Kukec's People: Glenview entrepreneur seeks to help kids with asthma
A quotation by Mahatma Gandhi inspired his namesake Prasanthi Gandhi of Glenview.
"You must be the change you wish to see in this world," he said.
That quote was the common thread that's got Prasanthi Gandhi from Detroit to St. Louis, to New York and ultimately Glenview, where she has launched her company called Exhale, an air collection test for allergens to help guide asthma suffers seeking relief. She worked with biophysicist Julian Gordon of Lake Bluff, as well as researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Labs.
"This quote has been very strong for me and it's been my passion to work in the health field and to be an advocate for children," Gandhi said,
Born in Detroit, Gandhi grew up in Milwaukee before earning a bachelor's degree in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and studied in its pre-med program before moving to New York to earn at master's degree in public health at Columbia University.
Her parents and brother are all doctors. She assumed that is what she would do, too.
"But I realized I wanted to do more, something on a larger scale and health was always important to me," she said.
She set up the U.S. arm of Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India, also known as SAATHII, which helps strengthens HIV prevention and treatment. She set up the offices and managed a team in New York and then transitioned that work to others when she and her husband moved to Boston, where he earned his masters of business administration. They later moved to the Chicago area and she earned her MBA at Northwestern University and worked for Sara Lee and CocaCola.
By 2011, she decided to start Exhale to help children, like her own, who have asthma. She also has asthma. She secured a first round of funding of $350,000 from Breakout Labs, lead by Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder and investor in Facebook now worth roughly $2.7 billion, according to Forbes. She also partnered with biophysicist Julian Gordon, who worked with a team at Abbott that developed the technology behind the first home pregnancy tests.
The air-testing kit from Exhale is used to capture an air sample for five days in the home and then sent to a lab for testing of allergens. A report and action plan are provided along with resources and other information.
While the prevention of asthma and allergies hasn't changed much in many years, Gandhi said she wanted to help change that.
"We want to walk people through the game plan so they feel better in their home," she said.
Ryan Svitak is the general manager of the new Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant that opened in Oakbrook Center Mall on Sunday. The restaurant has 10 locations in various spots in Chicago as well as Naperville. Another new spot will open in January in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Sean Gosking is the area manager. The restaurant is known for its spicy flame-grilled chicken.
• Crystal Lake resident Dave Heinzmann, chief operating officer, will become president and CEO on Jan. 1 at Chicago-based Littelfuse, which also has operations in Mount Prospect. He replaces Gordon Hunter of Chicago. Hunter felt now was the right time to transition with the upcoming launch in December of the company's strategy for the next five years, said company spokeswoman Jessica Vollrath Huebner.
• Attorneys Michael Hopkins, a Villa Park native, and Austin Root have joined Ice Miller LLP in Chicago. The firm also has offices in Lisle.
• Mark Weil is a new wealth adviser at Strategic Wealth Partners, a wealth management firm in Deerfield.
• Jim Vargo of Hinsdale is the new senior vice president of business development at Bibby Financial Services in Lombard. He will lead the Asset Based Lending division.
• Abby Georgacopoulos was promoted to director of marketing at Lombard-based TradeTec Skyline, a B2B exhibit house specializing in trade show displays and services.
• Joshua Hearne has become a key investor at Downers Grove-based Cawley Chicago, the first such partnership in about 18 years.
• Jackie Luthringshausen of Inverness, Haney Noureldin of Elk Grove and Joshua Pagan of Chicago are new attorneys at Lavelle Law in Palatine.
• There's more to business than just the bottom line. We want to tell you about the people who make business work. Send news about people in business to email@example.com. Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter.