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Lioness Changemakers: Ramani Varanasi

Today’s Lioness Changemaker is Ramani Varanasi.

While the rest of the world is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ramani Varanasi, the co-founder, president and CEO of X-Biotix Therapeutics, is also worried about the next one. X-Biotix was founded in 2016 to create “novel small molecule antibiotics that target resistant Gram-negative bacteria” and advance them. Gram-negative bacteria are resistant to multiple drugs and are increasingly resistant to most available antibiotics. 

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about antibiotic resistance, antimicrobial resistance and “superbugs”. What’s the difference between antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance? Antibiotic resistance refers specifically to bacteria resisting antibiotics. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) happens when a microbe (bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi) changes so the medicines created to cure or treat it become ineffective. Superbugs are the resistant strains themselves.

X-Biotix prioritizes compounds that can address more than one target, so-called “dual-target inhibition” and the approach is creating a pipeline of first-in-class programs.  

A microbiologist who has spent the last 25 years in the corporate world, Varanasi has plenty of experience studying bacteria at pharmaceutical companies and in labs. When the opportunity arose for her to help start a company from the ground up, she jumped on it. 

“Here’s an opportunity that allows me to really take the reins and to drive something,” Varanasi said. “If it’s successful, I’m part of that success. If it’s a failure, I’m part of that failure.”  

There are Still Significant Fundraising Challenges for Women Entrepreneurs

Unsurprisingly, she noted, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed attention to the biopharmaceutical industry. Still, like many female founders, she encountered significant challenges during the fundraising process but ultimately succeeded. In November of 2019, X-Biotix announced an extension to its Series A funding, helping to further support the company’s programming and efforts. 

When courting funders and presenting your startup, she recommends:

  • Presenting a specific concrete solution or product
  • Positioning your solution as addressing a critical unmet need
  • Showing your readiness to fulfill that need 

In this video interview with Lioness Publisher Bobbie Carlton, Varanasi discusses her journey from scientist to entrepreneur, her experiences with investors, and how the public can help support companies that fight antibiotic resistance.

About the author

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