Who I am: Rima
As a firm, the team at KdT has decided to publish long-form Bio’s to help the folks we work with learn more about who we are as people. Our hope is that the openness and vulnerability that comes from sharing our stories will help enable our dialogues with all our partners, most importantly, current and future KdT founders. Here goes nothing…
After moving from India and scanning the US for soft landing spots, my parents settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania, making the town that most people associate with Joe Biden and/or The Office, the home of my childhood. My dad’s jovial positivity makes you forget the obstacles he grittingly overcame as an immigrant establishing his own medical practice in a small foreign town in the 1980s. Likewise, my mom, a trained dietician, brushes off the sacrifice she made when she decided to transition to home-making full time to give my brother and me the support we needed. Their decision to leave the comforts of family, their native language, and well-paved career paths, to set up shop across the globe presupposed a fierce conviction that the move would yield meaningful work and success for their children. Thanks to them, I learned early on that having conviction and acting on it in often uncomfortable ways are critical to moving the world forward.
As a principled but reticent teenager, I held many convictions but I often hesitated to voice them, citing in my own mind that I didn’t have enough knowledge to back them up. So I let my beliefs guide me through a series of “fact-finding” pursuits, including a Jesuit service mission in Camden, New Jersey, and college-level moral philosophy courses scattered amidst my high school AP classes. The accrual of these experiences taught me the value of articulating my opinion, even if based on impartial information, as it can initiate a productive dialogue with those listening.
This was helpful insight for me as I started at Brown University, where I was surrounded by classmates ready to have that dialogue and who not only voiced but acted readily on their convictions of how to better the world. I followed friends into nationwide movements to fight climate change and listened as others pitched to me software ideas to enable microfinance loans in rural India. Inspired, I made my own contribution to improving welfare in developing countries as a member of the Brown iGEM team- we developed a bio-based portable detector for heavy metal water toxins, designed for use in the third world. Holding the prototype of the device we built in my hands, I appreciated for the first time how biological engineering could produce a tangible positive impact on a wide group of people. This triggered in me a drive to actuate the potential of biological engineering throughout the course of my career.
By the latter half of my time at Brown, I was gravitating towards becoming a physician, a notion that was crystallized as I came to appreciate the potential applications of biological engineering in medicine. I graciously accepted a position at UT Southwestern Medical School where my fiance at the time (happily, now my husband) was already a student. After my second year, I secured a research fellowship with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to work with lipid metabolism rockstar Helen Hobbs on a project that involved engineering a recombinant bacterial protein to measure specific cholesterol and lipid interactions in cell membranes.
As a physician scientist in training, benchwork with clear translation to the patient’s bedside maintained primacy in my mind and my undergraduate degree in neuroscience seasoned me to the substantial unmet needs in managing neurological disease. I realized a path towards utilizing the tool I had built to characterize and potentially correct aberrant lipid metabolism in processes of neurodegeneration. I followed this path to the University of Pennsylvania for residency in neurology, where I would balance clinical training with time in the research lab.
I found the clinical aspects of neurology to be incredibly rewarding, and I worked hard to provide my patients with the carefully curated treatment plans and compassionate care they deserved. There came a point in my practice, however, when I started to feel a strain- it became harder to balance the needs of my individual patients well with my insatiable desire to spend increasingly more time thinking about how to bring new treatments and cures to light. As I thought back to that feeling of holding my iGEM device prototype, and recalled my passion to play an active role in shepherding forward the biological engineering revolution of medicine,it became clear to me that I needed to take a page from my parents’ book and take my own uncomfortable jump. For me, it was away from my well-paved academic medicine career path and towards one that, while more nebulous, was geared towards the scalable impact on health that I had envisioned back in college.
My soft landing spot was at the Fannin Innovation Studio, an early stage therapeutics and medical device commercialization firm based in Houston, TX. There was no better place to bridge the gap between practicing medicine and driving forward life science innovations; as I designed and effectuated development plans for early stage assets and clinical trial strategies for spin out companies, I pictured the faces of my former patients whom each therapeutic or device would have benefited.
As I grew with the studio and evolved into a strategic partner for founders and early companies, I witnessed how principles of biological engineering were being applied not only to medicine, but also to agriculture, energy, and manufacturing, in ways that will revolutionize the health of humans and our planet for generations to come. Welcoming my own daughter, Eva, into the next generation sent a pulse down my spine to do everything in my power to unlock this broader potential.
Cue the formation of my dream job at KdT Ventures and Cain, Mack, Phil and Ally graciously welcoming me into their fold.
The robust platforms and visionary founders in KdT’s portfolio embody the power of engineerable science and strengthen my conviction that these technologies will change the world. I now have the privilege not only of partnering with and supporting these pioneers to build sustainable growth and impact across all verticals of human existence but also, thanks to our incredible LPs, of providing them with the critical capital they need to initiate their visions. As a proud daughter of immigrants, a physician scientist who has taken the hippocratic oath to protect and care for my fellow man, and now a mother, I can think of no better way to convert my conviction into meaningful conduct.