Gauri Kulkarni, PhD believes regenerative medicine can revolutionize the healthcare industry

By Gauri Kulkarni, PhD

Introduce yourself and describe your work

I am a Lead Scientist in the Drug discovery and development program at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM). My goal is to develop new regenerative therapies to repair and replace organs/tissues damaged due to diseases, disorders, injury, or natural aging processes. Our team has discovered novel small-molecule drugs which can prevent fibrosis-mediated damage to organs like the liver, lung, heart, and kidney that can help these organs self-heal to regain normal function. As key personnel in the team, my goal is to advance these novel drug therapies from bench to bedside to cure chronic conditions or diseases of unmet medical needs, thus improving patients’ lives.

What do you consider to be your most important career achievement or discovery?

The process of small molecule drug discovery is complex and challenging. The end goal of such discoveries is to cure patients. This is a robust multistep process spanning discovery, vigorous research including Lead optimization, preclinical and clinical development to final FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval for the market launch. Being key personnel in our drug discovery team, I have advanced potential antifibrotic and regenerative drug candidates to investigational New Drug (IND) application to FDA for initiating human clinical trials. Translating my research from lab to clinic is a dream career achievement.

During times of imposter syndrome or feelings of discouragement, what or who helped you persevere?

My research field is like a roller-coaster ride of several downhills demanding high efficiency, and productivity with stressful deadlines. As a good researcher, you need to be not just passionate, creative, and curious but also honest, realistic, resilient, critical thinker, and a good team player to sail through problems. My scientific integrity, patience, resilience, great troubleshooting abilities, and ‘never give up’ attitude always help me achieve my goals. I look at failure or mistakes as a learning tool to develop wisdom. There is a famous quote, “The only guarantee for failure is to stop trying.” So, keep trying if you believe in something good to make a difference in the world.

How does your work impact people and the world around us?

My research is advancing scientific knowledge in my field. I am also mentoring and training the young generation of future researchers. The therapies that I am developing are on the path of being evaluated by the FDA, and if approved, will be used to treat patients suffering from diseases and disabilities not only in the United States but probably all around the world. This will save millions of lives.

What is a unique fact about your career/industry?

Regenerative Medicine is the future of healthcare and is targeted toward the body’s ability of self-healing to repair and cure diseases and chronic conditions with unmet medical needs to improve patients’ lives.

What trends do you see in your industry?

Regenerative Medicine is revolutionizing the future of Health Care. In terms of revenue, the global regenerative medicine market size was valued at USD 55.03 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.7% from 2023 to 2030. Rising investments in R&D and increased funding for commercialization are the drivers of this industry. North America accounted for the largest share of the global Regenerative Medicine market, with around 51% of the revenue share in 2022. Big pharmaceutical companies are either collaborating or acquiring small and successful Regenerative Medicine companies to acquire a share of the Regenerative Medicine market.

Rapid growth in the regenerative medicine field is driving increased demand for skilled workers. It is a multidisciplinary field and has tremendous career, job, and business opportunities for women or nonbinary individuals in the field of STEM.