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Lokvani Talks To Vidula Sukhatme

Nirmala Garimella

They say the most powerful idea comes from a personal experience of hope, triumph defeat or loss.  For Vidula Sukhatme, Founder and CEO of GlobalCures, it was the loss of a close friend to breast cancer in 2007 that prompted her to explore the nature of existing cancer therapies. In her efforts to find a cure for her friend, Vidula, who holds a MS from the Harvard School of Public Health in epidemiology, undertook what turned out to be a major study for alternative therapies in cancer.


During this period, she discovered that many of the “promising therapies” she found were never patented or had expired patents.  Since clinical trials and FDA approval process is long and expensive, for-profit pharmaceutical companies tend to select substances with strong patent protection and  substantial market size for further development .  Thus she discovered a ‘gap’. Many scientifically robust ‘potential therapies’ would remain ‘unproven’ due to lack of a sponsor for clinical trials.


For Vidula and Vikas Sukhatme, a physician at Harvard Medical School, it opened up a window of new thinking. “What if they could create a business model that could alleviate the need for pharmaceuticals companies to be the sole funding sources for clinical trials ? Could they adapt a different method to actually bring these promising therapies to the forefront? The idea took shape with the forming of a non-profit research organization ‘GlobalCures’ whose mission is to identify such therapies, , research, analyze and organize the findings through the publication of white papers, prioritize and  conduct clinical trials and finally make the information available to the global medical and lay community.


I met Vidula and her husband Dr Sukhatme, residents of Newton at the invitation of Veena Ghokale in Lexington for a presentation of GlobalCures at her home. The couple’s mission is very clear: The mission of GlobalCures puts ‘patients first’ and if it benefits them, then nothing else matters. However, even with the advent of powerful patient networks and information, the challenges are plenty for an organization like GlobalCures. Many believe that if a pharmaceutical company does not select a given therapy for future development it must not have scientific merit.  Cancer foundations in general do not fund clinical trials – just basic research.  Finally, clinical trials are expensive  raising money for this kind of research is a daunting task.


The company is right now focused on a dozen promising therapies based on data in animal models of cancer and a few small human studies.  Two existing drugs that show promising results for cancer are statins and drugs used in hyperthyroidism. They have raised funds that have enabled them to establish a clinical trial protocol that will soon be posted on the company’s website. Their hope is to fund the next phase of clinical trials either through grants from NIH or approach major health foundations which give money away to basic science. Vidula says that with enough scientific data and research backing these foundations may be convinced to fund these trials. "If not, we hope to approach the patient directly invested in their health to help in the process”


Vidula Sukhatme is optimistic of the outcome.” Even though clinical trials may not be completed for a few years, many of the therapies under consideration are already available as FDA approved drugs- in many cases these are generic and hence cheap.  Since GlobalCures protocols will be available to the public, any physician can use these therapies today, when patients fail standard of care.  People all over the world, especially in developing countries like India, many of whom do not have health insurance, will be helped by the affordable treatments.  The immediate availability and affordability of these treatments will help patients who do not have time to wait for long and expensive clinical trials".  


What we are offering is a holistic approach in the treatment of disease.  Right now we are focusing on existing drugs and finding out which disease level it is most effective. In future, if we can draw and put our efforts into alternate therapies and even unorthodox medicine with proven research, patients can benefit, and that is what GlobalCures aims to accomplish” she concludes.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Vidula Sukhatme holds an MS in mathematics from Northeastern University and an MS from the Harvard School of Public Health in epidemiology. Most recently, Ms. Sukhatme served as a project leader for designing and implementing a new web based Human Resources application at Children’s Hospital in Boston. She has also worked as a consultant on other implementation projects at Lahey Clinic, Burlington; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston; Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago and University of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago. She has 20 years of experience in information systems in a healthcare environment.

If you are interested to know more please check out http://www.global-cures.org

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