Shakar was born in Afghanistan, but she and her family were forced to move following the outbreak of war and loss of their home when she was just six years old.

After six months of travelling, they arrived in Iran as refugees. It was here that Shakar discovered her passion for nuclear physics, radiation and the science behind its medical applications.

This passion was truly put to the test when Shakar’s father was diagnosed with cancer. During the months before his death, Shakar promised him that she would try to make a difference to the lives of other people with his condition. Shakar is now the Founder and CTO of Trueinvivo Limited, which with support from Innovate UK has developed a radiation detection system for cancer care that aims to save lives, money and offer a better quality of life to patients.

In addition to securing her first – and quickly second – investors, in 2017 Shakar expanded her team with four new members. In January 2018 Shakar received a prestigious Womens award from the Afghanistan government and a recent meeting with a director could lead to a film biopic.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Dr. Shakardokht Jafari, I’m originally from Afghanistan but I now live in Surrey with my husband and two daughters.  When I was just 6 years old we were forced to leave Afghanistan after war broke out, after fleeing we arrived in Iran as refugees and it’s here that I discovered my passion for nuclear physics. After studying in Iran I travelled to the UK and it’s here – at Surrey University – that I did my PhD. I now work as a clinical scientist in the Queen Alexandra Hospital and Associate Tutor and visiting researcher at the Surrey University, but I’ve also started to commercialise the outcome of my PhD research; TRUEinvivo Ltd. It’s through TRUEinvivo Ltd. that I’ve developed a radiation detection system for cancer care that aims to save lives, money and offer a better quality of life to patients.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, I planned my career, but more interesting things and challenges have occurred along the way and I have changed my path many times!

For example, I’ve always been passionate about science, but I only really started thinking about applying my knowledge to cancer care after my father became ill. You never know what will motivate you to change your course; it could be success, or sadness, or wanting to make a difference to the lives of others.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Thinking about my answer to this question I have to pause, to consider which of the many, many challenges that I’ve encountered should be explained?! I think the most significant ones are those connected to the getting to, studying and settling in the UK, especially coming from Afghanistan. Of course, financial difficulties and the constant challenge of achieving a workable balance between family life and work, are high up the list.

How has Innovate UK helped your journey?

Innovate UK contributed vital funding support towards TRUEinvivo Ltd, the mentorship and marketing support they’ve provided have also helped us gain broader recognition and know how to take the next step. After Innovate UK’s support, quickly followed by a second investment in 2017, I was able to expand my team with four new members.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I would provide free child care in the workplace. Even in Afghanistan there is free kindergarten in the workplace, so women can return to their careers very quickly. They can visit their children and breastfeed during tea breaks and lunch times, which is so convenient.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a business/ become an entrepreneur?

Just do it! And, get a good mentor. A good mentor will not only point you in the direction of the next step, but they can inspire you to take it, too.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Without doubt, staring to turn my PhD into a something that will have a real impact.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My next challenge is to make our business fully functioning and, ultimately, to take the technology I’ve developed to market. This could seriously improve quality of life and the treatment of cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.


If you’re a female entrepreneur or innovator and want to find out more about Innovate UK’s Women In Innovation competitions then please visit  https://apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/204/overview for more information.