Aarti is the founder of Circadian Therapeutics where she coordinates preclinical work and strategizes the next steps forward along the development pipeline. That work included target development and providing the scientific input.
Circadian Therapeutics is currently funded with 10 million GDP and is presently concluding a larger Series B fundraise. Its offices are in Oxford, while having 7 full-time employees.
What is your background? What made you decide to get involved in supporting entrepreneurs?
I studied medical sciences, have been in research since my DPhil in neuroscience. Circadian rhythms research, as central to human health and physiology, has been part of my life as a researcher. When realizing that disorders at circadian rhythms can be harmful and produce wide ranging long-term health disorders, but that there are no treatments, I and other colleagues ventured on developing a solution. We realized this field had large commercial potential and possibilities to improve health of multiple people.
Our discoveries on new targets to correct circadian rhythm disorders was the basis of the idea that a solution must be commercialized. There have been 6 years since that realization.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
When someone has the passion to translate what is a good idea into a commercial success for public benefit.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Versatile (willing to adapt multiple things at multiple times)
Gutsy (belief that you can see through it)
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
That it has been an incredible learning journey that teaches about value in the real world, how people perceive it and how the potential of an idea can be sold to the society outside of the scientific field. I have really loved the process of taking a scientific idea and bringing it upon the commercial space.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Kiran Majumdar, from Biocon in India. I worked there some months as an intern. Her story inspires as she singlehandedly revolutionized and started the topic of biotechnology at India; achieving considerable breakthroughs at the sector regardless of any gender limitations upon her.
If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
I would like to ask how she developed as a leader, and most importantly, how she made herself heard and place herself as part of the centre at the organization in a male-dominated environment.
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
The most satisfying was when I first formed the company and signed the initial paperwork of the company. Being part of setting the company up, looking forward and dreaming to see the results in the clinic, is what I look forward most to.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
I have learned the relevance of promoting the right findings and the correct moments. How it is necessary to tailor the information with the right language to the specific audience or the message gets lost. Even more, I learned how to deal with the team relevance (that all build and communicate properly, as it a steep learning curve) when compared to the core work of the company that is done at a scientific laboratory environment.
How have you funded your ideas?
Research within my lab is funded by UKRI and pharmacological companies.
The company itself is funded by venture capital and seeks forward to transition to further sources of funding as it grows.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
The university is a magnet for being in contact with more people driven by the science and scholarly environments. It is enjoyable and it benefits from the prevailing policy of free thinking and doing science just for the fun of doing it. Having the right connections with the organizations and individuals to seek commercial ventures is something that Oxford really provides to its community. I can consider that the ecosystem is amazing for science development.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman entrepreneur? If so, how have you overcome them?
I have faced the same challenges that happen at all fields that are male-dominated and have been traditionally less diverse at the upper echelons.
For me it has helped to unlearn the unconscious biases and take helpful leadership courses and fellowships (like attending L’Oreal workshops of women in leadership).
What resources would you recommend for other women?
I would recommend attending worships that deal with for women in STEM and the multiple resources available through the university continuing education department.
How could institutions such as the University of Oxford better support women entrepreneurs?
Multiple actions could be done, such as increasing the level of awareness, building networking events and more management training for women in STEM during their courses.
Do you have any advice specifically for other women who want to be entrepreneurs?
Make yourself heard, speak up. There is even an app that measures how frequent the female voice is heard, it would be valuable to use some tool like that in order to monitor how heard a woman is listened and provided a leadership spot. I would advise: Accept all the help you can get as it is not easy to do it all
Any last words of advice?
If you have a good idea, and you believe it is good for society and there are means to do it, then do it. Keep an open mind and look for it, but always work your idea tenaciously.