Radha Rangarajan got to thinking about an idea to fight malaria from her research on knocking out a gene of the disease-causing parasite, Plasmodium. This was while she was a post-doc fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. Deleting the gene seemed a good approach, but it wasn’t easy to figure out what to do next. That led her to leave academia to learn the ropes of drug discovery in the pharma industry. Eight-odd years later, in 2011, she founded Vitas Pharma in Hyderabad, aiming to tackle multi-drug-resistant bacterial infections, a key threat to health, through next-generation antibiotics.
“What drives me is a very strong interest in anti-microbial resistance. We have a huge health crisis looming ahead and something has to be done,” says Radha. Her start-up is working on small molecules that can be developed into new drugs. Soon, she hopes to file her first investigational new drug (IND) application. “Now you see younger people running start-ups in the internet space and e-commerce. I wasn’t ready in my 20s and 30s. I needed to evolve as a scientist.” What helped in making the decision were supportive family members.