Interview: Global Indian CEO on trials to find a Covid-19 cure

Interview: Global Indian CEO on trials to find a Covid-19 cure

Dr Someit Sidhu is the Co-Founder and CEO of Izana Bioscience, an Oxford-based biopharmaceutical company?which is part of a major new UK drugs trial to test potential therapeutics to treat patients hospitalised with Covid-19.

In this exclusive interview with iGlobal?, Dr Sidhu explains what his company's Namilumab drug trial means for a potential breakthrough in the current pandemic, synergies between his home in the UK and his country of origin in India, and the influence of the Sikh philosophy of sewa on his life.

What does this stage of the?Namilumab trial mean for the search of a Covid-19 treatment?

Approaches to Covid-19 are broadly split into a vaccine (which would aim to prevent getting the infection) and treatment of those already infected.

Treatments can be either against the virus (eg anti virals therapy or blood plasma) or targeting the body's overactive immune response to the virus. Namilumab is targeting the so called cytokine storm? caused by the body's overactive immune response in severe Covid-19 infection. The current trial aims to build further evidence and show that Namilumab is able to reduce the overactive immune response and thereby reduce multi-organ damage it can cause.

These trials will build into larger studies which will ultimately go on to allow for widespread use if the drug proves to work. A usual drug development timeline would be measured in years, however, due to the innovative and rapid response in Covid, we are now measuring development timelines in months.

What was your motivation behind creating Izana Bioscience?

Izana is a small UK-based biotech company which was founded by myself and my experienced pharma Co-Founder Bryan Morton CBE.Izana aims to rapidly develop medicines for patients in areas of great unmet need.

I am a medical doctor by training, after completing my medical degree at Oxford I went on to practice in cardiology and general surgery at University Hospitals Birmingham. Following this, I left clinical practice to work for McKinsey and Company a management consulting firm working with many clients across the pharma industry.Izana was founded from this experience in both the medical and business sectors.

I am very proud to support the major UK CATALYST clinical trial in Covid-19, delivered in close collaboration with Oxford and University Hospitals Birmingham both centres which contributed to my medical education and training.

What are the synergies you see between the UK and India in this field?

This is a global pandemic and we have seen global cooperation across many sectors and industries. Particularly in biotech, the UK has a great track record for research into novel biology and new treatment ideas.

While India continues to build on its growing research capabilities, it already has clear strengths in drug manufacturing and clinical trial delivery.

These synergies can come together to help tackle this global pandemic?

What is the biggest lesson to be learnt from the pandemic, in terms of bioscience?

In terms of science and biology this pandemic has shown us both the vulnerability of our existing system and its great strength and capacity to respond to a global threat.

Ultimately, bioscience will help come up with the answers to overcome this pandemic and we are seeing innovation in the space very rapidly. Having said this, all we can do is still not enough, and people sadly continue to be lost to this pandemic.

Does your Global Indian ethos impact your decision-making?

This is a time for the whole world to come together. The more we can understand each other and work across cultures and boundaries, the better we will be able to cope and manage this global pandemic. I have strong links to India through family and have spent time working in healthcare settings in India as part of my medical training.

The Sikh philosophy of sewa (selfless service) and working for the good of all (sarbhat da pala) are also very important during these difficult times. We have tried to incorporate this into everything we are doing in response to the global pandemic, from providing and delivering drug in clinical trials to supporting the research and development activities of many involved in the search for a treatment for Covid-19.

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