A Research Blog

Gayatri SharmaWe speak to Dr Gayatri Sharma, Entrepreneur-in Residence (EiR) with CTeD, to find out how an EiR translates Duke-NUS inventions into commercial applications. 

1.       Tell us what you do as an EiR. 

 My primary role as an EiR is to create commercial value for the Intellectual Properties developed at Duke-NUS. Currently, I am working on developing a business plan around a Laminin platform technology developed at Professor Karl Tryggvason’s laboratory. Laminin-based technology enables us to grow cell types sustainably in large numbers by mimicking the environment of a human body. Some of these cell types include keratinocytes (skin cells), islets (insulin-producing cells) and cardiomyocytes (heart cells). This will address the huge market gap in cell production for therapeutic applications. We have seen great results in animal studies, and my job now is to chart the commercial path for this technology. 


2.       What was the last thing you worked on? 

I am currently working on financial projections for the business plan around the Laminin portfolio. The next stage will be to raise capital by pitching to investors for Seed and Series A funding. 


3.       How did you become an EiR? 

After my first position as a postdoctoral researcher, having completed a PhD in Analytical Biochemistry, I moved to the business side of science. I worked under different directors of National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in the UK on policy-implementation to aid the commercialisation of technologies in public health care systems. My previous position was as a portfolio manager for a Cell and Gene Therapy Organisation in the UK (with £70 million funds), tasked with making investment decisions on cell therapies. My interest has always been in following technologies from bench-to-bedside, and I am motivated by bringing benefits to patients through technologies. In this regard, benefit is calculated as the clinical and qualitative change in a patient’s life compared to the cost of the intervention.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to become an EiR with CTeD, as I was looking for a challenge in my career to apply all my experiences and knowledge in taking technologies from the bench to patients. My only advice to aspiring EiRs is to clearly determine what your short- and long-term goals are, for both the technology and yourself. It is an extremely rewarding journey, but also one that requires careful thought before one embarks on it. To me, success as an EiR is when the technology evolves to benefit patients.


4.       How has the EiR journey been so far? 

The greatest risk is to manage the expectations of stakeholders for any commercialisation project, which include the Principal Investigator, key scientists, commercialisation team (myself included) and the leadership team at Duke-NUS. I manage their expectations by having an open channel of communication, leading by providing clear project plans and updates on milestones accomplished.

The most rewarding experience is to visualise the execution of the business plan, which, in this case, will introduce the Laminin platform technology to the market, and ultimately bridge the huge market gap in cell production. We have created a company called SingCell as the vehicle to push this platform for therapeutic applications.


5.       How do you know when a research has potential for commercialisation?

Critical and multi-domain due diligence is required to assess the technology. Firstly, we start with assessment of the scientific breakthrough – whether there is a clinical need for this technology and determining the market (target patients) for this. Next, we determine the scalability of the technology for a commercial project. Lastly, and most importantly, we determine the reimbursement strategy for the technology. In my opinion, the EiR should be involved after the proof-of-concept stage, so as to shape the project early on to a commercially viable proposition.


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