Interview with Agrovac
Another team of the 1st Batch of the Weinberg Campus Accelerator was Agrovac. The two founders Neelendra Kumar and Subhash Balakrishnan Pai told us a bit more about their project and their thoughts on the accelerator program.
Neelendra could you introduce you and your project!
I am Neelendra Kumar from India. After obtaining my bachelors in Microbiology, I moved to Germany (JLU-Giessen) to pursue my Masters and PhD in the field of biotechnology and plant sciences. During my research career, I had the opportunity to study topics like RNA-interference, CRISPR/Cas9 and TALEN gene-editing systems, which later formed the basis of our idea behind AGROVAC. We, Subhash Balakrishnan Pai and I, plan to use plants as bio-factories to produce therapeutic proteins (diagnostic proteins, vaccines, biologics etc.).
Which entrepreneurial and social impact does you product offer?
Cross-contamination with viruses and prions pose a significant challenge to the supplies of therapeutic proteins. The current production has so far relied on mammalian cell culture based systems. Using plants, we will not only solve the problem of cross-contamination but further would address issues of high initial investment and slow upscaling; which are normal problems faced by biotech companies planning on producing a new therapeutic protein.
Why did you decide to participate in the Weinberg Campus Accelerator?
We were at an ideation stage and needed guidance on a wide range of topics such as financial and business planning, certification & regulation; and the Weinberg Campus Accelerator provided us with all.
Which advantages does the program offer you? How could it help you?
The program offered us interactive sessions with coaches who have worked extensively with start-ups as well as big MNCs. For example, we got advice from experts with first-hand experience in the field of clinical trials and certification process, which are very crucial for a pharma and biotech company.
In your opinion why should other startups or founding projects join the Weinberg Campus Accelerator?
There are many aspects of running a life science start-up and most of us from a life-sciences background lack in knowledge. The program offered by the Weinberg Campus Accelerator trains young entrepreneurs in what lies ahead. It’s an entrepreneurial program packed within a period of 4 months, which I recommend to other life-science start-ups as well.