Our CEO, Dr. Jugnu Jain, wins Niti-Aaayog’s Women Transforming India Award on International Women’s Day, March 2020.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Grg30L36B50

 

The Women Transforming India (WTI) Awards is NITI Aayog’s annual initiative to highlight the commendable and groundbreaking endeavours of India’s women leaders and changemakers. In 2018, the Awards were brought under the aegis of NITI Aayog’s Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) and have had a special focus on entrepreneurship ever since. Through the WTI Awards, NITI Aayog hopes to celebrate and bring to the national platform exceptional women entrepreneurs who have broken the glass ceiling with their grit and determination.

The Fourth Edition of the WTI Awards built on last year’s theme of ‘Women and Entrepreneurship’ was announced in August 2019. NITI Aayog received over 2300 applications from across the country in November, 2019. On 8th March 2020, the Top 15 women entrepreneurs were awarded at the Women Transforming India Awards ceremony held at Sushma Swaraj Bhawan in New Delhi.

Sapien’s breast cancer database showcased @BioAsia2020, shortlisted by an expert selection committee for Startup Stage @ BioAsia 2020.

 

 

 

 

Sapien Biosciences team @ BioAsia 2020, at Stall # S14. Sapien was selected from the Startup Stage competition and awarded free exhibit space and delegate pass at BioAsia. Here we showcased several breast cancer patients’ tissue-derived in vitro models for testing new drugs and markers at Sapien. The deep database of ~10,000 Indian breast cancer patients’ data was also showcased. These data can be used for developing Artificial Intelligence-based algorithms to improve the diagnosis, treatment and survival of future breast cancer patients.

Dr Jain of Sapien selected to participate at Global Entrepreneurs Summit 2019 at the Hague, NL

Dr. Jugnu Jain, Co-Founder and CEO of Sapien Biosciences, has been selected to participate in the Global Entrepreneur Summit (GES), 3-5th June 2019, at the Hague in Netherlands. Our biobank will represent India in the area of Health at the summit. We have also been invited to the select discussion with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric D. Hargan and CEO of Royal Philips, Frans van Houten, on Health Policy and Innovation.

Sapien will be showcased in front of a select group of decision makers, including funders, founders, experts and policymakers. Leading American, European, Asian and global companies alongside institutional investors such as APG and PGGM have committed to take part in the GES.

As GES website states – it gathers governments, the private sector and a powerful partner network to turn challenges into business opportunities worldwide. It is co-hosted by two of the world’s most innovative countries, the United States and the Netherlands.

2019 is the 9th edition of GES, which will focus on global opportunities for the next wave of entrepreneur-led innovation in scalable enterprises. We have reached out to other Healthpreneurs at the summit and look forward to meeting them.

https://www.ges2019.org/

http://sapienbio.com/

 

Panel discussion on Innovation at the Academia Industry Synergy Day at NIPER-Hyderabad

NIPER Hyderabad had a star-studded Academia-Industry Synergy day on 23rd Aug, 2018. I was asked to moderate apanel on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I chose to focus on the aspect of driving innovation already at NIPER-H towards commercialization. Invited Dr. Ashutosh of NIPER to identify where the gaps are, and put them to a panel of seasoned people drawn from industry in different areas of expertise spanning from technology transfer, chemistry, determining cell and animal model activity, development of pharmaceutical properties etc.

In the picture above, taken with the Director of NIPER, from left to right, my expert panellists were

  1. a) Sreenivas, ex-P&G, ex-Lilly, who started Sreeni Labs 11 years ago,
  2. b) Suresh Poosala, ex-BMS who just started OncoSeek Bio,
  3. c)Myself, ex-Vertex, who co-founded Sapien Biosciences and Saarum Sciences,
  4. d) Shashi Bala Singh, Director of NIPER-Hyd
  5. e) Anil Wali, FIIT
  6. f) Hemant Bhutani, ex-NIPER-Mohali, BMS-BBRC
  7. g) Ashutosh Kumar, ex-NIPER-Mohali, Associate Professor at NIPER-H

Dr. Suman Kapur of BITS-Pilani Hyd, had to leave early but she shared her challenges and experience of developing point of care diagnostic devices.

Many useful suggestions came from not just the panel but also students and members of the audience. These will be compiled and used to continue the dialogue with NIPER-H to see how best to implement them.

Establishment of glioma patient derived 3D culters to evaluate the potency of drugs compared to 2D model

Attended Regional Young investigator meeting, Hyderabad (18th – 19th August, 2018) at University of Hyderabad. Sapien Biosciences presented importance of primary human patient cultures, especially spheroid (3D) for drug testing in Glioblastoma multiforme. We have identified molecules that demonstrated differential anti-cancer activity between 2D and 3D cultures in functional readouts including cancer stem cells.

Drug Tested in Glioblastoma

Dr.Jugnu Jain: A Woman who follows her Passion to Change Patient’s Lives

Dr.Jugnu Jain

Co-Founder & CEO

Today, there is an increasing demand for high quality, personalized treatments for diverse pathologies including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, obesity and diabetes. The molecular research that underlies new treatment development is largely propelled by material and informational support provided by bio banks.However, putting bio banking on the map of the healthcare system calls for the proactive participation of medical institutions, community medical centers and policy makers. Though the sector is still growing, a handful of women entrepreneurs are leading this change from the front. Dr.Jugnu Jain, Co-Founder and CEO, Sapien Biosciences, is one such woman, who has been changing the landscape of bio banking in India, while breaking several stereotypes.

With 26 years of professional experience in the U.S. and UK, Dr.Jugnu decided to take the biggest risk of her life by quitting her job at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a top biotech firm and establishing her own venture in India. She always had the desire to use her skills and experience for the welfare of the Indian population. Fortunately, Dr.Jugnu happened to reconnect with her former Vertex colleague Sreevatsa Natarajan, who was planning to start a biotechnology firm in Hyderabad. As their ideas resonated, they co-founded Sapien Biosciences – India’s first commercial bio bank in 2012, with a vision to be a premier global biotech firm that employs human translational platforms for the discovery and development of novel diagnostics, bio markers and drugs with better clinical outcomes.

“We started a totally new concept in India. My co-founder really helped get the venture off the ground; without him I would n’t have made such a big decision,” recalls Dr. Jugnu.“Even though I had wanted to create a world-class Indian bio bank and had several discussions with entrepreneurs at TiE – Boston, it was a huge leap of faith to return to India after 26 years abroad to start the company without anything in hand. Sreevatsa’s commitment to the project gave me confidence to take the leap.”

Overcoming the Hurdles

A post doctorate from Harvard University, UK, Dr.Jugnu’s major challenge was lack of funds during the initial phase of the entrepreneurial journey,as most of the funds and fund houses in India are actually private equity, rather than VCs, especially in life sciences. A majority of them prefer to make safe investments in companies, which have already shown proof of concept and generated revenues. The government has introduced various funds for new entrepreneurs in the life sciences sector, but there are many regulations that limit access to these funds. “We did not receive any government grants until last year when we won a GITA-DST award. We have also had to battle the perception that we should not be given grants, especially government funds, simply due to our partnership with Apollo Hospitals,” claims Dr.Jugnu. This stereotype is changing and she hopes collaborations and grants will be more accessible in the future.

  • “As an entrepreneur, you should be flexible and willing to work under sub optimal conditions, often with limited resources”

Her experience of working at Vertex enabled Dr.Jugnu to contact many potential clients, understand their work culture & requirements, and provide them the right solution. She has deep contacts & networks in the industry globally and connects with them regularly to gain advice & business leads. These contacts have enabled her to take Sapien Biosciences to international platforms and build partnerships globally.

Dr.Jugnu never learnt the habit of saying ‘No’to any work, which does increase her work load. Her father’s transferable job and her own education across many cities has helped make Dr.Jugnu a very adaptable person, who can handle change with a calm and positive attitude. She asserts,“As an entrepreneur,you should be flexible and willing to work under sub-optimal conditions,often with limited resources; these things are easier for me to handle as I have lived in different countries under different conditions”.

Her co-founder’s exit from the business last year left her with additional responsibilities. But, as we know, Dr. Jugnu is a strong woman and her dictionary does not have the word ‘impossible’ in it. She has simply worked harder along with her experienced management team and learnt the financial and compliance aspects from Sreevats a to shoulder the additional burden capably.

Dr.Jugnu does not believe in the term ‘woman entrepreneur’ and asserts that the playing field should be level for men and women and we should encourage risk-taking, irrespective of gender. She considers herself first and foremost a professional, taking pride in being a scientist, and then only a woman.“Only during my MSc, I was picked on and harassed as I was the only girl in my entire class.But everywhere else,in India, the UK and USA, I either had or was able to build multi-cultural environments that respected expertise and knowledge over and above gender, caste, nationality,etc,”says Dr.Jugnu. Moreover, her family always motivated and supported her during thick and thin. She strongly believes that there is no separate work and home life.“We have only one life. If things don’t go well in the home life, then that impacts our work life and vice versa. So it’s best if we can bring harmony between the two,” adds Dr.Jugnu. On this note, she tries to take short vacations now and then, to explore new places in India and abroad.

Staying Ahead

The need to stay abreast of the technological advancements in life sciences and the desire to enhance her understanding drive Dr.Jugnu towards reading technical journals, participating in conferences, writing blogs and forming networking forums in life sciences. Managing a one-of-a-kind business, hiring and training people, as well as establishing global partnerships, give her immense satisfaction and joy and add more meaning to her life. Two diagnostic tests have already been launched that help in optimizing treatment for cardiovascular and breast cancer patients she says, and more innovative diagnostics are in development at Sapien. For motivation, Dr.Jugnu advises new entrepreneurs to follow Vivekananda’s writings on work ethics,the biography of MarieCurie on singularity of purpose, and the Stanford commencement address given by Steve Jobs on setting goals for one’s life.

Our Biobank cited in cover story of India Today

Excited to share that our Biobank at Sapien Biosciences and the patient cancer-derived cell models developed by Saarum Sciences Private Limited were covered by India Today as part of their COVER STORY devoted to innovation in India in the fight against Cancer (26th June issue). Kudos to Damayanti Datta for putting together a detailed summary for lay people to better understand the concepts and buzz words doing the rounds, and to India Today for in-depth coverage of science and healthcare. Big Thanks to Aroon Puri for citing us in the EDITOR’S NOTE as well.