Dr. Kasim A. Mookhtiar, is a Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Advinus Therapeutics Ltd, India’s first innovative pharmaceutical research and development company, a Tata Enterprise, based in Bangalore and Pune. At Advinus, he heads the team working on Drug Discovery, which is located in Pune.
Dr. Mookhtiar is globally acknowledged as one of the pioneers of Drug Discovery in India. He is recognized as a ‘drug hunter’ in the field of metabolic disorders and age-related diseases. One of the early returnees to India as part of the ‘reverse brain drain’, Dr. Mookhtiar founded Advinus (which is an acronym for ADVantage INdia USa) India’s first pure pharmaceutical R&D company and initiated India’s first Risk/ Reward Drug Discovery Collaborations with Merck, Novartis, Johnson & Johnson and Takeda.
He graduated from five-year integrated MSc in Chemistry of Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, specializing in the area of Synthetic Organic Chemistry in the year 1980. He later obtained a doctoral degree from the Institute of Molecular Biophysics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA. His graduate work encompassed biochemistry, protein chemistry, enzyme kinetics and inhibition and resulted in a dissertation entitled “Purification, Inhibition and Mechanistic Studies of Clostridium histolyticum and Human Neutrophil Collagenases”. Dr. Mookhtiar followed up his graduate work with a postdoctoral stint at Yale University School of Medicine, where he investigated the basic mechanism of transcription in the process learning Molecular Biology and Structural Biology by two dimensional NMR. This diverse training enabled him to develop a mindset that the best solution to a problem may not be restricted to the specific area of expertise but may lie in taking a diverse approach. He is truly fascinated by the application of non-traditional technologies to solving challenging problems. “The best years of my life were ofcourse spent on IIT Bombay campus, in building life-long friendships, learning about scientific research, honing leadership qualities, developing interpersonal and oratory skills, learning how to play a guitar and having endless hours of fun and entertainment,” shared Dr. Mookhtiar. He moreover, recalled Hostel 6 as the Wild Wild West of IITB campus and a hub of exciting and adventurous activities.
Dr. Mookhtiar began his professional career at Metabolic Diseases Drug Discovery group at the Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) Pharmaceutical Research Institute in Princeton, NJ, USA, where he worked from 1992 to 2003. Early in his career he pioneered the Diabetes and Obesity programs at BMS and was then entrusted with the task of forming the Department of Aging Research in Drug Discovery, a novel and cutting edge area for both basic and applied research. As Director, he was responsible for the strategic planning of this area and was also involved in numerous strategic efforts in the wider BMS activities. In 2003, Dr. Mookhtiar returned to India as Vice President, New Drug Discovery Research, at Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited. In two years, he built a team of over 200 scientists from multiple disciplines to form a productive and creative group of drug hunters with a culture of innovation and teamwork. This tenure gave Dr. Mookhtiar the experience of working in India, which contributed to his successful co-founding of Advinus.
He is a proud recipient of ‘Outstanding Alumnus Award’ from Christ Church School, Mumbai; ‘National Research Service Award’, USA, 1989-1992. He is moreover, a member of Technovision 2035 Healthcare and Life Sciences Committee, Government of India.
Besides Drug Discovery, Dr. Mookhtiar is fascinated by the world around him. His interests are wide and varied, from playing the guitar and writing poetry to traveling and gardening. He reads and watches movies or just ‘hangs out’ with people to relax. He is a self-proclaimed ‘Beatle maniac’ and a rabid, air guitar-playing Rock and Roll fan. Vincent Van Gogh and Jimi Hendrix are his favourite artists.