Product Development from the eyes of an R&D Scientist
Creative and bold individuals make up Inivata
Garima Sharma shares her insights into RaDaR development and how the team have worked together to build an industry-leading liquid biopsy test.
My colleague once asked me ‘how do you define a team?’, to which I replied, ‘a group of people working towards a common goal’. It was a simple statement that has unfolded in my journey of helping develop RaDaR. We were in our project team meeting, all nervously excited at the prospects of what this simple pilot experiment had the potential to become. We knew our InVision platform technology was strong but we knew we could go far and beyond. We were creative and passionate individuals with strong opinions all laid bare on the table. The teams at Inivata are close knit and our strong relationships allow us to be bold in our decision making. Over the next few days, we continued to brainstorm ideas which yielded into a collective vision called ‘RaDaR.’ We grew this concept from a dynamic team spanning two continents.
We are resilient and compassionate
I have enjoyed every step of my journey with RaDaR. From project initiation through to early development phase, there has never been a dull moment. I have worked closely with so many of my colleagues across different teams in the UK and US and have formed a great bond with all of them. Not everything has been perfect though. There were occasions when we got emotional and frustrated as science doesn’t always go the way it’s planned, but we were resilient and compassionate. As a small team we had a lot to delivery with tough deadlines, but we all worked together, supporting and relying on each other. This project tapped into the yet unexplored abilities in all of us. It pushed us to develop professionally and hone our skills.
While we were in the middle of our development phase, we were hit by yet another challenge, the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this unplanned global event, we found a way to make it work. Keeping the project going has been a heroic effort on behalf of every member of the Inivata team. It has demanded a balance on a mammoth scale of home schooling and working from home. Lab based members have continued with experimental work with the appropriate safety guidelines put in place. Work bubbles have been formed and this system has continued to work really well for us. Inivata ensured the wellbeing of its members was the top priority and I am very proud to say, we did it! We did it with the support and understanding of each other.
RaDaR: A gamechanger
As we have continued to develop our collective vision, we have come up with new ideas, fuelled by passion and emotion. A lot of us have felt the pain of a loved one receiving a cancer diagnosis. We have also had the opportunity to listen to the clinicians and patients share their stories during Lung Cancer Awareness Month. This has helped us better understand the challenges faced by clinicians as well as how uncertain and anxious the patient and their families can feel as they hope desperately for the treatment to work. Even after treatment, all those affected continue to live in fear of the cancer coming back. We, at Inivata, wish to work towards alleviating this suffering with our RaDaR assay which can be used to monitor the levels of circulating tumour DNA in blood (called a liquid biopsy). The high sensitivity of our assay informs the clinician of the risk of relapse long before clinical symptoms become evident, thus offering them a chance to modify the treatment regimen for their patient. Our RaDaR assay encompasses Inivata’s state-of-the-art technology and our strong purpose to transform patient care.
I am delighted to say that our efforts have been rewarded with Breakthrough Device Designation for our RaDaR assay by the US FDA – another great milestone for the team.
Collaboration at the heart of Inivata
Looking back and musing over the journey, I feel proud, wiser, and incredibly grateful for being a part of the development of the assay. This journey helped me identify my strengths in project planning, interacting, and working across multiple teams to bring a project to fruition. I have learnt to be more confident of my ideas and the importance of sharing them. At the same time, I have also identified the skills that I need to acquire or develop further. I witnessed great leadership from mentors around me and I have tried my best to take in their wisdom. My contributions to this project were acknowledged with a promotion to Senior scientist. I feel valued as a member of the company and I am continuously encouraged to evolve professionally.
It is not just about the science here but also about creating a product that meets the unmet needs of clinicians and patients and is fully compliant with regulatory guidelines. I am on a very fulfilling and exciting journey here at Inivata!