2020 SRF Summer Scholar Profile: Atharwa Mankame

Atharwa Mankame

SRF Summer Scholar, Class of 2020

Underdog Pharmaceuticals

My name is Atharwa Mankame. I am a senior at the University of Texas at Austin. I am a biomedical engineering major, and I work in Dr. Laura Suggs’ Biomaterials and Therapeutics Laboratory. Under the guidance of my graduate student mentor, Jessica Widman, I study the use of nanoparticles for drug delivery in order to stimulate the polarization of immune cells. My research has investigated optimal nanoparticle shapes for intratumoral accumulation, and I am currently working on testing various coupling chemistries for delivering drugs in vivo. As a 2020 SRF Summer Scholar, I interned with Underdog Pharmaceuticals. Underdog Pharmaceuticals is working toward developing a disease modifying treatment for atherosclerosis using modified cyclodextrins. Underdog’s drug treatment seeks not only to treat heart disease but also to reverse the damage it causes and revert the inflamed blood vessels back to a functioning healthy state.  

Underdog Pharmaceuticals is a for-profit spinoff of SENS Research Foundation. Being a startup company, Underdog faces certain challenges that I was able to learn about and work with the Underdog team to address. My summer project had me work with Michael Kope, co-CEO of Underdog Pharmaceuticals. I researched venture capital firms that could serve as potential Series A investors. My research involved studying a firm’s finances, investment history, interest in our product, and creating a database of all potential investors to best guide our own investment strategy. As my project progressed, I also worked slide decks for our proposals including the deck for the California Life Science Institute FAST Advisory Program. Concurrently with the VC firm reports, I also created reports directly on previously successful companies within the rejuvenation, cardiovascular, and small-molecule therapeutics sphere. This project will aid the decision making of the Underdog Pharmaceuticals board as it seeks investors for Q1 2021 Series A investment by compiling data on the most appealing investors and identifying key timeline events of previous companies.

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