DABUR RESEARCH FOUNDATION, BRINGING TRANSLATIONAL BIOLOGYTO PHARMACEUTICAL & HEALTHCARE SECTORS GLOBALLY – since 1979
“The Science of today is the Technology of tomorrow” – Dr. Anu Taneja Singh (quoting Edward Teller)
Established in 1979, Dabur Research Foundation (DRF)is the driving force behind the research and development activities of the Dabur Group of Companies, one of the leading names in the healthcare sector of India.
Growing significantly with a multi-disciplinary approach under the management of Dr. Anu Taneja Singh, CSO, Dabur Research Foundation (DRF), an Indian Contract Research Organization operates as a preclinical partner in drug discovery and development. DRFis an internationally accredited organization that enables the entire value chain for development ofnew pharmaceutical compounds. This includes development of novel molecules for Oncology, Inflammation, Metabolic diseases, dermapathology& cognitive health. The foundation functions in the areas of in-Vitro and Vivo Pharmacology, GLP Toxicology, Analytical services & formulation development. DRF started operating as a preclinical service partner after a strategic spin-off from the parent company in year 2008. It is this the experience of more than 28years of drug discovery & development that Dr. Anu brings to the clients and partners of DRF
THE GUIDING FORCE
Dr. Anu Taneja Singh, Doctorate in Tumour Biology from All India Institute of Medical Science Delhi,with post postdoctoral research in Cell Signalling at National Institute of Immunology, Delhi.Dr. Anu is a seasoned scientific leader with over 28 years of comprehensive experience in new drug discovery and preclinical drug development and scientific operations with special interest in translational research.She was instrumental in the discovery and development of first-in-world clinical candidate, polymeric Nanoparticle-based drug delivery system. Anu holds several Patents in the US and in India for NCEs (New Chemical entities) anddifferentiated formulations. She has published and presented more than 50 research papers in peer-reviewed journals & scientific meetings.
The CEO Magazine had a delightful opportunity to have a conversation with Dr. Anu about her will to make a change in the healthcare sector, rationale behind her career move, and her journey, read ahead to know more;
Briefly describe your company and the products or services you are offering.
Dabur provides a range of science-backed healthcare products across India and globally. I am responsible for the pharmaceutical and healthcare research that takes place at DRF in these areas. DRF partners with national and global partners to bring in cutting edge science, technologies, and services in drug development and delivery. Our key focus areas are Oncology, lifestyle diseases like diabetes, obesity, chronic inflammation, and cognitive health and wellness.
What factors influenced your decision to be an entrepreneur?
In my early years at the Medical School, I worked between the wards and the research laboratories which gave me a perspective on the need for novel,safer and targeted treatments for pressing healthcare needs. My initial years of work included working on endocrine disorderssuch as hypothyroidism in India. The goal was to collect primary data on the incidence of thyroid diseases in India that facilitated critical interventions such as the National salt iodations programs. This was possible through the development of robust diagnostic tests for hormonal functions using cutting edge technologies available at that time. Later on, when I decided to work on difficult -to -treat human brain tumours it was clear that there was an urgent need to develop new drugs with speed & high probability of success in human trials. The experience at NII taught me that disruptive biology platforms needed to be created for drug development that ensure development ofsafe, efficacious and targeted drugs. All these experiences led me to think like an entrepreneur – where speed to action, right go/no go decisions embedded in solid scientific collaborations could minimize the inherent risks in drug discovery. The process had to be lean, logical, actionable& based on parallel processing that accelerated the entire process.
How do you ensure the unbreakable faith of your clients?
DRF partners with top pharmaceutical companies in India and accelerate their drug discovery projects. We have partners in Europe, Scandinavia, Israel, and the US. The faith of the client is a key cornerstone of our business. At the outset to keep any conflict of interest away, we do not research for ourselves. Our entire biology business is only for our clients and collaborators. We ensure strict confidentiality of data generated through robust check points and the entire project is overseen by the Quality assurance Unit. We encourage the clients to visit us, watch their studies in progress and interact with our teams freely at all times.
What ethos is maintained for the employees in your company?
Our team of more than 100 biologists make the DNA of Dabur Research Foundation. It’s a group of excellent pharmacists, biotechnologists, pharmacologists, cell biologists, toxicologists, formulation scientists, and quality assurance teams. Our ethos is uncomplicated–We need to be ahead of the curve byconstantly evolving, learning the new trends in biology. This is the way tobe true partners to the clients who will bring value and create intellectual wealth. This is thecornerstone thathas ensured sustained business relationships for us.
As your company grew, or re-grew from your pivot, what were the primary challenges?
The primary challenge was the scale-up of business by finding people who can work under high pressure without compromise in quality & burnouts. Building a skilled team with a common goal that adjusts to changes when the goals amplify has been the primary challenge
How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
My parents shaped my mind from the early days – they also made it clear to me that being a scientist who wants to make a difference is not going to be an easy journey but one that I could succeed at if I put all my energy behind it. I have been fortunate to have had good mentors who taught me well and who were tough demanding scientists themselves. I thank them profusely for letting me think big. I believe in the power of working with a group of sharp rational minds who challenge my ideas & support them when they make good sense for the organizational goals. My family has supported me completely and lovingly all through these years, I must thank them for putting up with my unpredictable work life as well as all my idiosyncrasies.
What do you think are the keys to professional and business success for women in India?
My answer to this is simple and I would like to put it in points for all women professionals out there –
- Please select your career choices carefully; we have one lifetime to do something worthwhile.
- It is going to be tough to do anything worthwhile, so we need to be prepared to work hard till the end.
- Be a good manager – both at home and at work. Time management & people management is a valuable skill to be learned and practiced
- Network with the right people for the right goals.
- Create the next generation of scientists – mentor as many people as you can in your lifetime.
- Choose your spouse carefully – this is going to have a strong bearing on your career, creativity & happiness
- Make solid support systems in your life. Enjoy the journey! It’s not the end goal alone; it’s the journey to the goal that must be happy and satisfying
In a society like ours, with its skewed stereotypes, how did you manage to set out on your journey?
The skewed stereotypes are real across the globe and it’s good to first accept that they exist. Globally about 5% of the available management positions are held by women in pharmaceutical sector. In India it reduces to about 2% (sources). India could boost its GDP by USD 0.7 trillion in 2025 by improving its gender parity & matching it with the best in the world.
Everyone will have their way to navigate through these gender biases.For me gender diversity means aligning in with the organizational goals, while retaining my core strengths & unique management style. The organization always benefits by diverse perspectives, creative inputs from both genders as long as they are aimed at achieving the common goal.
On the ground for me this has convertedinto working very hard, staying focussed and lettingthe work speak for me. It makes me very happy – because I like to watch the stereotypes melt when excellence in work shows & the gender ceases to matter. I feel happy that in my way I may have contributed to reducing these gender biases for the next generation of women scientists.
What does the future hold for your company?
We are on the way to becoming the most valued preclinical CRO in India. Beyond the financials, I am most excited by the way we have quietly accelerated several drug discovery programs across India and the world. And several of these have become new drugs for patients for so many heart-wrenching illnesses. It’s exhilarating and humbling at the same time
“We need to dream big in health care and strive hard to make them come true.It impacts human lives, health and wellness deeply. Embedded in our work should be an enduring belief that what we are doing is worthwhile and for a larger cause” – Dr. Anu Taneja Singh