Episode 59: Entrepreneurship And Innovation At The Crossroads Of Academics & Industry w. Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy

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Episode 59: Entrepreneurship And Innovation At The Crossroads Of Academics & Industry w. Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy

This Episode

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy

You Will Learn

– Dr. Chakravarty talks about how he built a qualified team when starting out. We discuss examples like how he found an expert in IP law to help with the legal protection of innovative ideas.
– Dr. Chakravarty discusses his unique and unconventional route in his medical training
– Dr. Chakravarthy’s wild boating experience

Resources & Links

Dr. Chakravarthy’s website: https://www.chakravarthylab.com/

This week, I’m talking to Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy. Dr. Chakravarthy is brilliant at not only understanding and developing hyper-specialized technologies but doing so in a way that understands the business, finance, and team-building required to take his ideas from the drawing board to changing patient’s lives.


Justin (00:04):
This week, I’m talking to Dr. Krishnan and checker. Bharthi. I really enjoyed this conversation because Dr. Chakravarth really has a knack for not only understanding and developing hyper specialized technologies, but doing so in a way that understands the business and finance and team building and creating the infrastructure required to take his ideas from the drawing board to changing patient’s lives. He has some really amazing stories that he shares from his experiences. And I think you’re really going to enjoy today’s episode as always. Thanks for tuning in hello and welcome to episode 59 of the anesthesia success podcast. I’m very pleased to be joined today by Dr. Krishnan Chakravarti. Dr. Chakravarti is doing a lot of exciting things out there in the West coast with regards to innovation and pain medicine. And I I’m excited to talk about innovation in the context of the academic setting, and also uniting that with industry collaboration and that it’s like a big tangled ball of yarn that I’m looking forward to unraveling here this morning. So thank you for joining us, Dr. Krishnann Chakravarthy.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (01:23):
Thanks Justin. Thanks for having me.

Justin (01:25):
I’m interested to know somebody like yourself. Who’s really pushing the envelope with regards to innovation and invention. And I was, I was looking at your CV and there was the, the, all the patents that were listed was, was significant. So for somebody like you, I’m curious, when did this begin, when for you, did you start to create or find that you like to invent stuff maybe as a child or something?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (01:49):
That’s a great question. So, you know I definitely took the unconventional route in my medical training. And so I’ll tell you a little bit about myself. So I actually went to a university of Chicago as an undergrad, and interestingly, I started as a math and physics guy that was totally interested in nothing science related whatsoever, but for most people that are of South Asian descent, typically Indian families are always like pushing towards doctors. That’s kind of the doctor engineer pathway that most things happen. So you know, I started taking some biology courses and I was like, Oh, this is interesting, but, you know, economics and finance, whereas where my heart was. So finally it got into one of my premed advisors like, Oh, you should think like an MD PhD program. You know, that’s a fantastic little, did I know how long that program is, but that really changed changed my life in a lot of ways.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (02:47):
So I ended up finishing college a little early. I spent a year working in finance and they came back to SUNY Buffalo. So I did my first two years of med school. And I got into this you originally, I wanted to do really cancer oncology research. I was totally into drug delivery. So my first choice for a mentor, actually my co MD PhD candidate ended up taking that person so we can only do one lab per person. And it just ended up happening. I worked with probably one of the most influential people in my life, Dr. Paul Knight and SUNY Buffalo, incredible. I mean, he is one of the most, well-read a well balanced. And in that three years in graduate school, like I felt was just an incredible experience. I mean, everything from getting on a sailing boat to racing on the Niagara to all the way where I spent them at least a year or two at the CDC developing vaccines for pandemic flu.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (03:46):
And it was just at the tail end of my third year that I came back and had done a lot of cool stuff with the 1918 strain, which I’m going to tell you a lot about where it’s really applying to this generation of COVID-19. And at that time, when I came back I had one of my senior MD-PhD guys who was like, Oh, you know, there’s just like business plan competition. You should like get involved. And it’s really cool. You like link up with some key people in the business community and you kind of have different ideas. So it was like, Oh, you know, I mean, what’s the, this is a good experience. Why not? So I’ve been working with a lot of new technology and drug delivery parts for flu and 1918 strain. So it came back and I had no intention of doing anything with it other than just pitching.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (04:32):
So he ended up working with four of us altogether. We created this whole company called nano axes, and it was really cool. We were working with semiconductor particles. So IBM at that time had developed quantum.technology for a lot of the things you see today, like LCB displays on your Samsung or flat screen and old lads. Right? So at that time, we were really interested in using that for marking different biological applications. We were using it to tag different cell types. And the cool thing is like the description of what industry at that time had was something like, if I were describing Justin today, I’d be like, Hey, there’s, he’s wearing an orange shirt, he’s wearing glasses and he’s got black hair, et cetera, would that technology you could get to like such as fine articulation? You could say, you know, Justin is having one speckle on his left cheek to that level of granularity.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (05:34):
And so we were doing all this stuff. And then all of a sudden we went from 30 companies to winning that year. And, and that changed my life because that was the first attempt at entrepreneurship. And I really ended up loving that process. It’s had its own headaches because I was trying to manage a small business while in medical school. So I was traveling all over the world, went to Saudi Arabia, China. We were doing all kinds of interesting things with that, but I mean the lesson came in that I was like, wow, I’ve got a totally different perspective on how medicine and business can interrelate through that experience.

Justin (06:15):
That’s awesome. And as a fellow entrepreneur, obviously I am energized in the same way where you had that experience. Like this is awesome. I that’s how I feel about my endeavors. But you mentioned something that you just kind of glossed over that I want to go back to real quick, this story about racing a sailboat or something on the Niagara river. Can you just share a little bit about what that was?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (06:33):
Yeah. So my my mentor was like, Hey, listen me and my wife do some sailing on the, on the weekend. Just you just come down and it’s, you know, I was like, wow, okay. Sailing with with my PI and his wife, most busiest, simple thing. So I get there on the first day and I, you know, it’s a little, I’m not a really good swimmer just be honest. So I get there on the first day and I’m like fully in a life jacket. He’s got this 40 foot Morsi that he we go on the Niagara river. So I get there and I’m like, Oh, okay. So this is going to be like, you know, some you know, wine and cheese on his deck and it’s going to be quiet event. And so he’s like, well, no, I didn’t, I don’t, I didn’t mean it like that.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (07:17):
I want you to actually just be on my crew and I, and I see like six or seven people come in. He’s like Chris, you’re going to be on the foredeck and you’re going to be putting up the Spinnaker’s and tack, it sounds like you got shanghaied. I know it was unbelievable, but the experience of being in a team effort where you’re racing together, I mean, man, the two years there, it was unbelievable. So we would go and race like 10, 12 boats across the river, and you would like, literally would get really intense, but you learn how to work with other folks. It was a fascinating experience. So that’s cool. Nothing short of a full fledged graduate training, I guess.

Justin (07:58):
Yeah. That’s excellent. So you mentioned something and I’m interested to get your thoughts on this. So I’m in Philadelphia, which a Ben Franklin, a very famous citizen and obviously an inventor and innovator. He lived, I was thinking about this this morning. He lived at an age when somebody like him, who has sort of the classic Renaissance man, you know, founded the first public library and the first public hospital and the volunteer fire department, as well as like some actual, you know, the lightening rod bifocals. And I found out this morning in researching for this call, a flexible catheter, none of us want to live in a world without those. And he was able to have these very broad, you know, innovations in lots of different spaces. And he was able to do that, just sort of through intuition, I think in his, the genius of who he was, we live now in an age where it requires at least this is my opinion.

Justin (08:45):
I want to hear your reaction to this requires hyper specialization for a long, long time. I mean, you’re talking about quantum.technology and you were, you know, you’ve got a PhD and you need to go. So in one direction before you finally hit that Mo the frontier really talk a little bit about some of the technologies that you’ve interacted with that have sort of blazed the trail for some of the work that you have done as well as, is there anything that you see right now, either in pain, medicine or healthcare more broadly that, that you think is a more funding, more equivalent to like the lightening rod or bifocals where somebody just came up with this idea that was so revolutionary that it, they’re not even standing on the shoulders of giants, so to speak, they just sort of had this epiphany, that, and trans

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (09:28):
I I’ll tell you what I’m working on, which is really interesting. So I agree with you. I mean you know, that experience, interestingly, in that nowadays, if you are an entrepreneur to really get people to believe in you, you almost have to have an expertise in your domain in a way that you know, you look at the innovation cycle, maybe at the time of Franklin, the more fundamental innovations were not discovered. It doesn’t mean that it was any lesser, more challenging, but when you’re thinking about what to innovate in, you almost have to be 10,000 steps ahead of where the field is, because what you’re thinking today, you see in a commercial setting was probably thought of 20 years ago. And it’s amazing how long that pathway is and how challenging it is. So a lot of people think, well, you know, how hard is it to do a startup?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (10:21):
It’s only after you’ve done it. A couple of times failed that multiple times. Do you realize like how many pieces, how much luck and interfacing it has to happen? So I’ll give you a good example of what I’m working on. You know, I love the neuromodulation space. I think it’s a fascinating space and I’ve been involved in it the last three years. I interact with industry all the time, but you really made a cool, cool concept or question, how do you really get at the ground level? Because most clinicians, I think when they want to be innovative, either they take the setting of being at the end of when a technology gets developed in a lab or spun out in a commercial entity and you’re testing it clinically. But how do you generate the idea at the fundamental level? So one of the things that we’re working on, which is really, I think interesting and I so I was, I collaborate with the professor in the engineering department and he does a lot of wearables.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (11:13):
And so you, you know, one day I’m walking in the lab and I’m like, well, I know it’d be interesting. What would be really revolutionary in the neuromodulation field? So one of the, I mean, sometimes thoughts are in, you know, you get it at the moment and you think about what to do. So what I’m, we’re really working on and what we believe in the next 10, 15 years is can you imagine a day where you’re we are, marriaging the ability for two separate fields of electrical current with biofuel. So meaning that imagine a single catheter being placed in a patient with no battery with no recharge burden and in, in a constant flow of electrical activity that is powered by the human body that would actually have no involvement with any external electronics. So that to me would be a radical idea.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (12:11):
Why, because today the cost of these devices are up in the 50,000 plus, but pain is such a pervasive thing all across the world. What if you could bring the cost down to under a hundred dollars for a single device? I mean, that would be so radical. A shift that I think the field would see that in 15, 20 years maybe you know, family medicine, doctors are placing STEM devices in their office. And that’s kind of the envision that you would think about now, when I first proposed this, people were like, are you kidding me? This is like, so matrix and like idea of using a human as a power source. But I mean, it’s fascinating how far science and ingenuity is and applying that now the different part of that is how do you get grants? How do you develop it? How do I develop patents around it? But that’s always challenging, but I can tell you, I think to innovate now, you almost have to think very, very far ahead on what you think is going to be groundbreaking 15, 20 years from the day that you’re developing it.

Justin (13:16):
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I’m curious, you know, whenever you were thinking about your medical career, obviously neuromodulation and pain management more broadly has a large segment of its practitioners coming through the anesthesiology specialty. At what point did you know that anesthesia was where you wanted to be? And did you see that as like the gateway to innovation for you? Or did you kind of just fall into it?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (13:39):
Yeah, so I, I was surprisingly, I had matched in both neurosurgery and anesthesia at the end of medical school. And then of course my mentor was like, you know, at the end of the day, you, you have a very strong research aptitude. So you picking anesthesia as a field might lend itself to more easier compartmentalization of your time. Right? Nowadays, a lot of fellows, I think the challenge that they have is they come in and they have all these ideas and visions about what their career should be. Earlier planning helps a lot because I always tell fellows, like, if you want to do the academic career and you want to integrate research and make that a priority you need, the time, time is an extremely valuable resource. We all go through it, whether what you’re interested in your personal life, your career, how you want to spend that time.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (14:28):
And so I always tell fellows, like, if you have a vision of what you want, most times academic departments will allow you to do that as long as you’ve demonstrated some aptitude for that. So I took anesthesia is kind of that way of being like, okay, I can have a very easy, a very structured three days, and it’s not as intensive surgically to be involved, but who would have figured I went into pain and now it’s like clear back to the other side of the curtain and doing that. But I mean, that experience really was, was telling because it functioned really well when I was trying to get a job right. Out of fellowship, where I really asked for protected time. And since that point, we’ve really, that’s been the catalyst for development of all the stuff that we’ve been doing.

Justin (15:10):
Yeah. I’m curious when it comes to leveraging your time and protecting your time, this is sort of the, the one problem that’s common to all humans who are really striving to achieve you just bumped into that 24 hour finish line. And you’re like, Oh crap. Like, you know, that’s it. So I’m curious. Do you have any at a very like practical level, do you have any tools or things that you’ve implemented in your life to help you get more done?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (15:33):
Yeah, so, I mean, in this day and age of the iPhone, my, if you ask my wife, she’s like, you’re, I feel like you’re married more to that than spending time with a family. But I mean, she says it with some joke, but I think, look, I, I really try to structure my weeks very consistently. So I I think about and this is a good way to think about how to innovate too. I look at my three days clinically and I derive a lot of even, you know, my first couple years I was only 40% clinical and 60% research. In my days when I’m clinical, even as I’m working with patients, I’m always in the back of my mind, thinking about what can I do to ease the way patient care delivery is it’s a lot of people say, where does ideas get generated?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (16:20):
And really in my mind, great translational research is understanding the patient care. And how do you identify problems that you can improve at the technology level? So, you know, I kind of merged that part of it when I’m with patients, I deliver the best care possible, but I’m also thinking about solutions that I can provide or think about in my, using my engineering kind of skillsets. So, you know, those two days I’m completely dedicated to the clinic, but then the ladder three days or two days, I’m very much structured on only meetings that I think are productive. I find a lot of times, I, I think a lot of people waste time on emails and you know, I find that to be completely like a time consuming and time sink. So I actually am a big proponent of, you know, if you have tangible objectives that you want to get done, I finished those and you’ll be surprised, you know, you go a week without an email and you can’t come back, even though your inbox is littered with thousands of things, probably only about five or 10 are actually actionables of yes.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (17:24):
I try to make things like very practical and to do, and it really helps. And so incorporating exercise. I mean, I’m pretty structured about stuff in the morning. And then I do really dedicate family time at the end of the day, like two, three hours. So with a four and two year old, it’s kind of a, that’s a priority.

Justin (17:43):
Absolutely. Maybe you can give us like a 30,000 foot view of all the, as you’re talking about, like dividing your time and your attention, what are the things that have your attention? What are the different endeavors you’re currently under?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (17:55):
Sure. so obviously I’m a clinician I practice and seed both veterans as well as I see patients as a civilian. I am running a $10 million NIH funded lab now through both private and academic industry. So we are working on everything from novel drug delivery on patches to we’re now developing this new, we just got a big $3 million grant from Knight where you could imagine we’ve developing a grain size sensor that continuously monitors opiate alcohol levels in patients and it’s sinked in with the cloud. So that’s going to happen probably in the next three to five years. You’ll see it in the market where you know, for addiction patients, this is going to be a fascinating way of recording things and really point of care. I’ve got so between that and the five startups that I’ve launched that are starting to now we’re doing everything from developing a new drug now for both intrathecal, as well as IB use for postoperative pain and great stories of how that got developed.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (19:06):
But you know, it started with a research and then ended up kind of shifting this strategy to a startup. And then we’re doing a lot of stuff with nanotechnology and biofuel and yeah, so I’ve got my hands in everything. So, but the way I compartmentalize is really a structure weekly to biweekly follow up meetings on each of these things. And I just kind of make sure that progress goes through, but I, I tell you those experiences when I was in grad school and doing my first startup really got me to think about how to actually take technology out of the, out of the academic center into the marketplace. Yeah.

Justin (19:45):
I want to direct our listeners to your website check of Arthi lab.com. We’ll link to that in the show notes. So if you go to anesthesia success.com/ 59, all the different things that we’re gonna reference here will be listed. But I thought this was interesting. I was, as I was perusing this website, I had these visions of one of the Batman movies, the earlier ones where Morgan Freeman is like showing Christian bale around in the basement of Wayne enterprises is like this crazy thing. And like all the cool technology I was thinking like, this is essentially the neuromodulation equivalent of Wayne enterprises was what I was envisioning. So tell us a little bit about what is the lab, what’s your team look like? What kind of work are you doing there?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (20:20):
Yeah, so I, you know, I think we have usually between about 10 to 15, everywhere from masters graduate student, they all come from international environments. And what I’m looking at, getting people in my lab, I really like folks that are multidisciplinary things that, you know, even you don’t have to have any background necessarily in the things that you do. But what I really look for is people that are passionate for the types of things we’re developing. And you’d be so surprised. I mean, I think that’s where kind of neurodegeneration and mentorship and getting, getting the younger generation. I mean, I consider my I’m feeling like I’m getting older by the day. My birthday was last Saturday, but I see a lot of folks that are coming out, like you just really given the right opportunity and resources. People can really flourish.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (21:08):
And so I let people kind of come to the lab, see what kind of ideas that they have, and then I really encourage them to develop that. I think sometimes it’s easy to, when you’re doing mentorship to forget that it’s not really about your lab, it’s about developing that person to be an independent investigator or clinician or successful. And I think that’s a very different exercise. I think you have to really put their encouragement of their ideas and help them develop that independently in the absence of really focusing on, Oh, I have an idea and I just want to plug you in to get that work done. So I’ve taken that approach. It’s, it’s been amazing. I mean, we’ve got folks from all over the world that come in and work with us. And I interact with Joe Wang. Who’s actually one of the prolific engineers, I mean, highly cited in the world. And that’s been very helpful with terms of our partnerships. So yeah, it’s been a great environment.

Justin (22:10):
I’m curious you know, you’ve between the lab and you mentioned five startups. This is, this is it. It takes a lot of people to run this much infrastructure. And you talked a lot about team building and like, I’m curious, you know, do you have like a personal philosophy for finding somebody who you think will be a good team member? How do you know someone’s a good fit? Or when you’re thinking about, if somebody is out there thinking, Oh, I have an idea. I need to turn it into a startup with a team with infrastructure, or we can do a thing and move a project forward. How would you advise them to like begin the team building?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (22:44):
That’s an amazing question. So, you know, it’s fascinating. You ask a majority of VC firms or investors, what do they invest in? Is it really the idea? And most times that core statement you’ll hear no we’re investing in the team. And so you know, I’ll give you a good example. Like I, I think there are so many great projects people have and people have a vision and without the right team, it can fall apart or it can make it happen. So you know, that old adage fail quick and feel it’s okay to fail, but fail quickly. I think I apply that a lot to things like, especially with new idea generation, because if you’re spending a lot of time, you’re not getting constructively anywhere. I almost feel like it’s okay to say, you know what, this is not going to work.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (23:31):
And part your ways don’t burn bridges. I think the challenge that most people have is they really get kind of focused too much on how much of this is my share of the pot. Like, and in fact, the reality is, you know, you build something together with a lot of people and if it’s successful, you’ll naturally be successful. So I think you’ll most dynamics for most teams. I’ll tell you within a span of like a month or two you’ll know if it works or not. Like, and it’s very clear. And I, I think as I’ve done more of this, I started to get less tied to an idea about necessarily seeing its success and you’re not married to it. And I think it helps you take a step back and say, okay, I love this. This could be revolutionary. This could be really game changing, but I really can’t work with Joe and Jason together. It just doesn’t work. I mean, they don’t get along. So, and that happens. I mean, I think it gets pretty you’ll see that I think any idea that you really want to bet the team out first, you want to really have a relationship where you can be honest with each other. And so sometimes that works well and other times you can’t work, make it work. So tell me

Justin (24:40):
Think about a time when you had to evaluate and then perhaps abandoned or significantly restructure one of your endeavors.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (24:47):
Yeah, so I you know, one of the things we’ve been developing is a interesting new lead design. And at the initial stage, we started with a and partnered up with an older professor and engineer, very set in his ways. And so we had brought a guy that was much more business oriented and really in the field. So we were trying to work together and, and, you know, like the first, just the way that they would approach it, he would, he was very academic and his way would be kind of hard to really get down to flow flow sheets and Excel spreadsheets and cashflow. And I, at the early part of this, I could sense that there wasn’t a lot of synergy. Yeah. So long story short you know, w I made the decision, I was like, look, I don’t think this is going to work with all three of you guys and us as a partnership.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (25:42):
You know, can we find some ways to kind of maybe go our separate way and, and maybe figure out a different approach. That story short that you know, one, one of the team members obviously didn’t feel that it was a good fit. And then we kind of set, set that apart. And we went different ways. Now I’m sure that team member probably thought that the idea was not going to be successful, but it did, you know, and I ultimately, as much as I wanted it, that he wanted it to fail. It actually went went quite far and, and we’re still developing a lot of this stuff, but the point was, you know, I think that fundamental switch sometimes having opposite ideas in a, in a room can be very helpful to make sure that you’re not married to it, to the point. You’re not seeing the pitfalls, but at the same time, you want to make sure that it’s not. So there’s not so much impediment to move forward that, you know, you’re not able to marriage different personalities together, so worked out, but it was

Justin (26:38):
Any commonalities that you’ve seen between the different, you know, maybe you’ve got five different startups, got the lab. You’ve probably have other things that you haven’t even mentioned. But if you’re, if you’re saying I want to get a group together to achieve a purpose, are there different sort of seats you’re trying to fill that are the same between those, or does it depend on the project and the org?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (26:54):
So I, I think, look, I, so I go back to Robert Langer out of MIT. I don’t know if most folks know, I mean, he’s incredibly successful. And you know, one of the things that I think he makes up a good point, and I find this, you really want to identify individual skill sets in a team. You don’t really want to have too much of the same. So if you think someone is really strong in the technical part, you know, you really want to support that. If you think someone’s really good with the finance, if you think someone’s really good with operations, then I really think about each of those pieces the challenges in the initial part of a startup as the leader, who’s waiting for it to germinate. You almost have to be cross-functional across every different aspect of it.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (27:40):
But even, even just being creative around patents, how do you think about patents? How do you really get the claims to help you develop something that can go into the market? All of that you’re going to have to, it’s a really steep learning curve, but you learn it. And so I try not to reproduce that because I think having a, a little bit of an understanding of each of those different pieces helps. But you know, I think there isn’t a short formula on that. I, but it’s, it’s worked for me, but I think I’ll make one other point. It’s really important. I think that people also recognize when an idea’s ready for commercialization. So some people get this concept and they’re like, okay, I think I could sell this for millions of dollars, but the reality is it takes a ton of effort. It’s very fairly you know, you have to reproduce it, you gotta have a prototype, you gotta have IP, you have to have a lot of money until the point where investor actually takes you seriously. And so I think sometimes people think it’s easier and then get frustrated. And then they’re like, man, that’s actually more challenging. But I think as you get more experiences, it can be really rewarding. I think the,

Justin (28:49):
The interesting things that I’ve found about the pain medicine space is just the dynamics of innovation and how much it is just because of the nature of who’s got the money to spend on R and D how much it is often driven on the private practice side and on the industry side. And you know, we mentioned before, are we hit, we hit record here innovation in the academic world, especially you know, because of the like legal and intellectual property complexities, and like, who’s going to get what, and who’s going to pay for what, and how does, you know, UCS D and like Abbott how to, if they went in on a thing or other stakeholders, like, how does all that work? And for some, in some ways, like just doing it all off the academic outside of a [inaudible], it’s probably cleaner, or at least it’s simpler. I’m fascinated to hear, how did you approach, you know, as you’re thinking about what you want your life and career, and, you know, five startups to look like doing that as a, having the academic center at the hub, how did you think through that? And who did you lean on to help you evaluate the best way to build?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (29:55):
So awesome question. So this actually is a lot of questions across the country that people ask this. So, you know when you start, I think, look at even, let’s say, take an example, DRG stimulation, right? That today is a commercial thing. It actually came out of a academic university and developed at even never, in some ways that became a commercial entity. The truth is that most times, I think if you, most academic centers are actually very pro spinoffs and commercial enablement, in fact, they set up what these are, what are called tech transfer offices that essentially take technology that faculty develop and then help them transition to a commercial setting. Now, that being said, I think it’s a little bit of a different exercise. So most people I can get a grant today. And as a faculty member, I develop it. I file a patent through the tech transfer office and that’s intellectual property.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (30:56):
That’s owned by the university. The transition though, is that at some point, if you then want to create a company, that company would then license that intellectual property from the university, and then have, you know, that negotiation of what that university would have in relationship to that company. So classic example, Gatorade out of university of Florida today. I mean, even some portion of that royalty is what’s made you have. So it’s been an incredible experience with the success of Gatorade, right? Or even some other I’m even looking at Google and their endowment at Stanford. So what happens is that I think depending on the health system, the challenge that comes as people feel well, how much am I giving up? Because I’m at a university setting and this private entity is, are going to give up 75% of the company just to get the intellectual property, or is it going to give up 5%, 10%, most universities, if you, what they’re really looking for is success.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (31:55):
So they don’t, it’s not that they’re opposed to you taking a license of that intellectual property. They really want to know that you’re going to develop it in a meaningful way because they get approached by the Abbott’s the Medtronics of the world all over the, you know, every major university has an IP tech transfer place and they can license are not licensed to an individual thing. So I think they’re preferential to inventors, but in general, you really have to show credibility of being able to license and actually do something with it. So I didn’t learn that till I hadn’t done the business plan competition. And so we actually really worked with university of Buffalo about how to actually license some of the quantum dot IP and really got into the manufacturing. So what I would say is, I think it’s not, it’s not that difficult, but I go back to the point I made earlier, you know it’s fascinating if you’re developing something for money is very different than people developing something that they’re passionate about.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (32:57):
And money’s a byproduct. And why I say that is when people get hung up on, Oh, how much percentage am I going to own? Is the university going to have this or that? I really believe like if you’re owning 2% of Google today is very it’s success. There’s the people who the founders actually think about how much money am I going to make, or were they totally focused on what am I actually doing for society? Or how is my getting my technology out to people? If that becomes the focus? I think people will start to realize it’s actually easier to work with these academic centers. And I think that’s, if you’re passionate about that, then I think less emphasis comes into you know, I gotta give up this or that to build a team. So, you know, I, I personally feel, I think less focused on money as opposed to the technology and the impact on society actually helps kind of move that along.

Justin (33:50):
And that’s kind of the irony, right? Is when you get an organization with a bunch of people who are so invested in the vision, they’re in the foxhole together, they’re able to weather the storms more effectively than people who all rally around the mighty dollar. And that just will not galvanize a team. Right. As I’m sure you’ve probably seen.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (34:08):
Yeah. I mean, you hear it, all the great innovators in our space jobs, you look at most, I mean, I don’t think no, nobody, I think their vision probably at that time, people were like, wow, how is this? Any what profitable? Like, yeah. But the thing is that if you take a look at that innovation cycle, it’s really because they foresaw a vision that might’ve applied 10, 15 years later and it, the rest of it kind of flows after you think, that’s not to say you shouldn’t have a proper business model because at the end of the pig, no, one’s going to invest. If they don’t think you’re going to make revenue. But I think the emphasis on specifics like, Hey, how much is this component? Am I going to give up or not? If you’re willing to be a little bit generous on that end, I think a lot ideas can have a fruition after it gets spun out.

Justin (34:53):
Yeah. Especially at the outset, then once you have a track record, you’ve got leverage. Right. so what you do is very intellectually property and intellectual property heavy, and obviously protecting IP is, I mean, I don’t even really know anything about that, but I imagine that it’s complex and it takes a team. And so tell me about, how did you learn about how to protect the work that you’re doing? Who, who did you have to bring on to your team to help you make sure you do that the right way?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (35:21):
Yeah. So it’s really interesting. I, that was my, so the first you know, failure becomes a good way of learning how to succeed. So in our first so fascinating stories and our first attempt at now, I go back to this quantum dot example. So at that time there was a big company called life technologies and they housed almost all the IP in this space of QD and biological application. So what happened was that many companies try to break in, and these guys being the 800 pound gorilla would literally just use intellectual property to legally prevent any company. So what happens when you’re a startup, usually either you get acquired or, and the technology gets shelved or bigger companies just, you know, use the tactic of legal ways to enforce not you coming in. Right. So I just remember, so one of my for me, it started because we went back to a high school reunion and this is how much networking and friendship makes a difference.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (36:24):
So one of my closest friends was like, Hey, you know, I just got into IP law. What have you been up to recently? That was like, Oh, you know, I said, you asked, I’ve been working on this thing with the QD stuff. And he’s like, Oh, you know what? We should sit down sometime. And at that point as a patent lawyer, I really learned all of these fascinating things around what claims are, what freedom to operate is how do you know that you go from a provisional to a non provisional patent, like what that allows you to do. So I really say you definitely legal advice early is helpful because you can spend a lot of ideas may actually have no room in the marketplace because you haven’t done the actual search and it costs a little bit of money, but it’s worth an investment to know.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (37:09):
Is there actually IP that you can create so long story short after that whole experience you finally got around to it to figuring out a way to get around the IP, figured out the manufacturing. But I was like, man, this, whoever, this guy that owns a life technology is the bane of my existence. Right? So funny story. My first year I go to San Francisco and I give a talk on drug delivery and to the guys that are like, Hey, you know, you shouldn’t, you should meet our founder. He’s a great guy. He’s like, we were out in the Southern tip of Marsay. This is where, of course clearly that’s where the headquarters are. So like, we’d love to fly you out there. So I get out there and it’s this beautiful mind miner and, and I’m meeting the founder.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (37:56):
I’m like, wow, this has gotta be exciting. I’m I’m like really amped up. So I sit down and there’s this Vietnamese guy in like Hawaiian tee shirt shorts that he smoking a cigarette. And I’m like, yeah. You know, he’s like, Oh, tell me about like past experiences with, Oh, you had this company in quantum.technology. And, you know, it was so interesting, but I had this guy in that for me Vitrogen and this company kept like, you know, they were always so aggressive. He’s like, Oh, in [inaudible]. Yeah, that was my, my previous startup. So I lived, barely met the guy that founded it [inaudible] at that comment. I was like, what a small world. I was like, if I know, knew like five, 10 years ago, maybe it would have been a different experience, but it was such a, you know, told me how small the world can become those fascinating. So I was hearing it from his perspective where he had started the same company from the garage and they had, I mean, grew to a billion dollar enterprise, but unbelievable experience. And so then we kind of, it was like, man, I just wished I had known you at that time for all this IP stuff, but yeah. Mall world,

Justin (38:57):
Just cause this is a recurring theme on the show. I was like, you got to just behave yourself. Cause it is a small world and treat people right. Because they’re going to come back around like it or not.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (39:08):
Then in the end we were collaborating on some really cool stuff now, but it’s just, it tells you that, you know, never be afraid to meet people and to interact in power as in people in networking. I think there’s a lot to be said for that.

Justin (39:21):
Yeah. What has surprised you most about the path that you have taken?

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (39:27):
Yeah. You know, I look, I most times very precious resource. So the choices we make, whether it’s spending time with our family, doing time at medicine, doing time and research, doing time, developing startups, whatever. I think that you gotta take some risks and I really do mean that. So I remember when I did that startup and I try to continue it during medical school, I was definitely not the fan of my Dean who was like this, guy’s still interested in medicine or is he trying to manage this or that? But what happened was even my experience going to CDC or doing all of that, I had to take the initiative, you know? And so part of that is I tell a lot of folks that are interested in, especially fellows mentorship doesn’t mean somebody is going to give it to you on a silver platter.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (40:21):
They will guide you. But at the end of the day, you’re going to have to really be passionate and take that step of hard work in the choices that you make. So I have taken very unconventional steps in my life, whether it’s been doing things out of the norm, which you know, even if you ask my doctor, Nike would be like, yeah, he was definitely not of the run of the mill graduate student. Cause I would, I just went down to CDC for two years and he would be like, wow, that’s not typical. But but I’m just, I think the lesson in that is be adventurous. Take, take chances on things that may, you know, may feel like a big task, but unless you do it, you’ll never know. So yeah,

Justin (41:03):
Absolutely. And I think what you mentioned earlier that the, the innovation that comes at the crossroads of disciplines, you can sort of absolutely. And I think what you mentioned earlier, the, the innovation that comes at the crossroads of disciplines, you can sort of create that in your own person. If you throw like what you just described, going to the CDC PhD in immunology and the way that, that fuses with like the nanotech and, you know, right now it’s kind of like, you’re almost like the perfect storm of like skill sets and the things that you’re working on to be able to speak intelligibly into the crazy noise that we’re seeing all around us right now. But it just goes to show you that when you’re willing to take a path less traveled like that, I’ve had a, I would say a much more muted, but similar experience with coming up as a financial planner and then throwing myself into anesthesiology and pain medicine and all of the it’s just like opportunity and interesting things all over the place that you, that you find once you have like a dual specialty or dual interests like that.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (42:02):
Yeah. And look at, I mean, I have to say your podcast is so successful because I think you could see you’re passionate about this. As much as I’m talking about technology, I it’s clear in that aspect of it. So like I commend people who can step out of the box and innovate. I mean, that’s, that’s the foundation. I mean, you brought a Ben Franklin, he was classic example of that things that you would think, Oh, this is not something you would think about developing something in, you know, he was never feared feared about that in Edison was a, another classic example of somebody who was just constantly thinking of new ideas, innovation. So I’m, I’m all for risk-taking calculated, I would say, but that’s right.

Justin (42:42):
That’s all right. Yeah, me too. I want to ask you one more question and I thank you very much for your time today. You have accomplished a lot and achieved a lot in many different domains and you’ve, you know, you, you talk about the sacrifice and the time, tell me a brief story or reflecting on a moment of professional actualization when you either patient care or a breakthrough technologically or a business success where you realized all of the elbow grease and all the hours and all of the research it’s in this moment, it has made it worth it

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (43:12):
With all the hats that I wear. One of the, you know, one of the most gratifying things, and I still find this to be the case is in individual patient interaction where I feel that I’ve delivered a therapy that has changed their life. Amazing. You can look at every technology you develop being at the cutting edge, but there’s a moment where it as a physician, when you’re in a room and a patient tells you. So I had a case of a patient that had Phantom limb pain for 18 years and get tried everything. You tried everything at the point of I’ve medication, you tried all the different alternative therapies he came in. He was like, I really I’m at a point in my life where I’m crippled. I can’t function. I can’t do the things that I want to. So net net effect is we had actually placed a DRG stimulator for him and he had completely, the pain had gone.

Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy (44:10):
But what was impactful was that beyond the outcome, it was when he came back with his family it was his wife and daughter that was very touching. They were like, Oh, we had gotten our father back in a way that, you know, I think it’s hard to be in that position, but when you’re in it, and you’re thinking about it from the clinical perspective, it may just be one patient. It may just be one interaction, but for that person has life had completely changed. And I think that to me is a critical driving force and why I work hard on the development of the technology, because I’m hoping one day that that’s reproducible. So I, you know, I, I love being a clinician. I think I would never change that. I think that, you know, I, if I could do entrepreneurship and lab stuff, five days a week, I could, I could see that being what most people would say to do or give it all all up and go to industry. But I think from a perspective, the clinical practice of medicine can be extremely rewarding. I mean, and I think that applies like when you’re giving financial advice, I think somebody succeeding can be really rewarding, right. You’re like, wow, I’ve changed their life in a very meaningful way. So yeah, I mean, I still talk to him today. Unbelievable. So I think it’s really great.

Justin (45:28):
Well, thank you for sharing that story and Dr. Chakravarthi, thank you for joining us today on the anesthesia success podcast.

55 episodes