Conversations with great founders and inventors in life sciences.
Axial partners with great founders and inventors. We invest in early-stage life sciences companies such as Appia Bio and Seranova Bio often when they are no more than an idea. If you or someone you know has a great idea or company in life sciences, Axial would be excited to get to know you and possibly invest in your vision and company. We are excited to be in business with you - email us at email@example.com
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Leadership and Bioengineering with Omar Ali
Omar Ali is the Senior Director of Research at Lyell Immunopharma. Omar discusses leadership lessons he's picked up across 2 decades working at the intersection of bioengineering and drug development. Starting his first company during grad school at Harvard. Afterwards spending ~7 years at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Setting up his second startup, Immulus, focused on immune cell expansion. That was acquired by Lyell. Omar is an expert in a wide-range of fields from biomaterials and immunotherapy to drug deliver, cancer vaccines, and chemistry; however, his superpower is managing interdisciplinary teams and leadership.
Synthetic Biology and Rapid Evolution with Chang Liu
Chang Liu is a professor at UC Irvine pioneering the application of rapid evolution in synthetic biology and protein engineering. We discuss his career and what it takes to startup & lead a new academic lab. Chang's work spans the fields of genetic engineering, synthetic biology, chemical biology, cell biology, and directed evolution. Where his lab engineers specialized genetic systems that go beyond what nature’s genetic systems can do. Where they are especially interested in creating living cells that dramatically accelerate the speed of evolution, that reinterpret the genetic code, and that can record transient information as heritable genetic mutations. Applying these cells to the discovery of useful biomolecules, biopolymers, and therapeutics; the study of molecular evolution; cell and developmental biology; and the creation and evolution of synthetic life.
Founding Unlearn and Revolutionizing Clinical Trials with Charles Fisher
Charles Fisher is the Founder and CEO of Unlearn, that creates digital twins with AI to enable more efficient clinical trials. Founded in 2017, Unlearn started as a generative AI company looking for a problem, ending up on clinical trials & transforming how they are run. A digital Twin is a longitudinal/clinical record using baseline data from a patient before they receive their 1st treatment. To predict how the patient would likely progress in the trial if given a placebo. And increase statistical power of the trial without enrolling more patients. Unlearn sells their TwinRCT product to companies & institutions to optimize their clinical trials. Signing a multi-year collaboration with German Merck in 2022 and getting EMA qualification for phase 2/3 trials later that year. Initially focused on AD & MS. Unlearn is improving trial efficiency, with 12%-39% fewer subjects required, and helping lower the costs it takes to develop new medicines for neurodegeneration, inflammatory disease, and more.
Charles discusses his career starting as a scientist with interests at the intersection of physics, machine learning, and computational biology. Then joining Leap Motion as a machine learning engineering and Pfizer as a computational biologist. All leading up to starting Unlearn.
Imaging Dyes and Microscopy with Luke Lavis
Luke Lavis is a senior group leader and head of molecular tools and imaging at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus. Luke Lavis works at the interface of chemistry and biology, developing small-molecule fluorescent dyes to illuminate biological samples. Lavis and his team use modern organic chemistry to design and synthesize bright fluorescent labels for imaging structures inside living cells. By combining these novel compounds with advances in instrumentation, protein engineering, and genetic manipulation, the Lavis Lab and their collaborators devise sophisticated bioimaging experiments at different scales ranging from tracking single molecules to measuring neural activity in cells and animals.
“I sometimes call Luke our secret weapon here. Every advance I’ve made in my career has been due to fluorescent probes.”
- Eric Betzig, Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry for 2014
Autonomous Microscopy with Kevin Dean
Kevin Dean is a professor at UT Southwestern pioneering autonomous microscopes and applying them to study rare biological events, mainly metastatic colonization. In our conversation we talk about his research and the current status of microscopy. Kevin was raised in a small town in Northern California earning his BA in Chemistry at Willamette University in Oregon, and was recognized twice as an ESPN Regional Academic All-American Running Back. He then received his PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Colorado in the labs of Amy Palmer and Ralph Jimenez. Where he focused on spectroscopy, protein engineering, and multi-parameter high-throughput microfluidic analyses and cell sorting.
After earning his PhD, Kevin established the first campus-wide light microscopy facility at the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado. He then moved to UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas to perform his postdoctoral research with Gaudenz Danuser and Reto Fiolka. Now Kevin runs a lab at UT Southwestern that develops technologies that enable the identification and molecular interrogation of exceedingly rare biological events, including metastatic colonization.
Biotech Company Building, Partnering, Investing Towards Better Medicines with Vikas Goyal
Vikas Goyal has one of the best records in biotech having spent over 8 years at SR One partnering with companies like Nimbus and Morphic Therapeutic before joining Pandion Therapeutics (acquired by Merck) full-time after investing in it as well. Now starting Trekk Venture Parners, Vikas' story uniquely blends success across investing, operations, and company building.
Starting off his career at McKinsey, Vikas went on to work with dozens of start-ups and early-stage companies as a consultant at Extera Partners then went off to earn his MBA in healthcare management from Wharton. He started work in business development at Infinity Pharmaceuticals before joining SR One full-time after an internship there during business school.