Scientist to ‘scientrepreneur’: Kashmir research scholar’s animal startup gets `BIG’ recognition, earns US$ 70k grant
Srinagar: A 34-year-old Kashmir based entrepreneur has been awarded elusive Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) for groundbreaking research to define next-generation “prophylactic and theranostic systems” for the animal industry.
Naveed Chikan’s `Daskdan innovations’ has raised upto Rs 50 lakh (USD 70,000 approx.) for research projects having commercialization potential with a duration of up to 18 months.
BIG is an early-stage biotech funding program of government of India sponsored BIRAC (the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council). It aims to promote the generation of ideas that have the potential to bring technology to the market through startups, and nurture the creation of enterprises.
Born and brought up in Srinagar, Naveed always knew science was his calling since childhood. This led him to pursue his engineering in Industrial biotechnology from Dr. MGR University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, and MS (by research) from Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore, Tamil Nadu.
“Choosing Biotechnology as a field to study during graduation wasn’t my decision per se, rather I merely followed the recommendation of a senior. Doing MS (by research) in cancer biology, however, was a conscious decision. During my JRF tenure at the division of veterinary biochemistry, SKUAST-Kashmir inspired me to take a research-based postgraduate degree,” he said.
Tradition dictated that he enrolls himself in a doctoral degree program after this juncture. However, he opted for a transition from a scientist to a ‘scientrepreneur’. “My first step for science-based entrepreneurship was when I applied for the national bio entrepreneurship challenge (NBEC), where I cleared the first round. I had to pitch to a technical committee about the problem that I plan to work on. I was not the winner of the NBEC challenge, but I was awarded Amazon Webservice support worth US$ 8000. This support was significant for me and motivated me to work on my problem definition and its solution,” he said.
With the improved solution and a basic business model, he was awarded two more fellowships.
“It was during one of the fellowship programmes, I worked on developing my startup team. Two more co-founders Irfan Alam and Junaid Nabi joined me,” Naveed said.
However, the team-building journey was challenging for Naveed as many of his friends chose post-doctoral studies over entrepreneurship.
Undeterred, he continued realizing his dream and named it as DASKDAN innovations in June 2020. Under the start-up, they conduct groundbreaking research to define next-generation “prophylactic and theranostic systems” for the animal industry. Daskdan aims to rationalize phototherapy with an goal to replace medically important drugs in animal feed with sustainable alternative solutions.
“We received the grant in June this year and are currently working under the guidance of experienced mentors from academia and industry,” he said.
Their work is presently carried out in a welcome trust-funded Vaccine Biotechnology Lab headed by Dr. Nadeem Shabir, Division of Animal Biotechnology under SKUAST-Kashmir Innovations, Incubation and Entrepreneurship Centre (SKIIE), SKUAST-Kashmir. “The physical Incubation at SKUAST-Kashmir was only possible because of the vision of Dr. Nazir Ahmad Ganai, Director of Planning and Monitoring, SKUAST-Kashmir,” he said
Among his other inspirations are Professor Sara Gilbert, a leading vaccine expert based at the University of Oxford whose company developed a vaccine for COVID-19, and Dr. Shashikanth Suryanarayanan, a faculty of IIT Bombay whose start-up “SEDEMAC’ employs about 500 people and generate a revenue of INR 200 crore a year.
“My daily mantra is where there is a will, there is a way,” he concluded.