Woman on a Mission: The Journey of an Immuno-Oncology Startup Founder

breast cancer awareness on teal wooden surface
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Stree Shakthi focuses on a founder who is help fight Cancer.

In the ever-evolving landscape of medical innovation and cancer treatment, there emerges a trailblazing woman whose journey is nothing short of inspirational. Meet Kavitha Iyer Rodridues, the visionary founder of an immuno-oncology startup that is poised to revolutionize the way we combat cancer.

Can you share the birth story of Zumutor biologics?

Zumutor’s start is traced back to 2013 , post a successful first exit to a listed pharma company in Bangalore called Strides. This was also imagined to be a novels play where we would work on potential therapeutics that nobody in India was organically working on. So we built out platforms (we call INABLR- which is a play on the words- India/ Antibody/ Bangalore!) and a powerful discovery tool that is the origin of our asset pipeline. It was also the coming together of like minded folks in the space and now we have to “stick” the landing with the lead molecule – ZM008 going to phase 1 Clinical trials in the US.

Are there any specific challenges or opportunities that you’ve encountered as a female entrepreneur, and how have you navigated them?

Any start-up has its challenges and I have had a fair share of them. May it the approvals we needed to get to start the labs, or the tricky and stressful times of navigating seed to institutional funding has built character to say the least! I do acknowledge the privilege that I come with of having worked in BioCon (lead by Kiran- a trail blazer herself), the solid backing and background. That my family gives me and the immense confidence and support that my investors give me. Having said this, as a female entrepreneur its been a hard and uphill task in having a seat at the table when it comes to US VC’s. The bar is possibly high and it’s been tough.

How do you approach decision-making in your business, and what’s your philosophy when it comes to taking risks?

We have been careful with how we have gone about building the company, but having a mind set of “no jugaad”! This is very imp given then India/ US context of how Zumutor is placed and that also means burning expense money- example: We manufactured our product in the US (unlike other folks who would use the cost arbitrage of India). We have really tested this concept!! “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go.” — T.S. Eliot.

Your piece of advice for woman in STEM , especially around the start up space.

My suggestions for women in STEM would be to always be grounded in any aspect of the sciences and there are no short cuts! It’s ok to acknowledge and feel vulnerable. There would be times where any other stream of education would seem so much easier- but if you stay. The course – the difference you make to advancing impact is huge!

What would be your take on India ‘s start up culture, and how do you see it grow in the future years.

I believe India is just coming of age and what a thumping way to enter the world stage with start-ups that are doing phenomenally well across tech and other spaces. Our focus is now about building out for the next 50 years and it’s amazing to be in the centre of change, momentum, hope and impact. The sense of hurry is palpable and the opportunities are brilliant across academia(lots of moneys pouring in across programs), start-ups, Infra, health, aero space etc Truly a time to be in India esp if you are a start up!

Your top 3 books / podcast suggestions for STEM enthusiasts.

Books :

1. This book is for young readers but I love owning this copy as its amazing : Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World– Rachel Ignotofsky

  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – its a an amazing story
  2. I love Siddhartha Mukherjee so the latest- Song of the Cell was brilliant.

Podcasts :

  1. Huberman Lab
  2. Adam Grant
  3. Rangan Chatterjee
  4. In your busy schedule as a scientist/ entrepreneur and other commitments, what are some fun things you do, to relax.

I do believe one needs a go to hobby/play list to keep things real/grounded and lesser stressed. I am marathoner/hiker and the trails and mountains are my thing! So I have done multiple marathons, ultras and hiked some amazing mountains. The Himalayas are my fav!

Some wise words from Kavitha.

Let Kavitha’s story be a lasting inspiration to us all, a reminder that through innovation and dedication, we have the power to transform lives and shape the future. Her journey in the world of immuno-oncology is a testament to the incredible potential of human endeavor, and it leaves us with a sense of optimism for the endless possibilities that lie ahead.

About Us

With a passion for travel, a love for cuisine, a cultural inclination, and an unwavering fascination with books, our blog aspires to create a tapestry of experiences that celebrate the beauty of our interconnected world.

Leave a Reply

Follow Vidyadanam Sarvadanapradanam on WordPress.com