Nick Valilis graduated from Duke in 2012, where he majored in biology and minored in chemistry and economics. He then went on to medical school at The University of Texas at Houston.

But within his first weeks of medical school, Valilis was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

He got a bone marrow transplant that spring, taking his first year off medical school. But as he dealt with treatment, he realized how difficult it was for him to keep track of all the pills he needed to take.

At that time, Rahul Jain and Hareesh Ganesan, former roommates of his at Duke, were both working in consulting jobs in different parts of the country – Jain in New York City, and Ganesan in D.C. But the three, who had known each other since their freshman year, kept in touch.

“We were always kind of spit-balling ideas,” Valilis said. “But this idea came from my own personal struggles with medication.”

Ganesan had been a double major in biomedical engineering and computer science, while Jain was pre-med and majored in economics.

“I knew medication was a big problem, but we didn’t start looking into it until Nick went through it himself,” Jain said.

Jain, Ganesan and Valilis became three of four co-founders of TowerView Health, and they were recently named to Forbes’ 2017 30 Under 30 list in the Healthcare category.

Research shows that half of patients don’t take their medications as described, which costs insurance companies about $100 billion per year. TowerView Health set out to fix that with a great user experience.

The company offers a three-pronged approach to help patients manage and remember to take their medicines.

First, TowerView Health partners with pharmacies to organize pill trays, separating the different medications into dose and time. This way, Valilis said, the patient doesn’t have to spend 45 minutes or more organizing his or her own pills for the week.

The organized pill trays are then shipped to the patients in two- or four-week increments, but TowerView Health doesn’t stop there – the company follows the patient throughout the process to make sure he or she is actually taking the medication.

The tray is inserted into the company’s smart pillbox, complete with sensors that can tell if a pill hasn’t been taken on time. If this is the case, an app will send the user notifications on his or her smartphone, and the pillbox will remind the user with lights and sound alarms. Notifications can also be sent to loved ones and case managers.

This pairs with a human piece, meaning that health coaches are available to answer questions or to reach out to users who have fallen off the map.

The company really got started, Valilis said, in summer 2014, after all the co-founders had already quit their jobs. That’s when they got accepted to DreamIt Health, an accelerator in Philadelphia, and got the chance to be in the same physical space and work together.

DreamIt Health was a great chance to learn from the accelerator’s sponsors, including health care providers and a major insurance provider who later became TowerView Health’s first customer.

Once the accelerator was over, they decided to base the company in Philadelphia because of its robust healthcare ecosystem.

They won a Startup Showcase held by the Duke Global Entrepreneurship Network later that year, and the next year, they won a startup pitch competition at the HIMSS Annual Conference and Exhibition, the largest healthcare conference in the nation.

Now, TowerView Health is contracted with eight insurance companies, covering Medicare, Medicaid and employer-paid insurance.

Valilis said that he always knew he wanted to do something entrepreneurial, but he always assumed it would be much later in his career.

However, once he found out he had untreatable cancer, he went all in with TowerView Health.

“I wanted to make my impact faster that I’d be able to in medical school,” he said.

In a way, the 30 Under 30 recognition brings their company full circle, Jain said – in 2014, when TowerView Health was still a young company, they entered a pitch competition at the 30 Under 30 conference, bringing home the popular vote. Now, they’re among the 30 Under 30 cohort for this year.

To learn more about TowerView Health, visit their website or email

To read about more Duke entrepreneurs, click here.

By Katie Jansen

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