Guest blog: How Dr Vineeta Tripathi's experience on the Reactor Programme at Discovery Park accelerated her biotech start-up

Dr Vineeta Tripathi, Chief Executive and Chief Scientific Officer, Vitarka Therapeutics talks about the valuable lessons learnt, through her participation in a life sciences development programme, to accelerate her biotech start-up providing novel therapeutics for cancer indications.

I am a scientist who is dedicated to the drug discovery process. My main motivation is to get the right medication to the patients that need it most. So, I set up Vitarka Therapeutics less than a year ago, a biotech company determined to help combat late-stage cancers.

The aim is to deliver maximum impact on cancer cells. I am passionate about helping patients with late stage cancer who are currently untreated. Vitarka Therapeutics will focus on developing RNAi therapies for activating the immune system and normalising tumour vasculature. We have two targets in PD 1 resistant tumours in a currently untreated population. The therapy against both targets aims to be a momentous change for late-stage patients with lung, colon, breast and other cancers. We are further revolutionising the intracellular delivery of these RNAi therapeutics by developing a non-viral delivery platform technology.

Biotech start-ups like mine need funds for research and development. My role is not only directing the science at Vitarka Therapeutics. I am now responsible for human resources, finance and business development. I needed some fundamental building blocks in place to help my business idea, attract investors and be able to scale-up my operations. It was welcome news that Vitarka Therapeutics was accepted as one of the first cohort on the Reactor Programme at Discovery Park in Kent.

This has been a game-changer. Being accepted onto the Reactor Programme gave me the opportunity to gain experience and business knowledge to help develop the company’s commercialisation strategy, even though we are still at the pre-clinical stage. The first major learning point was an appreciation of the Pharma industry value chain. For those involved in discovery and science, often it is hard to step back and appreciate and evaluate your product at each stage of development. I was able to fully examine, along with my mentor, the market spaceVitarka Therapeutics is entering and study the competitors.

We were encouraged to analyse gaps in the market and how we can pivot and take advantage of that space. Industry experts on the Reactor programme encouraged me to understand potential suppliers, partners and the commercial rights needed to offer our therapeutics for life limiting and chronic conditions.

The Reactor Programme and being at Discovery Park in the Life Sciences Opportunity zone, allowed me to become a member of a larger life sciences community where collaboration is key. Even though I was at the start of my biotech journey, I was part of a larger network of entrepreneurs all offering support and expertise.

My takeaway is that the life sciences community is vibrant and willing to help and share. With this strong network based on sharing information and engagement, I can pick up the phone if I need advice and have access to a list of trusted professionals. I feel part of a big family and able to tap into support and help.

Another vital lesson learnt at the Reactor Programme was the experience of working through the Triple Chasm model, an approach to manage scale-up growth. The analysis tools were invaluable and the programme allows future access to them as I advance my business. This focused approach aims to help growth by working through the areas where your business development can stall

The Triple Chasm process also prepares you for the significant rounds of funding applications needed. Mentors also help to tailor your message to different audiences. The impact along with the science can help with grant funding. It is a tough process to go from scientist to business development and the triple chasm helps you understand and manage this process as you drive for growth.

Programmes like the Reactor Programme at Discovery Park support development biotech start-ups and are expected to help increase success rates of these businesses and continue investment in the life sciences industry.

The invaluable mentorship from a wide range of experts has given me the knowledge, confidence and network to continue my journey to bring novel first line therapeutics to patients dying from cancer without treatment options.

The next Reactor Programme is planned to take place in 2022. Enterprises at all stages, from entrepreneurs with start-ups to growth and more mature firms are invited to apply. The intensive growth programme from leading mentors equates to about £15,000 of consultancy per team.


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