Narges Sheikhansari: Tell us about your team. What are your backgrounds and what is your founding story?
Tanay Bhatt: At this stage of pre-expansion, we have a small team consisting of Professor Colin Jamora, Ms. Shreyaa, and myself. I did my PhD under Prof. Colin’s guidance, on the topics of wound-healing, antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and skin associated antimicrobial peptides. Towards the end of my PhD, we realised that antimicrobial resistance is considered a silent pandemic and our fundamental discoveries have a great translational potential to combat this global issue. We believe that the route of entrepreneurship will be best suited to developing our therapeutic solution. So, to achieve this, Colin and I are in the process of founding KoshKey, which will spin out from its academic setting.
Narges Sheikhansari: What was the missing link in the industry or amazing technology development that motivated you to create your start-up?
The global rise in AMR cases has alarmed various organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and hence, there is increasing pressure to develop new antibiotics.
Tanay Bhatt: However, the path of developing these is challenging and doomed to fail as the ever-evolving pathogens will eventually gain resistance against them. As an alternative approach, we decided to focus on host-mediated response to AMR bacteria. How does healthy skin heal injuries without getting infected? Why do certain comorbidities, such as diabetes, aggravate the problem? Our research has brought novel insights into the cellular pathways operating in healthy v/s diabetic skin conditions. This helped us develop an siRNA based topical solution, which not only boosts cellular response to AMR infections but also aids in rapid wound-healing. Almost like “killing two birds with one stone” for diabetic patients who are suffering from non-healing wounds and AMR infections.
Narges Sheikhansari: What have been the challenges to your success? What are the unexpected lessons you’ve had to learn?
Tanay Bhatt: Coming from an academic background has its own pros and cons. On one side we are reasonably good at troubleshooting biological and clinical issues in drug development. On the other side, we continue to face challenges in understanding and developing the business model of our entrepreneurship journey. We are learning business jargon almost every day e.g. go-to-market strategy, value proposition, revenue stream, breakeven analysis, and many more!
Narges Sheikhansari: What have been the key pieces of support that have helped you grow?
Tanay Bhatt: There are many factors that keep us motivated on our journey. Particularly our institute inStem along with C-CAMP have been very supportive of our new venture. We have also been supported by the Biotech Ignition Grant (BIRAC-Govt of India). Moreover, our family, friends and colleagues in the lab have been a constant source of encouragement.
Narges Sheikhansari: What are your next steps? Where do you see your start-up in 5 years?
Tanay Bhatt: On the technical side, we are constantly pushing ourselves to develop an advanced prototype of our topical solution and to finish the pre-clinical studies on animal models. Simultaneously, we are looking to secure sufficient funding to reach the Phase-1 clinical trial phase. In 5 years, we hope to see our start-up grow as one of the top businesses that encourages and employs future scientists to develop novel therapeutics for wound healing and AMR pathogens.
Narges Sheikhansari: Do you have any advice for other scientist entrepreneurs looking to start their own innovation?
Tanay Bhatt: Since most scientists are unfamiliar with the business realm, they can be intimidated by the overall process of getting their company incorporated. So, my advice is to have conviction in your product and to remember your purpose and goal for establishing your company.
Then comes, the next part which is seeking appropriate mentorship and funding. It is preferable to identify a potential business mentor and renowned incubators that can help guide you through this journey and achieve the milestones you have set. It’s also useful to have a dialog with other upcoming entrepreneurs in the field.
As long as you have a coherent idea of the vision of the company, and a good cohesive team that can carry out this vision, there is no way of stopping you from achieving success.