Our entrepreneurs: Videha Sharma

In our latest #OurEntrepreneurs profile we meet cohort 7 Clinical Entrepreneur Videha Sharma, NHS Clinician and Lecturer at the University of Manchester.

Tell us a bit about yourself 

I am a practicing clinician in the NHS and a lecturer in Health Informatics at the University of Manchester. Besides my medical practice, I lead and coordinate digital health projects with specific expertise in user-centred design, system transformation and clinical leadership.

Name: Videha Sharma, NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Cohort 7.

Occupation: NHS Clinician and Lecturer at the University of Manchester.

I have held the Topol Digital Health Fellowship and am currently a National Medical Director’s Fellow in the Transformation Directorate at NHS England. I am based in Manchester with my wife Zerin, a clinical geneticist, and our two young children.

Why did you apply to the programme and what are you looking forward to?

I heard about the programme through previous entrepreneurs and have been following their ventures over the last several years. They spoke candidly about the transformative impact the programme had on their ideas and their ability to influence patient care through innovation. This strongly appealed to me as it aligns with my personal ambitions. I have been fortunate to have had fantastic clinical, digital health and leadership mentorship over my career and therefore adding expertise in entrepreneurship will allow me to be a well-rounded digital health leader who is able to provide a system-level perspective and impact patient care in the NHS.

Tell us about your innovation  

Medicines are the most common therapeutic intervention in healthcare, but it is well known that patients’ responses to medication can vary. Being able to individualise prescribing based on genetic results can improve the likelihood of patients receiving the right medication at the right dose. This is also known as personalised prescribing and is currently isolated to specific instances in the NHS, such as individual chemotherapy agents.

My innovation is born out of an academic programme exploring the barriers and facilitators to the implementation of pharmacogenomics in the NHS. As part of this, I led a series of workshops with general practitioners and pharmacists to understand their needs and requirements. We established that successful implementation relies on results being integrated into electronic health records and clinical decision support being part of existing workflows. Building on this research, we designed an interactive prototype, demonstrating the experience of ‘in-time’ pharmacogenomic-based prescribing.

To realise these functionalities, it was clear that pharmacogenetic data must be stored in a vendor-neutral way so it may interoperate with the disparate health IT landscape. We aim to develop a data platform based on open standards, which is in line with the “Data Saves Lives strategy” and will create a unique technology asset in partnership with the NHS. This is a sustainable and scalable approach to realise personalised prescribing and bring the benefits of genomic medicine to the clinical front-line.

What motivates you? 

I am passionate about the NHS. However, delivering universal, high-quality care at scale is a significant challenge. It relies on leadership structures that provide solid operational frameworks, whilst promoting a creative and innovative culture. I am motivated by translating new and emerging scientific discoveries into clinical practice by applying design thinking and digital strategies. This allows me to work with experts across disciplines and align incentives towards the common goal of patient benefit and real-world impact. 

What are your ambitions for the next year?

Depending on the feedback we receive during the programme, I have a personal decision to make regarding balancing my clinical portfolio and working in healthcare innovation. I expect to continue to balance these either as a clinical academic through the Academic Health Science Networks or through leadership roles within the NHS.         

During the programme, I hope to develop personally as a critical thinker, incorporating a greater understanding of financial viability and commercialisation in the health innovation space. I also aim to use the programme as an opportunity to test our ideas and get feedback to allow iteration and improvements. Finally, I am excited about building my network and interacting with potential investors and understanding the appetite for platform-based approaches in genomics.

We hope that by the end of the year we will enrol into additional accelerator programmes or start to raise seed funding, depending on our maturity.

Why do you think innovation is important in healthcare?

As the NHS goes through challenging financial times, it is critical we identify opportunities for cost-saving. Innovation provides an opportunity for this; as highlighted in the Topol Review (2019), innovation should aim to give healthcare professionals the ‘gift of time’, allowing them to deliver compassionate care that patients expect. I would add to this that innovation should also aim to provide healthcare professionals (and patients) the ‘gift of data’ allowing more accurate and better-quality decisions that improve outcomes.

From a genomics innovation perspective, the NHS is uniquely positioned to capitalise on the potential of personalised prescribing through its existing genomic laboratory infrastructure and thriving biotech ecosystem. However, there remains a gap in the understanding of how to integrate pharmacogenomic results into primary care electronic health records and provide decision support at the time of prescribing. I hope our innovation will address this and bring the benefits of personalised medicine to NHS patients.

How can we find out more?

Our website is under construction, but please click here for more information.