When Vishal Doshi was a child, he would help his father and grandfather at their family-owned pharmacy. While stacking shelves, the then 8-year-old realised something about the patients who came through the shop. “The lack of affordability of the desired medication had an enormous impact on their lives. The status quo troubled me because the most precious things to us – our health, well-being and life – are not affordable to most people,” Doshi shares.

“These experiences taught me empathy and played an instrumental role in crafting my vision for carrying forward my family’s legacy of serving patients globally.”

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Doshi followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and studied pharmacy in India. After graduating in 2006, he headed to Kingston University, UK, to study and train to become a medicinal chemist. While he was there, he also conducted research on breast cancer.

He then worked with several healthcare companies, structuring and managing global deals worth over US$4 billion (S$5.4 billion). But life has a way of coming full circle. In 2018, he co-founded Singapore-based biotech start-up AUM Biosciences. His vision: conquering cancer.

“While the moonshot is still finding a cure, we are increasingly realising that turning cancer into a chronic disease in the interim is a feasible solution, so long as the side effects of our treatments are tolerable and allow individuals to function in society,” he says.

The short-term aim, according to Doshi, is to turn cancer into a manageable lifestyle disease or chronic illness like hypertension or diabetes. Achieving this will allow patients to have a longer, more productive life.

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Doshi certainly has ammunition in his war chest. AUM Biosciences recently closed a US$27 million Series A funding round led by major institutional investors and private equity funds. It’s one of the largest Series A rounds in South-east Asia for an oncology-focused biotech company. But Doshi wants more. It’s not greed, but pragmatism.

“The average cost of developing new drugs in 2010 was US$1.2 billion. In 2018, data suggests that the average has gone up to US$2.8 billion,” he shares. One of the main reasons is that nine out of 10 drugs never make it past clinical trials and regulatory approval. Ultimately, these costs will be passed on to patients.

Doshi’s plan with AUM Biosciences is to do a lot more with the money it has raised. “Specifically, we want to optimise and speed up the drug development process from that critical Phase I to Phase III. Within our target therapeutic area of oncology, we aim to boost success rates from 9 per cent to at least 30 per cent,” he says.

“As a result, we designed our innovative holistic development strategy to create maximum value for patients and drug companies alike.”

AUM Biosciences is well on its way to making cancer a manageable lifestyle disease. Already, the three-year-old start-up has two products in the pipeline that should be exit-ready in 2023 and 2024 respectively.

Doshi isn’t resting on his laurels, though. “Healthcare is my calling. I want to have a positive impact on the lives of patients. I may not achieve a cure to cancer, but I am sure that I will conquer it.” His father and grandfather would be proud.

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