VeriSIM Life's Founder, Jo Varshney, DVM, PhD, Honored as Most Innovative Woman in Health Care


Jo Varshney, DVM, PhD, the founder of VeriSIM Life, shares her journey to her current position and the role of courage in it.

Jo Varshney, DVM, PhD, the founder of VeriSIM Life.  (Photo courtesy of VeriSIM Life.)

Jo Varshney, DVM, PhD, the founder of VeriSIM Life.

(Photo courtesy of VeriSIM Life.)

Jo Varshney, the founder of VeriSIM Life, recognized the challenges in transitioning from lab research to clinical trials. Her company harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to mitigate risks in research and development decisions, particularly for groundbreaking drug development. VeriSIM Life's technology reduces the time and cost of bringing new drugs to market, a process that has seen its duration double every decade.

In a recent interview with Infection Control Today® (ICT®), Varshney discussed how she was honored with the title "Most Innovative Woman of the Year in Healthcare" at the 20th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business. She also discusses her dedication to advancing health care through innovative solutions, which is making a significant impact on the industry.

ICT: Can you share the key factors and experiences that led you to become a prominent figure in health care innovation, culminating in the recognition as the "Most Innovative Woman of the Year in Healthcare" at the Stevie Awards?

Jo Varshney, DVM, PhD: I think as a child, I learned how to turn liabilities into assets. I developed a passion for science and technology much earlier than most. Being an only child and growing up in India, there was an inherent pressure to be the best in anything I pursued. This instilled a thirst for knowledge and curiosity to explore avenues that many would not take, which would later allow me to acquire skills in computer science and visualize data to tap into its value. With persistence, grit, and humility, I’ve followed this path and remained focused on solving complex problems in the world. I guess that’s also why I gravitated to the martial art of Muay Thai–I’m not afraid of challenge!

ICT: What motivated you to establish your own company, and how did your science (PhD) and veterinary medicine (DVM) background influence your entrepreneurial journey in the health care sector?

JV: Early in my career, I turned my focus to translational medicine, a field that works to find connections between novel discoveries in biological sciences and their applicability to curing or treating human diseases. [However,] there were gaps in this field, particularly in how artificial intelligence, machine learning, and statistical data were applied to reduce timelines and risk. The reliance on using animal models to test drugs has always been a problem. We’ve cured nearly every disease in mice, but we’re still waiting to cure them in humans. I wanted to fill that gap, so I created VeriSIM Life, a drug development technology company that accelerates and de-risks pharmaceutical research and development through the strategic application of AI and machine learning.

ICT: Innovation often involves overcoming challenges. Can you discuss a significant obstacle you encountered while building your career or company and how you navigated through it to achieve success?

JV: Being a solo woman founder with a bold idea comes with its own unique challenges. My abilities have often been questioned. But there is significant power in being underestimated. It has led me to become resilient and hyper-focused, and I no longer take anything for granted. As a result, I’ve grown the company to a successful revenue-generating machine with significant pharmaceutical company collaborations. Not to further add to the challenges, but we have faced a pandemic and now a challenging macroeconomic climate. As much as I’d like to say we’ve completely navigated our way through it successfully, the reality is that we’re still climbing uphill.

But what I’ve learned this year is the need to be laser-focused on our customers' needs and index the entire organization on delivering products and services that help them successfully get their science to patients. We have also become very intentional about predictable, repeatable, and scalable sales processes–including being very refined in how we hire, train, and coach. 2023 is shaping up to be a record year for us, and I’m confident we’ve built the foundation for ongoing success.

ICT: As a female leader in a traditionally male-dominated field, what strategies have you employed to break barriers and thrive in the health care industry? Do you have any advice for other aspiring women in health care innovation?

JV: Throughout my career in the life sciences industry, I have learned a lot about courage–the courage to immigrate to a new country, the courage to start a new family, the courage to continue a startup company through a pandemic, the courage to endure financial stress, and courage to take on hard problems. So, the one piece of advice I would share is to lean into that courage–especially with your customers.

One of our customers recently challenged us to take on a project we didn’t know we could handle. It was in an emerging area of biologic therapy that, frankly, our scientists had limited experience with. But knowing that our tech is strong and our talent is capable of much more than they’ve already accomplished, we collectively found the courage to deliver for our customers. And they were blown away by the results. Be courageous!

ICT: The Stevie Awards recognize exceptional achievements. What innovative projects or initiatives are you currently working on, and what impact do you hope to make in the health care landscape in the coming years?

JV: Our mission at VeriSIM Life is to accelerate the drug discovery and development process so that patients can access life-saving therapies faster and at a lower cost. Along the way, by using our technology, clients will also reduce animal experimentation. I am very excited about a collaboration we announced earlier with Clarivate, a drug and research intelligence data leader. As we continue developing this partnership, I think our combined efforts will significantly reduce the scientific bottlenecks that prevent clinical success and ultimately deliver more safe and effective therapies for patients everywhere.

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