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MIT names Indian origin faculty for Royalty Pharma prize

The competition’s aim is to promote female faculty entrepreneurs in biotechnology

Deblina Sarkar and Ritu Raman selected as finalists for MIT-Royalty Pharma prize / Image- X

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Faculty Founder Initiative has announced two Indian-origin professors for the 2023-24 MIT-Royalty Pharma prize competition.

Ritu Raman and Deblina Sarkar have been selected as the finalists for the competition which aims to promote female faculty entrepreneurs in biotechnology and provide them with resources to help take their ideas to commercialisation

Ritu Raman, the Brit (1961) and Alex (1949) d’Arbeloff Career development professor in engineering design and assistant professor of mechanical engineering, designs adaptive living materials powered by assemblies of living cells for applications ranging from medicine to machines.

Currently, she is focused on building living neuromuscular tissues to advance understanding of human disease and restore mobility after injury or trauma. Raman received a BS from Cornell University and an MS and PhD as an NSF Fellow from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Deblina Sarkar, the AT&T career development professor and assistant professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, is the founder and director of the Nano-Cybernetic Biotrek research group. She conducts transdisciplinary research fusing engineering, applied physics, and biology

Her work aims to bridge the gap between nanotechnology and synthetic biology to develop disruptive technologies for nanoelectronic devices and create new paradigms for life-nanomachine symbiosis.

She has received a BTech degree from the Indian Institute of Technology and an MS and PhD from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Throughout the academic year, finalists will receive support through a number of events, workshops, and programs. These activities focus on topics ranging from executive education classes in entrepreneurship to intellectual property and fundraising strategy.

Participants also have access to over 50 best-in-class executives, investors, and advisors who have volunteered to provide mentorship and guidance to the finalists as they further develop their startup ideas.

The cohort will pitch their ideas to a selection committee of faculty, biotech founders, and venture capitalists. The grand prize winner will receive $250,000 in discretionary funds, and the breakthrough science award winner and runner-up award winner will each receive $100,000.

The winners will be announced at a showcase event on May 2, at which the entire cohort will share their work. All participants have also received a stipend of $10,000 for participating in the competition.

“The support the MIT Faculty Founder Initiative provides female entrepreneurs in biotech is tremendous. Participants receive truly invaluable guidance from some of the world’s top experts to help hone their ideas and launch companies that have the potential to make a real impact in the biotech space,”  Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science said.

The Initiative was launched in 2020 by the MIT School of Engineering, in collaboration with the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.

“We are thrilled to be supporting the 2023-2024 MIT-Royalty Pharma Prize Competition and this cohort of 12 brilliant researchers. Their ideas can lead to transformative solutions for patients around the world,” says Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma.

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