The cancer narrative of the country presents grim statistics- a sharp increase that could further escalate by 12% in the coming years.
And with the pandemic, the cancer-affected people experienced a harsh time dealing with their ailments.
At some point in our life, all of us have either faced cancer or know someone who has.
Despite the advancements in cancer diagnosis, treatments, patient care, our weapons are failing to save lives in the fight against the world’s second most deadly disease.
Out of all the progress made in cancer treatment over the decades, we are not able to regulate one – Metastatic Cancer, which accounts for up to 90 per cent of the total cancer deaths and cancer treatment failures in the world.
Metastasis cancer was in the limelight when the Indian Actress, Sonali Bendre was diagnosed with the same. Metastasis Cancer is an advanced form of the most aggressive high-grade type of cancer.
According to National Cancer Institute, in this deadly disease, cancer cells break away from its primary location (where cancer originated) and travel through the lymph nodes and bloodstream to form new tumors (metastatic tumors) in other parts of the body- which could be lungs, bones, liver, brain and others.
As more explorations are in the process to know the mechanisms behind cancer metastasis and their cure with immunotherapy and targeted therapy, several startups are bringing in better solutions, care, and effective treatment for patients to increase their life expectancy.
Leaving no stones unturned, Mestastop Solutions, a biotech startup, is working to address the complications of Metastatic Cancer by researching metastasis translational models, with patient primary tumors and creating research-based novel solutions that will empower better drug discovery and predictive diagnostics against metastasis.
The Co-founders of Mestastop, Dr. Arnab Roy Chowdhury and his partner-in-life Dr. Debabani Roy Chowdhury have a combined 35 years of experience in disease pathophysiology, biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, immunology and Cell Biology.
Sailing the journey of Mestastop with a vision – to be the metastasis specialists by creating a world-class R&D focused on metastasis, Arnab is bringing together a comrade of a cross-functional team, trained in discovery, diagnostics and AI that would be backed by the state-of-the-art infrastructure available in India’s best bioscience incubators, working to the highest standards of data integrity.
And this is one of the things that distinguishes this start-up.
With startups like Mestastop, India is entering a new era in health care – symbolized by more research-focused and patient-centric methodologies which are improving and innovating treatment procedures and regimens.
The Journey of Inception
Post returning from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to India in 2009, Arnab got involved in drug discovery, with a focus on disease pathophysiology, especially in inflammation and oncology.
He dedicated his next ten years to several drug discovery programs in collaboration with Big Pharma and smaller biotechs, e.g. GSK, Abbvie, Takeda, Onconova delivering leads, first-in-class, and pre-IND candidates.
During his Ph.D. and post-doctoral studies, Arnab focused on neglected parasitic diseases like Kala-azar and Sleeping Sickness.
Debabani, on the other hand, holds expertise in Immunology and Cell Biology, with more than 15 years of experience.
Debabani has worked on various significant health missions such as the malaria vaccine at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Post this, she joined the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Hyderabad. Her research and work on human X chromosome inactivation were acknowledged well and later she won the Department of Science and Technology (DST) – Women Scientists Scheme-A (WOS-A) grant.
We sat down with the leader, Arnab Roy Chowdhury- Founder / Director to know more about the journey of Mestastop and its future.
What initially drew you into the biotech space?
I did my training in Parasitology but a decade back I moved onto drug discovery, specifically focused on cancer.
The evolutionary aspect of cancer as a disease fascinated me and the search for the weakest link in cancer brought me to metastasis.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
The first time COVID hit us was a year back when we did not have any validation or proprietary models. We sustained, came back stronger, and met our milestones- everything on schedule.
Even this year, the story has been no different, and we are working at 25% capacity since the last week of April. We have flexible days and flexible timings, as lab work cannot be done from a work-from-home model.
It might sound strange, but we did not strategize to fight COVID-19 by tweaking our portfolio.
Our strength is in cancer biology and it would have been a disservice had we moved the focus from that. We have fought COVID via all the social distancing and safety regulations but scientifically have not deviated from our core mission; that of cancer metastasis.
Also Read: Mestastop Solutions Pvt. Ltd.: A biotech startup poised to transform ‘Cancer Metastasis’ treatment
Has COVID-19 accelerated the company’s digital transformation, as it has at many other companies?
Not really. Since our inception, we have integrated leading-edge technology at every step- we have been maintaining audit-compliant digital lab notebooks with time stamps.
We are heavily dependent on digital platforms like MST, Meister, Opfin, etc. from our early days, so that was smooth.
Share your proud moment with us.
First and foremost, we have a small, but great team that has fought as a family to meet all the milestones, despite the challenges of the pandemic. We take pride in sustaining a cost center and be unapologetic about doing basic research and thereby creating a robust and novel platform that has been accepted in scientific meetings like AACR 2021 and EACR 2021. We set up a patient primary tumor facility from scratch and successfully work with colon cancer patient samples at an efficiency rate of 80%.
Furthermore, to engage teams of diverse talents, from in vivo pharmacology to machine learning in completing the proprietary platform, everything has been a distinguished landmark for us.
How do you anticipate the Indian biotech industry will change in the next year and beyond?
India has taken giant steps in the last few decades. From our strength in generics, we have rapidly progressed into high-end services through CROs and have gained expertise in biosimilar(s). As COVID has shown us, we have innovated too, like the indigenous COVAXIN.
I think the next decade is for more such innovations, as India will move on from services and generics.
How are you looking at the future?
The company’s sole focus is on cancer metastasis.
Today we do not have the bandwidth to sustain research the way we would like and therefore, we have tied up with India’s biggest CRO Syngene and World’s largest online Pharma market Place, Science ExchangeTM to offer our portfolio as services.
We hope to generate enough revenue to fuel our growth for the next level when we would start our drug discovery programs.
Finally, before we close, what is that one life wisdom that you would like to share with everybody?
Success is all about being happy.