Nilofar Niazi: Reshaping the future of neuro-rehabilitation
Nilofar's career in investment banking
Nilofar Niazi spent eight years at Rothschild & Co – six in New York and two in the London office. She enjoyed working on cross-border M&A transactions and building friendships with colleagues across the world. It was a period of growth and excitement. “I learned a lot during my time at Rothschild & Co,” she explained, “including how to learn and how to trust myself. I also gained confidence in my ability to get things done”.
In 2006, Nilofar joined Deutsche Bank as an Investment Banking Director. Just a few years into her time there, however, Nilofar’s world was turned upside down when her four-month-old son suffered severe brain damage. Priorities quickly shifting, Nilofar decided to step away from work and focus on providing care for her son. Thus began her tireless pursuit of meaningful solutions to promote his rehabilitation.
Starting a business inspired by her family’s need
Nilofar couldn’t find any existing solutions to suit her son’s needs, so she decided to create new solutions. She studied, researched, and consulted with experts around the world. She wanted to learn everything she could about neuro-regeneration and rehabilitation. She shared the resulting findings and strategies with others and worked tirelessly towards advancing the understanding and treatment of neurological conditions.
She founded two neuro-rehabilitation centers, TRAINM in Belgium and Nextherapy in Switzerland. They adopt an innovative approach to therapy by using data to offer personalized therapies and technologies to harness the brain’s innate ability to heal itself through neuroplasticity. Nilofar explains, “Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain’s networks to grow, change and reorganise; for example, by increasing the volume, the connections, and the sprouting of new neurons, and by rewiring new regions of the brain to take over the functions of damaged regions.”
A unique approach to neuro-rehabilitation
Treatments at Nextherapy and TRAINM are designed to meet the needs of each patient, based on data gathered during one-on-one evaluations. They welcome children and adults with neurological impairments regardless of cause. The facilities offer a range of high-intensity therapy methods, including non-invasive brain stimulation, neurotechnology, virtual reality, neuro gaming, artificial intelligence, robotics and brain-computer-interface.
In addition to employing progressive technology, Nilofar emphasises that their approach places great importance on patient experience: “We do whatever we can to make the treatment experience as positive, easy, and motivating as possible. For example, we look for prime real estate in establishing our centres. It is important that both Nextherapy and TRAINM facilities are centrally located and outfitted with light and music for a comforting environment. We want to resemble a wellness gym rather than a medical facility”.
This September, Nilofar launched Nextherapy. Nextherapy is targeted to Switzerland because its treatments are 100% reimbursed by general insurance for Swiss residents.
TRAINM and Nextherapy are unique in their focus on out-patient rehabilitation for neurological patients. Nilofar elaborates on this uncommon approach: “Typically, after a patient is treated at the hospital for acute care of their neurological condition (like a stroke or brain injury), they spend time in an in-patient facility before being discharged. Once they are discharged, the care ceases. At best they might go to their local PT practice where the focus is typically on the physical aspect of their injuries, such as therapy for sports and post-operations.
However, neurological conditions are much more complex than physical injuries, and require not only extensive education by therapists, but a multi-disciplinary approach to healing. For example, where recovery from a neurological injury is concerned, aftercare might involve physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and neuro-psychologists. These treatments should be underpinned by data and technologies, and be guided by a personalised and goal-focused approach to recovery”.
When asked about her vision for TRAINM, Nilofar says “I would like to see us expand beyond Belgium – maybe to Holland, Germany and UK. My vision for the future of Nextherapy is to have five or more centers in the next few years across Switzerland.”
Outside of work, Nilofar enjoys spending time with her two daughters and son, keeping in touch with friends, going to the gym and swimming in lake Zurich. She makes it a point to solo-travel to a new destination each year and enjoys exploring exotic places. Recent travels have taken her to Zagreb and Marrakech.