Dr Ramiz Boulos from the Flinders Centre for NanoScale Science and Technology has successfully started his own Pharmaceutical Company focused upon the design and development of novel antibiotics, research which he started in his honours year.

Here is his inspiring story in his own words:

"During my Honours year and PhD I researched ‘Mechanosensitive ion channels as novel targets for antibacterial agents’. Mechanosensitive channels have evolved the ability to change mechanical stress into an electrochemical response rescuing bacterial cells from lysis. One such channel, MscL is highly conserved among bacterial species and not present in the human genome making it a desired antibacterial target. By using computer modeling and lab testing, I was involved in the discovery of a new class of antibacterials that activate the channel and allow bacteria to ‘throw up’ weakening them and inhibiting their growth. The antibacterials were also effective against superbugs such as ‘golden staph’, which no longer respond to the last line of defense antibiotics such as vancomycin."

 

 

"In late 2012, I negotiated acquiring the rights to the intellectual property from the university and I was successful in taking the patent to National Phase in the US and AUS. I had to turn to my family for help to pay the patent costs and the attorney fees for transferring the rights of the IP to myself. I remember being very nervous walking down St. Georges Tce in Perth CBD to pay the patent costs with my pockets full of borrowed cash and thinking, ‘what am I getting myself into?’. I had a couple of weeks of ‘what now’ and that was a very stressful time for me. I didn’t know how to proceed from there. I had this great product but I didn’t know what to do with it. As the IP was under development prior to acquiring it, disclosure of the material in the form of publications was not possible. After acquiring the rights to the IP, I started working actively within our department to establish networks and move the science forward. At the same time, I remember getting home every night after work and actively seeking scientists online that I could collaborate with. I sent numerous emails and received a few. These were the start of a very fruitful collaboration. I was focused and determined to make this happen. I was alert and looking at any opportunity that could help me achieve my goal. It happened that there was a program on television about superbugs that featured some highly respected scientists in the field. I made contact with one of them and I am glad I did what I did. He was very keen and we had a Skype session to discuss how we can collaborate together and we moved on from there. I started looking at ways of how the media can help me and I made many calls and sent many emails to programs such as Catalyst, newsrooms, radio shows, e.t.c. I remember sharing my thoughts about being on the media with some of my colleagues at work who laughed at me. But I was determined and kept going. I finally got a call back from Channel 10 News in Nov 2012. The person on the other side of the phone happened to go into hospital for a condition and while there, he acquired an MRSA or ‘golden staph’ infection so he was very interested in my story. After a couple of days, Channel 10 News was shooting an interview with me in our lab at university. Before doing so, they had to make sure my story was not bogus and called my boss to confirm the story. I am very grateful for what he did for me. The story featured on the same day, the 6th of Nov 2012 at the 6 O’clock news. I suddenly felt I was getting somewhere and this was going to help me get my story out to the public and eventually to investors. I started using my media story as leverage to establish scientific collaborations. These resulted in a few publications, something that was not possible in the past when the IP was under development due to disclosure issues."

 

"All the while, the patent bills kept coming and this was putting pressure on my partner and I. Money was tight and it was tough. But I could see things were starting to snow ball and I could feel I was getting closer so that gave me hope. In July of 2013, I attended a ‘Computer Aided Drug Design’ conference in Vermont, USA. I am very grateful for my boss for allowing me to go to the conference and present my work. In the conference, there was a very strong presence from Big Pharma and there was much interest in the work. While there I got to meet my collaborator from Harvard University and discuss some of the experiments that are still needed to produce a publication that shows that these drugs have a novel mechanism of action. I also got to meet important delegates from GSK, Pfizer, Merck and others and formed a number of important networks. For the first time, I had a clearer idea of what I needed to do to move forward. I needed to start up a company. I came back to Adelaide not forgetting what I discussed with my collaborator from Harvard. I started looking for labs that have the skills and equipment to do such experiments. I made contact with one lab in the US and it just happened that the person on the other side reading my email was also reading one of my publications, ‘Antimicrobial dyes and mechanosensitive channels’. He was very excited about the opportunity to get involved and since then he has completed the studies, which proved the mechanism of action, and we are to publish the results in the next few months."

Dr Ramiz Boulos, CEO

Chloe Cooper, Director

"In August 2013, I started seeking funding to develop the drugs further; I needed money to start the preclinical stages of drug development. I looked everywhere I could and it was not easy. The fact that I solely owned the IP meant that tertiary institutions were not willing to participate in funding the project. I remember one morning a Prof in the tearoom asked me where I wanted to be in 5 years and I said CEO of a pharmaceutical company. She smiled and told me good luck. I wanted to start a company but I didn’t have any savings. I was already in debt and I was reluctant to go into more debt by taking a loan. My partner and I were also saving for our wedding in March 2014 so money was tighter than ever. I remember talking to a work colleague about getting funds to start up a company and she told me about GoFundMe. As soon as I went back to my office, I looked it up and started a campaign. I remember telling people about the campaign but people were not taking it seriously enough. My target was $10k and I reached $850. Although not what I was aiming for, it was enough to register a company ‘Boulos & Cooper Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd’, get a domain and webhosting, print business cards and pay for professional corporate photos. In a day, I had a company website up and running and I made sure to thank all those who have donated and let them know where the money was going to be spent and advertise the company at the same time."

 

" It was time to pay my dues; I issued my family shares in the company as a long-term investment to pay them back for the money they lend me to pay for the patent. I am very grateful for all they have done for me. I also issued my boss shares in the company as a token of appreciation for all the support he has given me. I was CEO! And I was excited about the future! And my partner Chloe Cooper was Director. I could not have done it without her. She stood by my side and always believed in me. I made it happen but there was a very long way to go. I told my friends about the company on Facebook and I could see day by day as the website got more visits. Since then I have been attending AusIndustry events and have made numerous contacts including a number of Venture Capital companies that are keen to invest. In Nov 2013, I received an email from a global pharmaceutical company that is interested in partnering with Boulos & Cooper Pharmaceuticals. We are continuing our discussions. In Jan 2013, the Company was valued at more than $30 million dollars. We are currently open for investments."

To learn more about Boulos & Cooper Pty Ltd visit:

http://bouloscooper.com/