Interview with Rusudan Okujava, Roche

Interview with Rusudan Okujava, Roche

  • 22/12/2021

Pharma company Roche is among the partners of AMR-focused incubator INCATE. We spoke with Rusudan Okujava about the motivation of Roche to support the incubator’s work. 

With INCATE a new public-private consortium was launched on 25 August 2021 during the Summer Edition of the AMR Conference 2021 to boost the development of new drugs and start-ups in the AMR space. Partners from the academic, industrial and public sectors are working together to accomplish this task. (learn more

For the AMR Conference 2022, 7-8 April in Basel, INCATE has started a start-up competition. Want to take part? Learn more here: https://test.amr-conference.com/start-ups-amr-conference-pitching-session/

Among the partners backing INCATE is also pharma company Roche. Please find below a short interview with Rusudan Okujava, Discovery Research Project Leader at Roche.

Why did Roche choose to join the INCATE program?
Okujava: The rise in antimicrobial resistance and global spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria pose serious and growing threats to global health. We as company believe successfully tackling this threat requires coordinating actions and collaborating across the industry and academia. We have joined the INCATE program because we strongly believe in the objectives of INCATE, bringing together translational and basic research, industry, experienced entrepreneurs and investors from across Europe to accelerate innovation.

What is success for the INCATE program for Roche?
Okujava: Roche drives innovation in healthcare by following the science in areas of high-unmet medical need where we feel we can make the most difference for patients with limited treatment options. Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is one of these fields. Supporting INCATE, we actively play a role and shape the antibiotic ecosystem in Europe. 

What are you hoping that your organization can bring to INCATE and the ventures chosen in the program?
Okujava: We are uniquely placed to help counter the threat of AMR – investing in both diagnostic technologies and new antibiotic agents, as well as working with a range of partners to ensure there is a global response to this urgent threat. We are contributing to leading scientific collaborations, investing in industry partnership to fund clinical research and engaging with policymakers on new market models that will bring new diagnostics and treatments to patients that need them. We believe our experience and support will be beneficial for INCATE in selecting and growing transformative antibiotic projects.

What do you think is the most important need in the field of antibiotic development?
Okujava: Developing new antibiotics is both a scientific and economic challenge. As scientists, we need to develop a deeper understanding of how to design and tailor molecules that can overcome the built-in defense mechanisms of drug-resistant bacteria and their ability to exchange and accumulate transferable DNA containing antibiotic resistance genes.From an economic standpoint, developing and commercializing antibiotics is challenging due to various factors including the market landscape, the traditionally low prices, and the unpredictability of the demand in the near and long-term future. However, given the massive need for novel antibiotics around the world, they are clearly undervalued as life- saving medicines compared to other therapy areas. To address this challenge, Roche is supporting efforts that aim to ensure a sustainable pipeline of new antibiotics to fight drug-resistant infections.

About Rusudan Okujava | Discovery Research Leader, Roche

Rusudan holds MSc in Immunology from Tbilisi State University (Georgia) and PhD in Molecular Microbiology from Biozentrum, University of Basel (Switzerland). She spent multiple years in the academic environment in the field of host-pathogen interaction, studying the role and molecular mechanisms of bacterial secreted proteins in establishing chronic infections. Rusudan joined F. Hoffmann La-Roche Ltd in 2015 as a scientist in the Antibiotics group, Infectious Diseases department in Basel. She was engaged in supporting advanced antibiotics programs for clinical microbiology studies, being responsible for evaluating the mode of action and resistance development (in vitro & in vivo), as well as for global surveillance programs to assess the coverage spectrum of compounds in development. Rusudan today is a Discovery Research Project Leader at Roche. She is working in several multidisciplinary research teams, leading external collaborations and internal portfolio projects. Since 2019 Rusudan is part of the Roche Antibiotics Discovery Leadership Team, a board of scientists accountable for Roche Antibiotics Discovery group, strategy and portfolio.