Once Lost, Now Found: Droplette’s Founding Story
Droplette co-founders Rathi Srinivas and Madhavi Gavini set out to make a difference in Medicine. Along the way they discovered that in addition to having an impact on a patients physical health, they could also improve their psychological health.By Droplette Team ∙ May 20, 2020
“It's not as though there was a single disease that we were chasing, but it was more, ‘what can I build that'll make a difference in medicine’?” Said Rathi Srinivas, CTO and co-founder of Droplette when explaining what drove her and co-founder and CEO Madhavi Gavini to pursue a career in research and entrepreneurship.
Immediately after graduation from their respective PhDs, and with 5 degrees between them from MIT, Colombia, and Johns Hopkins, Rathi and Madhavi began working together on drug design, following through on their goal of making a difference in medicine. During the day, they worked in the lab, and in the evenings they pursued side-projects based on ideas inspired by scientific literature. “We had a theory about enhanced aerosols after reading a paper by Dr. Samir Mitragotri about needle-free jet injectors….and then we built the first version of Droplette on my kitchen table”.
In late 2014, a dermatological conference sparked the first idea for a potential application. The disease of focus at the conference was Epidermolysis bullosa (EB): a group of genetic disorders causing painful blistering of the skin. There is no cure for the condition, and treatment of the affected skin is difficult. Typical drug delivery methods like topical creams and injections are problematic. Both methods are painful for patients, whose affected skin is blistered, fragile, and can cover large areas of their body.
At the conference they remembered looking at each other and thinking “I wonder if that thing we built a couple years ago could actually work.” According to Madhavi, when they got home, “We rebuilt it, did some experiments (including revisiting the ones done on the kitchen table), and eventually filed IP”. They received their first funding from NASA in 2015 to better understand the fluid physics that drove the device.
Flash forward to June of 2017: Droplette was born.
That month, their patent was approved, they incorporated, and later in the year, they raised their seed round of funding. To begin with, they had a heavy focus on medical applications, and set about initiating several research studies and strategic partnerships for steroid/antibiotic delivery and wound healing in collaboration with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, MIT, and the VA. They knew however that making an impact in these areas would take time due to FDA regulation and the need for longitudinal clinical trials.
Madhavi and Rathi also realized that if they shifted their initial focus to the world of aesthetic medicine they could have both a broader and swifter impact: they agree that the makeup and beauty industry has its flaws, but think it’s also clear that it can have a significant positive effect on people’s lives. They talked with friends and patients with skin conditions, as well as dermatologists and estheticians who treated them: “you actually go and talk to people who have problems with their skin or you experience something like severe acne yourself, and you realize the impact it has on people,” said Madhavi about these encounters. People with skin conditions like severe acne also suffered from low self esteem, and the founders realized there was the potential to have an impact on both a patient’s physical and psychological health.
Over the past three years the founders have doubled down on their relationships with dermatologists and patients, developing formulations suited to address the most pressing and common skin care concerns, alongside running successful clinical trials. At the end of the day the Droplette founders are most passionate about helping people feel their best, and are very excited about the formal product launch later this year.