Susan Thompson, PhD is the CEO and founder of Kohana, a family company devoted to developing life-changing breast pump products for new mothers. Just months after having her first baby, Susan quickly found herself entering into the world of Mompreneurs. As a Biomedical Engineering PhD candidate and new mother, she still had lab experiments, meetings and obligations to juggle daily. At the same time, she was determined to breastfeed her son for the physician recommended time frame. Although she was expecting the transition to be hard, she had no idea how much anxiety she would experience over pumping breast milk.
Like many new moms, Susan was relieved to find that she wasn’t the only one who found pumping to be challenging. One day, amidst a particularly challenging time, Susan had a glimpse of how much easier life could be with a discreetly wearable breast pump that provided her with limitless options, such as pumping while working at her desk, traveling through the airport, driving in the car, or performing bench work in the lab.
Following that inspiration, Susan launched herself into creating the world’s first discreetly wearable breast pump, liberating new mothers from the confines of their current breast pumps. While finishing up graduate school, Susan and her team built an early prototype and won $20,000 in prize money to continue development. Over the next year, Susan continued to refine the prototype, test and engage other new mothers, develop strategic business plans and earn an additional $80,000 in grants, awards, and equity partnerships.
By engaging with as many mothers as possible, Susan tried to understand the universal pain points of the market. As a result, the new pump design morphed from just a discreetly wearable model of an existing product into a whole new experience for mothers. By mimicking the age-old and trusted art of hand expression, Susan and her team are developing compression-based breast pumps which are unlike anything this vacuum dominated market has ever seen. With the use of innovative compression technology, mothers are provided with not just a pump that enables them to pump anywhere and anytime, but ultimately, a more comfortable, simplified and effective pumping experience with reduced number of parts to set-up and clean. Ultimately, Susan believes in helping mothers choose the right time to stop breastfeeding for herself and her baby, and to no longer be a victim of circumstance.
Susan graduated magna cum laude from University of Maryland with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2006 and from Johns Hopkins University with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering in 2013. During her graduate studies, her passionate drive for science led her to develop a cardiac disease model which she used to discover a novel form of cellular coupling in the heart and to demonstrate the therapeutic benefit of human embryonic stem cell derived cardiomyocytes. In conjunction with her research, Susan initiated collaborations across the schools of engineering, medicine, and physics, and successfully led several projects resulting in prominent publications giving her expertise in a wide background in science and technology. She has authored 18 publications, conference abstracts, and presentations. Susan founded a support group for student parents where she organizes informational sessions to create an educational network. She also lobbied to secure $1000 subsidization for graduate student dependent health care. Susan is now a strategy consultant for Back Bay Life Science Advisors, an advisory and strategic consulting group focused entirely on the Life Science Sector.