Gavin Sathianathan

Founder of Research Smart


I am an entrepreneur with experience at the intersection of technology and consumer data garnered at companies such as Facebook and Tesco. Following a 15 year corporate career in which I spearheaded digital transformation in media and retail, I saw the opportunity to bring my skills and knowledge to the healthcare industry. I am passionate about bringing digital innovation to areas of healthcare research which are underfunded, stigmatised or marginalised.

My company, Research Smart, is an end-to-end platform for conducting research, leveraging AI and intuitive consumer design to allow anybody, anywhere, to conduct a research study through a mobile application.

At Research Smart, we focus on patient cohorts which are underrepresented in research, such as the rare disease community and BAME populations. Our platform is also used to research drugs which don’t benefit from the patent-driven business model of Big Pharma, such as botanical medicines or the repurposing generic drugs for new indications. Finally, our digital platform has been created to generate personalised and predictive insights for patients, thereby allowing therapies to be customised to the individual who is receiving treatment.

I have had a unique path as an entrepreneur. I was born in Bedford to parents of Tamil heritage, disappointing them by not training to become a doctor and instead studied Chemical Engineering at Imperial College. After graduation, I became a management consultant before studying for an MBA in the US. I then spent 15 years in the corporate world before becoming inspired to strike out as an entrepreneur after learning about the challenges of bringing new medicines to market.

My first entrepreneurial venture was a company I co-founded called Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies (OCT), a biopharmaceutical company developing licensed cannabinoid pharmaceuticals targeting the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Cannabinoids are an emerging area of medicine, and I became an advocate for the rights of patients in Europe to access these novel medicines.

However, as a founder from a BAME background, coming from outside the world of healthcare, and working in a heavily stigmatised area like medical cannabis, I have lacked the support networks and resources needed to grow my business. Investors have been understandably cautious given the regulatory challenges associated with medical cannabis. I have challenged these preconceived notions through advocacy work and engagement with the medical establishment, but attitudes in an area as conservative as healthcare take time to change. My hope is that participating in the Leap programme will allow me to engage with networks who can help build Research Smart.