Alumni spotlight: Sonakshi Senthil and Dr Nikhit Anilbhai
Sonakshi Senthil and Dr Nikhit Anilbhai, both alumni from India and co-founders of the award-winning startup Your Cue, discuss their experiences at UCL.
22 November 2023
Sonakshi Senthil (MSc Personalised Medicine and Novel Therapies 2021), from Thoothukudi and Dr Nikhit Anilbhai (MSc Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine 2021) from Ahmedabad, co-founded Your Cue, an award-winning startup. Your Cue makes medical-grade wearable devices that enable healthcare professionals to continuously monitor a patient's heart rate, blood oxygen, body temperature and body movements. Doing away with the need for regular observations, Your Cue provides customisable alerts for every patient that allows nurses to detect even the earliest signs of clinical deterioration.
What was it like to study at UCL?
NA: In one word, brilliant. The inspiration that comes from studying in the same university as 30 Nobel Laureates draws you into wanting to do things differently, into making an impact on the world and society itself. One of the biggest advantages of a Masters in the UK is that it exposes you to multiple career opportunities, careers you probably didn’t know existed. Combine that with a vibrant student community, the vibe of central London and interactions with some of the greatest minds in the world and you get the best year of your life.
SS: My time at UCL truly transformed me as both a scientist and a global citizen, preparing me to make meaningful contributions to bettering human health for generations to come. Though my formal studies are now complete, the passion they ignited - and the invaluable lessons they imparted - will stay with me for life.
Tell us about the startup you founded, Your Cue. How did the idea come about and what challenges are you aiming to address?
NA: The origins of Your Cue stem from hardship and loss - from the time I spent working in intensive care during the darkest days of the pandemic. As a young doctor working 120-hour weeks across two hospitals, I was trying to help in any way that I could. We were losing so many patients each day, but when I lost my own father, the system’s shortcomings became painfully clear. He had suffered just as my patients had, without receiving the timely interventions he deserved.
That’s the day Your Cue was born - a mission to enable continuous vital sign monitoring for every patient getting admitted to a hospital, not just those receiving intensive care. No one should suffer as my father did. No other families should ever have to experience our heartbreak.
SS: During my time at UCL, I took an entrepreneurship module that required pitching a business idea. Through conversations with my friend Dr Nikhit, we recognised that while most sectors had digitised, healthcare struggled with inefficiencies. We decided to focus on enabling continuous monitoring to provide proactive care.
What support did you get from UCL to help achieve your ambitions?
NA: We ended up winning a cash prize of £500 and that small victory really pushed us to pursue our goals of starting a business and our application for the Hatchery (a dedicated startup space within BaseKX, UCL’s entrepreneurship hub in King’s Cross) more actively.
SS: Getting into BaseKX was a total gamechanger! For up to two years, they provide free office space and invaluable business support - legal, marketing, customer research, pitching, everything an early-stage startup needs to succeed. It’s an entrepreneur’s paradise!
What are some of the challenges of studying overseas do you think?
SS: Studying abroad poses unique cultural and social adjustments. Navigating a new cultural landscape can certainly spur disorientation. Moving from India to London, I grappled to redefine myself amidst different value systems, constantly discerning right from wrong. Each person’s definition varies. An open yet discerning mind is key in cross-cultural exchange.
NA: I believe the climate, the survival and the change in style of education. The UK climate is particularly challenging for 8-9 months of the year and if like me you’re coming from a much warmer place, you’re in for a climate shock. Education is so different here, both in the way its delivered and the way you’re meant to receive and work with it. Research and innovation lies at the core of everything. So make sure you go to attend lectures with a fresh mind.
What was the best thing about living and studying in London?
NA: London is one of the most culturally diverse places on the planet. There’s so much to experience and learn from others. To live in a city so gigantic really paints a picture of how big the world is and how we all have a role to play in it. From Hyde Park to Alexandra Palace to Camden Town, there’s so much to explore and fall in love with. Also summers here are the best in the world.
SS: London is an energetic city that never sleeps. There are always new and exciting things happening for every season. As someone from a small town, I was fascinated by the busy metropolitan lifestyle when I first arrived. Even as an introvert, I appreciated that I could find quiet spaces amidst the activity. London has pockets of calm if you know where to look.
What are your plans for the future?
NA: At the moment our absolute focus is on raising funds for the startup. We’ve applied for grant funding and we keep participating in lots of competitions as the environment has been quite tough to raise in, but we’re positive. We know our innovation has the ability to positively impact a billion lives in the coming decade and we’re doing our best to bring our innovation to patients in hospitals as soon as possible.
SS: My vision is to scale Your Cue into the leading solution for continuous patient monitoring and transform proactive care. I see a future where we empower clinicians with real-time insights to provide preventative, high-quality care from the start - fundamentally shifting the reactive healthcare culture.
UCL and India share a rich history of collaboration. Our connections span recruiting brilliant students, engaging with exceptional alumni, delivering transformative education and undertaking impactful research.
From 18-25 November 2023, a UCL delegation led by Professor Geraint Rees (UCL's Vice-Provost for Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) and Kirsty Walker (UCL's Vice-President for External Engagement) is visiting India to engage with key partners, prospective students and alumni to further strengthen our ties in the country.
Find out more about UCL’s collaborations with India.
Sonakshi Senthil (L) and Dr Nikhit Anilbhai (R)
Credit: Kirsten Holst