Pankaj Sharma: Leaving Foot Prints on Human Lives

Initially, Pankaj Sharma, CEO and Co-founder of LeadInvent Tech, and his team faced many challenges, including the disadvantage of having a young team claiming to do complex scientific work in a domain where very few Indian companies had ventured. Convincing early customers and partners was another challenge since the team did not had much commercial track record or fund raising history. These problems which every entrepreneur faces — had more strain on Pankaj and his team because of their young age, lack of experience and their commitment to ‘inventing new drugs’. But as the saying goes – Where there is a Will, there is a Way, Pankaj and his team stuck to the plan and clinically executed their fund raising strategy though various govt.funding schemes from the department of biotechnology, Govt. of India, BCIL and BIRAC. With the govt. backing LeadInvent young team, LeadInvent  got itself  off the ground and started working on novel drug discovery projects.
The lack of experience was indeed a challenge. However, the founding team of LeadInvent Tech was aware of this conundrum and built a strong scientific advisory board to address the situation.
LeadInvent Technologies, was started in 2007 by a team of scientists and faculty from IIT Delhi’s supercomputing facility. They had developed a unique molecule simulation technology christened LIDiscoverEngine which enabled scientists discover and develop novel patentable compounds for various therapeutic areas.
Founding a Company to Cure Patients
LeadInvent’s co-founders were working at the supercomputing facility at IIT Delhi where they realized that they wanted to share research available at their lab with the world. The team wanted to create an interface “a web portal” through which research community could use such algorithms and run them on supercomputing environment without any training on supercomputers. Looking at their speed and passion towards the work, in 2005, a leading pharma company approached them to apply their technology to a cancer molecule to make it better. At the same time  HCL technologies approached the team to help create the lifescience vertical at HCT Technologies. With early exposure to research and industry need, LeadInvent realized that they could crack the third world diseases like tuberculosis and could leave their foot-prints on human lives. With that they formalized the idea into a business plan, submitted it to IIT Delhi, got selected as the first life science company startup from the prestigious institute incubator and started the company in March 2007.
 Reasons of Success
Pankaj is responsible for leading the company on all major fronts which includes, fund raising & investor relationship, setting up collaboration and alliance with research and commercialization partner, IP strategy and establishing research roadmaps for LeadInvent Tech.
Pankaj attributes his success to his parents who encouraged him throughout his journey. Right from childhood, Pankaj cultivated independent thinking which led him to start his journey of being an entrepreneur. Pankaj gives the credits of success to his cofounders who worked as much as he did towards building LeadInvent and mentors who directed him towards the correct path. He and all his team members have a common vision and their passion is driven by the desire to invent new drugs and help millions of patients.
Why did Pankaj Choose Pharma?
Today, Indian Life Science industry is going through a transition phase, and some of India’s biggest pharma companies have recently closed their drug discovery centers indicating a shift from the traditional way of drug discovery. As the same trend is also being seen on the global level, Pankaj found it very important to seamlessly integrate different R&D teams to drive the development forward.
Pankaj thought this field is best for him because, drug discovery is the science of the unknown. Also, no two diseases are the same and there are multiple ways in which one can approach such disease from a therapy point of view. Targeting only a particular cellular target, lack of smartness of targeted delivery, huge side effect, declining of efficacy of drugs and hit and trial approach  made Pankaj to step his foot onto this path .
At LeadInvent, they looked at this problem and realized that computational chemistry integrated with molecule synthesis is perhaps the better approach than hit and trial. Computers could help design millions of molecules virtually and test them in simulated environment before they are physically synthesized; saving unnecessary chemistry and giving atomic level design control to drug discoverers. LeadInvent Tech developed a unique molecule simulation platform (christened LIDiscoverEngine). This simulation platform enabled scientists to design and study molecules virtually on supercomputing platform before such molecules are synthesized and tested experimentally.
Lessons for Aspirant Entrepreneurs
Risk Taking Ability, Self-Belief, Problem Solving Aptitude and Clarity of Thoughts are the qualities which helped Pankaj to successfully develop and manage LeadInvent Technologies. Also for the aspirant entrepreneurs, Pankaj suggests — to know what you can do and what you cannot do for your venture. Have a very clear distinction and bring in new members to your team who would fill that gaps that you cannot fill.

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