As a busy executive in the health space, Delaram Hajipour might not have as much time as she would like to dedicate to her side passion: improvisational theater. But thankfully, the qualities that come so naturally on the stage are proving quite handy in the office as well.
“Skills such as agility and teamwork translate into everyday work, so being an improviser definitely helps,” Hajipour tells The CEO Magazine.
The one place where she doesn’t ad lib, however, is the business itself. In 2016, Hajipour established NephroCan to provide products and services in hemodialysis, or kidney replacement therapy.
“We founded NephroCan on the belief that every hemodialysis patient deserves to have the best therapy built around their specific needs and that treatment should be accessible and affordable, irrespective of where they’re located or their circumstances,” she says.
“Our vision is to innovate and improve technologies to help shift the paradigm of treatment for patients globally, and to provide products and services of genuine value.”
Careers in health care run in the Hajipour family, who she says moved from Tehran, Iran to Vancouver, Canada when she was eight. Both her parents are doctors and from a very young age she knew that her future lay in the medical field. The exact destination, however, changed when she got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.
“I was on a very dedicated path to becoming a doctor as well,” she explains. “Then I realized that maybe there was a different way to tackle some of the challenges that patients go through – from a business angle.”
“Every hemodialysis patient deserves to have the best therapy built around their specific needs.”
And, after seeing friends and family undergo rigorous hemodialysis treatment, often involving multiple hospital visits every week, the seed of the idea for NephroCan was planted.
“In high school, I had a shoe painting business and in university, I sold an IP to an international company so I had my experiences. I had my fun,” she says. “Now, my focus is driving change in an industry that perhaps sees change a little bit slower than others.”
It may be what she describes as a “niche industry”, but as an illness, chronic kidney disease is the exact opposite. Around the globe, one-in-10 people are sufferers.
“It’s known as the silent disease because it’s not something you show symptoms for, but it kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer,” she says.
For patients in the final stage of the disease, hemodialysis is the most common kidney replacement therapy.
As a fully integrated product and services company, NephroCan both manufactures and distributes proprietary products and acts as a consultant to others in the industry, from equipment manufacturers to healthcare providers.
As well as its office headquarters in Vancouver, the company has invested heavily to create a footprint in Europe. Hajipour splits much of her time between North America, Germany and Türkiye, where NephroCan has manufacturing facilities, and Italy, where it has an office for CE (Conformité Européenne) representation and business development.
With recent statistics from the International Society of Nephrology revealing that the median prevalence of chronic kidney disease is more than 35 percent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the region is of particular focus.
“There is a lot of work that still needs to be done, and we believe NephroCan can make a positive impact to support the needs of patients in these regions,” she says.
A young woman of color, Hajipour knows she doesn’t look like the typical CEO of a medical company, but she also appreciates how that plays to her advantage. “I come in with a fresh perspective and tackle challenges from different angles,” she says.
One such challenge is the industry’s lag in home dialysis use, something NephroCan is set to change with home solutions, which are expected to be revealed in the next two-to-three years.
“Everything we do is in-house, from conception to execution.”
“Home hemodialysis has many benefits,” she explains. “First and foremost, for the patient, it provides a better quality of life given the greater flexibility, increased independence and reduced travel time.”
For healthcare providers, she continues, it allows for customized and tailored treatment plans to suit individual patient needs, a flexibility that improves patient outcomes. And, for governments, home hemodialysis supports budget and resource management – in developed countries, approximately three percent of healthcare budgets are spent on kidney failure treatment.
Thanks to its vertical and horizontal integration, NephroCan is in a unique position to contribute home solutions.
“Everything we do is in-house, from conception to execution,” she says.
Hajipour predicts that home dialysis will be a huge driver over the next five years and hopes that others in the industry will join NephroCan as it takes the first steps in that direction.
“Because the renal industry is small, it allows for cross-collaboration in a way that perhaps isn’t possible in other medical disciplines,” she reflects, affirming her belief that the future of care should be rooted in partnerships and innovation via a patient-first philosophy.
Market research shows that the global kidney dialysis market is projected to reach US$156.8 billion in 2032, largely due to the rise in funding for the development of new products and the increase in the number of end-stage renal disease patients.
“Because the renal industry is small, it allows for cross-collaboration in a way that perhaps isn’t possible in other medical disciplines.”
“Now, more than ever, is a great time for key opinion leaders, nephrologists, non-profit organizations, governments and companies to come together,” Hajipour says.
“At NephroCan, we call this the ‘win–win–win’ approach: empower healthcare providers, support governmental bodies responsible for funding and endorse nephrologists, while helping develop offerings that are in the best interest of patient wellbeing.”
These might seem like lofty goals, but Hajipour’s passion is clear, and it all comes back to empathy for the patient.
“People don’t know the gravity of this disease until they’re implicated with it,” she explains. “I want hemodialysis to be equal, accessible and affordable.”