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Tackling health care challenges in India with simple innovations

May 17, 2013
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Carolyn Yarina with the manual centrifuge that she plans to market in India.

As a child, Carolyn Yarina took care of about 100 sheep on her parents’ farm in Houghton on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She credits that for laying a foundation for her life.

“It taught me about hard work and about taking care of people,” she said.

Now, Yarina, 22, is ready to do just that. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan, she plans to move to Bangalore, India, this fall to launch Centricyle, a startup that will produce simple medical technology for rural India. The company’s first product is a manual centrifuge that operates without electricity.

Yarina’s journey with Centricyle started when she signed up for a “Design for Real World” class as a freshman and joined the M-Heal team. The team members worked on making a manual centrifuge and tested the prototype at the U-M Health System with their own blood.

After the course ended, Yarina continued developing and testing the prototype. She understood that the idea had to be streamlined if it were to be viable.

“The social venture practicum that we took in my sophomore year made all the difference. We decided to focus on India at the end of the session,” she said.

As a junior, Yarina went to India with Embrace Innovations, a startup that manufactured low-cost infant warmers, and traveled around rural India. “I wanted to get an understanding of how organizations operated and designed for the bottom of the pyramid,” she said.

Being immersed in that setting and seeing the impact the group made in the community inspired Yarina. She also received good feedback for her prototype.

“People were asking me, ‘Where can we buy this product?’” she said.

That’s when she decided, “This is where I want to be and the moment to take Centricycle forward is now.”

Yarina credits the university for all the support and learning she obtained here. “I have a great team backing me over the last couple of years, and we have great resources available at University of Michigan,” she said.

The 2013 RPM Ventures Student Entrepreneur of the Year award winner is looking forward to the next step.

“I’m nervous. It’s a little scary. But I am also excited and feel like I am making the right decision,” she said. “I will do this till I succeed or fail spectacularly.”

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