Pharma-D—2022 UP/Start People's Choice Award Winner

Pharma-D, the venture of Kristen Karlovich ’21 (Product Design BFA), was one of seven finalists in this year's competition.

Kristen Karlovich ’21 (Product Design BFA) has a passion both for creating and for helping people, and she says that her chosen field is an overlapping space where she can do both.

“I really love this,” she said. “With product design, I can still make an impact on the society while being creative.”

And Pharma-D—tool library of at home/take home medical devices—has allowed her to put both of those passions into action.

Pharma-D is currently an educational tool—a collection of medical and therapeutic devices that people can search independently or, with the help of an algorithm, find what they need to aid their health. Though the devices are not for rent and are at high retail cost, the venture seeks to educate the public on opportunities for at home care.

But Karlovich wants to expand the company’s offerings to include a rental option, allowing individuals in middle- and low-income brackets to more easily access the medical devices they need in order to maintain health.

“A big part of my goal is to partner with medical device companies and set up a process where we can begin renting these kinds of devices rather than having them available just for purchase at full retail price,” she said. “These devices tend to cost anywhere from $250 to $10,000, and that cost is not feasible for a majority of people.”

The recent MICA graduate explained that there many medical devices on the market that most people don’t know they have access to, including monitors that can detect and provide aid during and before mental crisis, different types of electronic stethoscopes and heart monitors, and therapeutics that tend to only be accessible to professional athletes. Pharma-D would allow people to not only access those devices at home—so they could make educated decisions and give their doctors more insight on their health needs—it would help cut down on the cost of unnecessary, highly expensive testing, detrimental waiting times for tests, and be an aid to medical professionals and facilities.

Karlovich founded the startup after her graduation, but she said the idea came to her after being prompted in a class to identify a problem in Baltimore and think of either a product or a system as a solution. It was fall semester 2020, and the city—and world—was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I focused on healthcare professionals and the stress that was being seen on the system at that time. I tried to think of ways to alleviate the pain in the current system while allowing people to still get the care they needed,” she explained. “That’s where the idea for Pharma-D came in. Let’s bring people the at home medical devices they need at a lower cost, and let’s change the system so patients can get the healthcare devices they need and alleviate that burden from health care professionals.”

In addition to pursuing the startup and taking part in this year’s UP/Start Venture Competition, Karlovich will attend the Royal College of Art in London, where she will pursue a Master’s in Health Care Design. She’ll continue to refine Pharma-D as part of her thesis in the program.

“The program really clicked because, with my business specifically, I want to think about what the future of healthcare will be in 10 years. I want to play a part in it. I see the change that can happen now, and I want to know where the industry is going so that I can continue to make an impact within it while also being creative. I want to just find a niche area where I can really help people.”