Deep science is powering path-breaking research to solve difficult problems in various areas, but scientific innovation must be combined with humanity and the spirit of sharing in order to succeed, said Bugworks Co-founder Anand Anandkumar at recently concluded TechSparks event.
Anand Anandkumar, the co-Founder of biotech startup Bugworks Research, is a passionate scientist as well as a humanitarian at heart. Anand believes that for science and scientific innovation to be at its best, it must be driven by the values of compassion and humanity.
“You cannot succeed in science without having humanity at heart. Be it the Dalai Lama or Mahatma Gandhi or the principle of Ubuntu, they all preach the same thing.”
Ubuntu is a traditional African concept that embodies the virtues of harmony and the spirit of sharing among the members of a society, explained Anand to an enraptured audience at recently concluded TechSparks event.
Anand said that it was when he combined biotechnology, engineering, and computing, with the values of humanity and compassion that he was able to solve a global problem. He co-founded Cellworks Research, Bugworks Research and OP, designing therapeutics with an engineered precision.
“I moved to India in 2000. Personal experiences made me realise that I wanted to do something valuable to society and I decided to pursue science innovation in the healthcare system and come up with affordable, accessible yet differentiated outcomes,” he said.
Anand, who previously worked in the U.S. semiconductor industry before pivoting to biotech in 2008, today runs three startups focused on biotechnology, one of which is drug discovery startup Bugworks. Bugworks, for instances, aims to discover a novel antibiotic to fight superbugs, which are strains of bacteria that are resistant to several types of antibiotics.
“It was in 1952, that the last antibiotic was developed. Since then, no new antibiotics have been developed. Certain bacteria are now unbeatable. The reason being the massive abuse of antibiotics,” said Anand.
The fight to defeat superbugs
Antibiotics are bacteria-fighting drugs but when taken in inappropriate dosages, they create other groups of resistant bacteria, which are today known as ‘superbugs’. Some of the numbers thrown by the founder are even unnerving, as he highlights how bugs have mutated over the years and become immune to antibiotics.
“Today superbugs are causing seven lakh deaths per year and by 2050, this number could rise to 10 million.”
To fight these superbugs, Anand is seeking to emulate the success of the simulations that he used at Cellworks to find a new antibiotic.
“I found a similarity between semiconductor-chip designs and bacterial colonies and then used those equations to model biochemical pathways for bacterial population,” he added.
An enabling “deep science startup” ecosystem
India offers a perfect ecosystem to power solutions for many global problems today, said Anand.
“Today’s India, with all the incubators, government support and funding, seems to be the Silicon Valley of 1980s,” he added.
Today, there are more than 300 tech startups and some of them are moving into deep science, thanks to the help of various incubators across the country such as C-CAMP, BBC, and IKP Eden.
“The Indian ecosystem today is perfect for contextual innovations. With all the support from the government, best solutions are becoming affordable,” says Anand.
Anand was speaking on the second day of the ninth edition of TechSparks 2018 event. His talk followed that of Nisha Holla, founder of Biomoneta Research, who defined deep science innovation as one that utilises fundamental scientific principles of chemistry, biology, physics etc to bring in effect a paradigm shift to the regular functions.
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