Hi everyone! I’m Spiffy, your favorite interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making a difference on SDG#3: good health and well-being. Today I’m going to learn about new treatments for people suffering from intestinal disorders. Join me as I welcome Sakthimala Jagadeesan, co-founder and COO of Artus Therapeutics, Inc.
Spiffy: Welcome, Sakthimala! I’m very curious to learn about what you are doing. Can you start by telling us what challenges you’re addressing?
Sakthimala: Our mission is to develop first-in-class oral small molecule therapeutics for treating barrier dysfunction diseases. Compromises in the epithelial barrier can lead to intestinal disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). At Artus Therapeutics, Inc., we strongly believe our therapeutic approach for treating barrier dysfunction will address highly unmet needs, not just in IBD, but for other types of barrier dysfunctional diseases as well.
Spiffy: Wow, this sounds complicated but crucial. What motivated you to hone in on this?
Sakthimala: Well, Spiffy, Artus Therapeutics, Inc., is built on solid science and the founders are from renowned international universities including Harvard, University of Louisville, and the Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine. The idea solidified because of a common vision of alleviating pain and suffering by targeting central biological pathways that were previously ignored or not druggable. Barrier dysfunction is a fundamental pathomechanism that has shown to have a key effect in several chronic illnesses including irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and IBD. The hope of making people’s lives better keeps us motivated every day.
Spiffy: How would you say your organization is ensuring a more equitable world?
Sakthimala: We are an equal opportunity company, where we want to make sure everyone’s, voice is heard and there is no heavy top-down culture. We are committed to keeping this culture as we grow as well.
Spiffy: Have you reached any milestones lately? What impact do you anticipate it will have?
Sakthimala: Drug development requires a strong team of core scientific and key opinion leaders who have deciphered the problem from the patient’s view. At Artus, we have assembled a think-tank that can complement and critique our ideas and approaches. Drug discovery is also an expensive affair—to support our drug development, we raised our seed funding from angel investors and also received two grants from the National Institute of Health. We were also fortunate to be accepted into Harvard Innovation Labs, which creates a fantastic ecosystem for biotech entrepreneurs. Collectively these will help us through the most important journey of our lives—to make an effective drug that alleviates patients’ chronic pain and suffering.
Spiffy: Can you tell us when you’ve experienced failure? What have you learned from it?
Sakthimala: Absolutely Spiffy! Failures provide insights. Being a scientist, failures are nothing new, one always encounters several failures and in my view, that is what shapes our ideas and thinking. Troubleshooting and problem-solving skills are something you can’t learn from books. Life lessons are a critical part of entrepreneurship, but as scientists, we have faced repeated failures, which is often the starting point of insightful discoveries. I have never been afraid of failures but, having said that, we always think of mitigating failures and that is what makes this whole journey meaningful.
Spiffy: It sounds like the work is hard yet fulfilling! I think this can encourage all of us when we’re embarking on something new! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Sakthimala, it’s been an honor!
Sakthimala Jagadeesan is a co-founder and chief operating officer of Artus Therapeutics, a pre-clinical stage company developing small molecule therapeutics for barrier dysfunctional diseases. She obtained her Ph.D. from Max Planck Institute in Germany and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School. (Nominated by Harvard Innovation Labs. First published on the Ladderworks website on May 3, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.