An enzyme is a biological catalyst and is almost always a protein. It speeds up the rate of a specific chemical reaction in the cell. Enzymatic processes usually carried out under mild conditions are often replacing steps in traditional chemical processes which were carried out under harsh industrial environments.
Quantumzyme is a boutique enzyme engineering company focused on the application of Quantum Mechanics, Molecular Modeling, and Molecular Dynamics to achieve the maximum benefit of biotransformation.
Naveen Kulkarni, CEO, Quantumzyme, is a mentor-advisor who helps entrepreneurs realize the last mile problem and identify hurdles early in the venturing stage so as to help them set up suitable measures to successfully overcome it. He has also been the DIrector of Cryo stemcell Pvt. Ltd., Philips, and CEO of Polyclone.
Idea of Quantamzyme
Naveen briefs about Quantumzyme ``If you see the logo, in the center, we have something that if you recall from your high school biology, or even in primary school, it is an enzyme with the lock and key mechanism. Surrounding that, what you see are electrons indicating the quantum mechanical aspects of what we do so how does the enzyme which is more of biology, and then quantum mechanics, probably physics or chemistry coming in. And that is what quantumzyme is all about - Quantum design, as the name suggests. We are quantum mechanics, molecular mechanics, molecular modeling based company. And we applied these different technologies in the area of enzymes, which is broadly termed as biocatalysts, which is basically engineering enzymes. In short, with technology, there is a science, and here is a particular industry that can be addressed with this technology. So, our idea of quantum science is to make technology accessible and bring science into the application area. So that was the vision and the dream of the company – Quantumzyme,” he says.
Vision of green and clean environment
Naveen explains, “Just to give you a little bit of perspective, in 2018, a Nobel Prize was given in the field of chemistry, it was called directed evolution. The scientist actually was able to direct the evolution of the enzyme in a particular way for a particular application. And this whole concept is not new. It's been there for the last more than 20 years or so. And this is being explored, as we talk in a lot of different areas and a lot of different applications. But primarily, when we talk about chemistry, we use a lot of these inorganic metals and catalysts, which also have nonspecific reactions also when we look at our own biological systems, or living organisms, nature has done an amazing job by evolving all of these catalysts which give out specific reactions and harmful by-products. So what scientists did was looked at all of these things, evolved, and used it for our other applications, and that's how the whole field of biocatalysis was born. A typical chemical reaction has a lot of affluence and is difficult to dissolve or difficult to address byproducts, which are also difficult to take away from harming the earth. Because of these reasons, a lot of large companies started thinking how can we make our processes greener? And that is where the vision of quantumzyme was formed. Our vision is to develop or make the earth green and clean. And how do we do it? By avoiding usage of these metal catalysts, and avoiding all the harmful byproducts, and improving a better way of doing chemical productions. And that is done by applying enzymes. So hence, the whole name of quantumzyme with a vision of a green and clean environment. And that's our goal,” he says.
Uniqueness of Quantumzyme
Naveen throws light on the subject of how Quantumzyme is different from others, “Firstly, our uniqueness lies in bringing different faculties of science. Talking about use in drug development or pharmaceutical companies, they're the ones that use chemistry or chemical reactions maximum, and every time they keep coming up with new, as we hear about new drugs, that means there is completely new chemistry. So, when they try to do all of that, of course, they are aware of enzymes, they are aware of biocatalysts. And they are trying to apply all of these to make their reactions greener. But when it comes to quantumzyme, we are coming from a completely different perspective. Now, a simple thing like quantum mechanics wherein at a very minute level there is a lot of precision that happens. And internally in all the biological systems, these precise steps will guide how and what kind of products are formed. That is where our uniqueness lies of using science to apply for a specific industrial use. Currently, most of these methods and techniques that we use are mostly academic in nature, a lot of universities have done an amazing job, they have published a lot of good work, but then applying that on an industrial scale is a completely different thing. We are probably the first and the only company in the world, applying this kind of quantum mechanics, molecular mechanics, purely to engineer enzymes for biocatalysis. And that's the uniqueness of quantumzyme,” he says.
India definitely is very innovative
Naveen shares his thoughts on whether India can be put on the global map in terms of innovations and ideas, “I would say that India definitely is very innovative. The ecosystem and environment here will push anybody to innovate and come up with new ideas, look at the likes of Flipkart, Ola. But however, you don't mean coming from a scientific background, it is also about inventions. Right? If you see any kind of leadership in the market, and even if we talk about global leadership, all of these come from emergence. And India is a late entrant into that domain. I think a famous word that is being used a lot is jugaad, right? That you can call us innovation. But really, there is no jugaad in the invention, because this is about superiority, leadership. And also, I would say, preventing competition or getting an unfair advantage in the market. And for that, what India needs is a lot more risk capital. And the focus should be that you need to invest a lot more to get something that's very valuable on a global scale. And for that, even based on our own experience, we are really working with a lot of companies, a lot of customers. How can a chemical company say, here is a company that is doing something with enzymes and quantum mechanics. So how do you think they can even work with us? There is not a possibility at all. But still, being a large country, there are always very entrepreneurial businessmen or businesses who do think that well, we are not talking about today, we are talking about three years or five years from now. And those are the kind of people that we are also working with. So yes, the invention still has a little bit more to go in terms of history, and to get global leadership or market kind of an opportunity. But I guess we will eventually get there,” he says.
Leading an organization is all about tenacity
Naveen talks about being his journey as CEO of various companies, “When I think leading an organization is all about tenacity. You know, weathering the storms. It's nice and rosy from the outside. But inside, it's a lot of jitteriness. Every morning you get up, and think what can I do? Do you know what is going to happen? It's also about weathering the storm and being able to interact with experts from across different, I should say, capabilities or different departments, it can be sales. And there has been a civil scenario, there has been a scenario where I traveled myself and spent time in a hospital, trying to sell certain things related to stem cells, and understood what the end customer feels. So that was a B2C kind of scenario. And then I want to work on a B2B scenario where, again, not just talking to a customer, but understanding what their strategies are, and what their goals are, and how we can align with them. So essentially, there has been a lot of learning. And there have always been challenges. And the learning is primarily from the scientific team. And believe me, when I say, there's no such thing as entrepreneurship, only to start a business. I have met entrepreneurs, at every level, even at the scientific level, I had a scientist, and she was so smart, that she came up with a completely different approach for stem cell therapy to treat eyes. And we were able to save, rather provide vision to a girl who was in her, I think, the seventh standard, who was about to take her exam, and she was cured within three to four months. Being a CEO, I think we should keep our feet on the ground, and seeing what happens, interact, take that learning, bring it back to the top and implement and take it for the other experience that I really would like to share is even with the government bodies, even with regulatory bodies, there are people with so much of confinement. The central government, they are, held from all angles, not really to have space to go on. But still, they have been able to create some amazing schemes for the benefit of the people. An amazing way of inspiring both startups and companies, how we can work with them, not only just work, but also drive policymaking. I mean, I met entrepreneurs at all levels, Vice-Chancellor of a university, who made a big difference in my life and, you know, ahead of the technology development board, working with so many small startup small companies, mentoring them, guiding them. So I have been inspired by people from different unimaginable domains that have done an amazing job,” he says.
Create a mark in India especially from technology
Naveen explains, “So I believe, being in India, it's a great honor. And I have worked across different countries; I've lived in the US, UK, Europe. And my intent was to come back here, and definitely, create a mark, especially from technology. Because if you go back home, and then look around, which is that Indian product that you see, probably none, there's nothing right. So, that is where the mindset has to change, there is a need to invest, as we say R&D, but I always separate R from D as India is more focused on development. But research is almost nothing. And that is where when I work with some customers, I try to motivate them, I try to inspire them to look at this. And fortunately for me, they have been amazing customers, even during this COVID situation, they have also supported us. So there's a lot of learning from them. And then I try to also keep pushing them, hey, we're working on a 1972 reaction, chemical reaction, and that's being used even today. Time to improve, time to make it better, and become competitive. And of course, technology will not shy away from technology. We need to apply technology and make use of it and share the benefit. So that is the goal with which I'm also trying quantumzyme and of course Even my current team, it's quite an inspirational thing that I have. Most of them are IITs PhDs from different parts of the world. They have come from us, you know, and then they're working with me. And there's a great deal of knowledge I get every day just by talking with them. So that's, that's what drives quantumzyme. That's what drives me. And yes, we are looking forward to a really good future, both within India as well as you know, globally,” he says.
(Edited by Rabia Mistry Mulla)