graduate student Ping Jia, MS ’98, PhD ’05. The pair designed a vest that renders a reading of the heart’s entire electrical activity in a single beat, offering new insight to specialists planning treatments. 

With the support of CWRU, the pair launched CardioInsight in 2005. Ramanathan ran the company until 2015, when Medtronic purchased the operation for more than $90 million and kept the jobs in Cleveland. 

While developing CardioInsight, Ramanathan said she saw a need for more transparency between patients and healthcare institutions. With Vitalxchange, she said, she hopes to shift decision-making power back to patients and their families by connecting them with people dealing with the same health issues, as well as with experts. 

As she did with CardioInsight, she intends to grow the business in Cleveland, though she did scout locations in Silicon Valley, Boston and India. 

“The final decision came down to brass tacks, which was the cost of living,” she said. “We thought we could stretch the dollar to create an environment that would help us build a cutting edge company here.”

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