Sameer Sharma

The Detail-Oriented Perfectionist

Sameer Sharma

Senior Vice President & Head of Translational Research,

Invea Therapeutics

To combat the myriad of human ailments that afflict our world, drug discovery and translational research stand as twin pillars of paramount significance in drug development. At the heart of these disciplines lies the promise of transforming groundbreaking scientific knowledge into tangible solutions that enhance and prolong human life. In the intricate dance of drug discovery, Sameer Sharma shines as a luminary. With over two decades of experience, he’s a trailblazer navigating this complex field with finesse and vision.
His journey of two decades began in the corridors of pharmacology, a discipline that forms the bedrock of modern medicine. With unwavering determination, Sameer ascended to pharmaceutical research’s pinnacle, now serving as Senior Vice President and Head of Translational Research at Invea Therapeutics. In an era marred by chronic inflammation and immune-mediated disorders, Sameer’s artificial intelligence (AI) driven approach aims to pioneer novel disease-drug combinations, promising to alleviate human suffering.
In a prior role, his visionary leadership manifested itself in a 2022 breakthrough therapy, BXCL501 (IGALMI), a sublingual film for agitation intervention. Beyond this, Sameer’s multi-year projects have spanned major therapeutic areas such as neuroscience, autoimmune, respiratory and metabolic disorders, offering hope through innovative therapies. A catalyst for collaboration, Sameer bridges disciplines, leading numerous research programmes. His rigorous validation of novel concepts is evident in several US patents and peer-reviewed international publications.
Accolades abound, underscoring Sameer’s distinction in AI, proof-of-concept studies, translational drug discovery, strategic pharma consulting, orphan diseases, and drug reinnovation. TradeFlock interviewed Sameer as he shines as a beacon, translating science into transformative solutions that change lives and shape medicine’s future. 

What's your most impactful learning experience and how does it influence your daily work?

One significant learning for me has been prioritising patients’ unmet medical needs rather than clinging to individual projects. It’s crucial to understand the patientand commercial-centric aspects of drug development. Additionally, fostering teamwork and ensuring that everyone in the team shares a common goal rather than just individual responsibilities has been essential. As a leader, I believe in empowering team members and letting them learn from failures while maintaining a collective focus.

Can you describe some challenging moments you encountered in drug discovery research and how you managed to overcome them?

Drug discovery research comes with its challenges, one of which is identifying the right gene or targets responsible for the disease. The major hurdle is choosing the target(s) responsible for the disease’s pathophysiology among several potential targets. We overcame this challenge by using AI to elucidate, identify, validate, and prioritise the right targets for drug discovery. AI allows us to focus on the most promising candidates, saving time and resources. The drug development process can be tedious due to various incubation factors, the success rate of discovery projects as well as various economic considerations. However, using AI to hone in on the right target and its correlation with the disease and associated symptoms while considering the strength and quality of scientific evidence, can significantly improve success rates.

Can you elaborate on how your approach benefits patients and leads to successful projects?

When you focus on the right projects using AI and ML tools, you begin to uncover critical insights that can profoundly impact patient lives. Let me illustrate with an example: a common immune-mediated inflammatory skin disease such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) affects millions of patients worldwide. It’s a fundamental concept that for such chronic diseases while addressing the pathophysiology of the disease, we also need to safely and rapidly improve the day-to-day symptoms caused by the disease and improve the patient’s quality of life (QoL). With AI, we can delve deep into patient needs and understand their experiences, symptoms, and current unmet medical needs. We then pinpoint the symptoms that acutely affect a patient’s QoL and create scientific hypotheses, which we rank order for further testing and proof of concept. This approach may sound simplistic when explained casually, but the real magic happens when you pose these questions scientifically to the machine. It sifts through the vast body of published research and reveals what’s known and what’s not. Using this approach, we’ve seen tangible outcomes. In less than two years, Invea has two programmes that are progressing through clinical development, with additional programmes in the pipeline. These programmes represent the tangible fruits of using AI and ML technologies to drive our research.

What are some key strengths and challenges you've encountered in the industry?

One of my key strengths is empowering individuals in my team and fostering a sense of collective responsibility. I believe in decentralising tasks and enabling team members to take ownership. Additionally, it’s essential to be detailoriented, which ensures that the work leaving my team is of the highest quality. However, one of my challenges is letting go of perfectionism. I over analyse and delve deeply into specifics, which might delay progress. It’s essential to strike a balance between attention to detail and seeing the bigger picture.

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