In this episode of Molecular Moments, Chad talks with Dr. Afshin Safavi, a bioanalytical thought leader, BioAgilytix founder and board member. Afshin shares how his interest in the sciences was sparked by his mother’s perfumes and household items, and how he went from pursuing a career in electronic engineering to dentistry and then into pharmaceuticals!

They also discuss Afshin’s upcoming children’s book, the value of mentorship, trying new things like hot yoga, and his future as a rap artist.

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Molecular Moments Episode 11: Dr. Afshin Safavi Talks About Creating BioAgilytix, Hot Yoga and Rap Music!: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Molecular Moments Episode 11: Dr. Afshin Safavi Talks About Creating BioAgilytix, Hot Yoga and Rap Music!: this mp4 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Announcer:
Welcome to the Molecular Moments podcast.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
In today's episode, we sat down with our guest, Dr. Afshin Molavi, whom I know best as a bio analytical thought leader and founder and board member at biogenetics. Afshin is a founder, consultant, board member, serial entrepreneur, investor and councilman. He's a friend to everyone who's ever met him. And I don't know when I first came to know Afshin, but I certainly consider myself fortunate that I did. Today, we got to hear the story of biogenetics founding and even more importantly, his thoughts for the future of the company. I hope you'll enjoy our conversation as much as I did. We're talking science as scientists do. So without further ado, here's another episode of Molecular Moments. Welcome to the podcast, Afshin. I'm delighted to have you join me today. Can we start with you giving us a few highlights from your career?

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
First of all, Chad, it's great connecting with you again. Thank you for having me on this podcast. And I look forward to be talking to you and tell you a little bit about my background, as well as connecting with your audience a little bit about my background. From a career perspective, I thought I'd got my bachelor's and biochemistry from UCLA. From there, I moved to University of Kentucky Medical School and received my PhD in biochemistry and then Emory University for a two year postdoc. The academic life setting was not necessarily for me. I realized that early on and I started going again looking for positions in industry and I got lucky. And I ended up, you know, as my first job working for a company that at the time was called Argin International International. I was working on a platform that is based on electrochemical, innocent and immuno assays, eventually affecting a lot of the people that are listening probably to this podcast. They know the company not today as Mesoscale Discovery MS3 that we run RPK and immunogenicity and biomarker and so on. That was a very great experience because as a scientist, I actually work with engineers. From there I moved working for GSK GlaxoSmithKline and you know, I stayed there for a short time and I was working on various assay platforms. That's where I really got my hands on learning the different platforms, immuno platforms that were out there.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
But I realized actually that large pharmaceuticals on my necessarily my cup of tea. So I started working for a small startup company called Nordiques, which we were in the business of regulating peptides and hormones. And we work on all our insulin. And Kallstadt Tonin after a few years being there, unfortunately. And that was a you know, that's one, you know, after phase to be, we found out that the pegylated insulin was bioavailable in dogs, but not in humans. So that was sort of the end of that company. And then I moved to a to bear biological, one of the units for for for Bayer that used the plasma drive products. And, you know, while I was there for about six years, that company changed hands from the German owned company to a private equity American owned company called Telexes. And then eventually it changed hands to a Spanish owned company called Griffo. So it was a very interesting times. And I was managing, again, a small team that looking at preclinical clinical development and outsourcing work for a short time, work for a company called a IT as which is a S.R.O. and eventually in 2008, along with a couple other folks I founded by analytics. And that's sort of, you know, my introduction into being a founder and setting up a company from scratch. So I hope that provides a little bit more info.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Yeah. And we're going to dive deep into the whole biogenetic story. So I wanted to put that on pause for a minute. And, you know, I'm interested in what got you into science. Everybody has a story about why they're a scientist or what what fascinated them. Is there any story or anything like that that resonates with you? Maybe a couple even?

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Absolutely. Absolutely. So so, you know, when I look at my actual I'm in the process of writing a book about my childhood because I don't think I had the typical childhood that most people have, maybe a celibate comic. So that's why I'm putting it together. Hopefully we publish it in a few months. But it's actually

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
A children's book, right?

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
It is sort of a children's book from the memories of a 49 year old guy when he was four or five years old. So hopefully when it comes out, people are going to find it interesting for me. I don't know if I was a typical kid or not a typical kid, but around the age of four or five, I started doing some crazy things. I would I would wind up my parents were not around. I would pretty much, you know, take some detergent and mix it with my mother's perfume and add beans to it and go collect some leaves and mix it. And I just I was just curious to see what happens when you mix these different materials, the household or whatever that was around and see what happens to it. And sometimes, you know, a bottle of mix perfume and detergent and beans were sit around the room for a few weeks before I start really stinking the whole room. And and and my mother, of course, you would wonder, you know, what happened to a half a bottle of perfume? You know, where did it. So that was sort of, I guess, my my way of trying to, you know, satisfy my curiosity, but, you know, fast forward, you know, probably a good 20 years or so.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
You know, I started really going to college with the idea that I wanted to be a electronic engineer. So I started taking all the engineering classes during the first semester, second semester of college. And once I got into physics, it was my physics class, electricity and magnetism, second semester of it. And I realized that, you know, becoming an engineer is not my cup of tea. So so then I decided I want to become a dentist. So I continue in my courses, of course, my science courses. And I took a two month class at a time. It was a summer program at UCLA. You know, there were about 60 of us that we wanted to be dentists and they teach us how to make dentures. And it was interesting. And I realized, man, I cannot be looking down somebody's mouth for, you know, eight hours a day and work in a small space. So that was the end of my sort of, you know, desire to be a dentist. And then I

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Interrupted, you can't be a dentist. You marry a dentist.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
You got it.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
That's how it works.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Yeah. I saw I did end up marrying a dentist and my wife, Dr. Attisso Safavi, and and so maybe maybe that sort of was it was a fate. But I have to tell you, I just admire what she does. Every day is not something I can I can I can handle or do you know, I decided then continue to go in and become a physician. So at UCLA, I was working on weekends from 11:00 at night to 7:00 in the morning, basically helping the nurses. I was a nurse's assistant and after five or six months, I realized, you know, still, again, I love the health care industry, but I would just get too attached to the to the to the I would say the patients stories. Yeah, yeah. And it just it was just, again, something that I wanted to do. So but the whole story of getting to science started when, you know, I got a job 18 hours a week working in the lab of the L.A. Times, Dr. Charles West. He was the chairman of the Department of Biochemistry. And and I really got interested in the project that I was supporting and helping. Of course, you know, as an entry level, I was washing dishes in the laboratory and supporting what the what the students were telling me or asking me to do.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
And one of the project was actually looking at proteins that are turned on when there is a huge temperature change. And it was it was a wild cucumber seeds that we would extract. And it would, you know, what are the changes in these proteins due to temperature would result in germination? I thought that was the most fascinating thing. And all my friends, when I tell them they thought I was the craziest guy, that that gets me excited. And from there, you know, that's why I got you know, I went into, you know, decide to go to graduate school. And, you know, I would also want to give the credit to, you know, Dr. Lewis Hirsch. He was a chairman of the department at the University of Kentucky at the time. And, you know, he really mentored me for about five years. And that's where my passion started into asset development, entomology and protein purification. So I hope, again, it was a little bit longer. I guess maybe the answer that you wanted. But I wanted to share that with you. Yes.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Can you tell me a little more about those early days at Ajan and what you know, what the concept was there because MSD is so broadly used today in our in our industry. Are there any early stories there?

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
You know, to be honest with you, I was actually working of the family that I think started iGEM with samples that are well known entrepreneur. And it was a small company at a time with a couple of hundred people. I was an entry level scientist, my first job in the industry and sort of being thrown in there in a science of working now all of a sudden applying to science that I know the molecular biology, the enzyme, all as you also I'm working with engineers to come up with a device. It was a very eye opening. It was exciting. And, you know, I think one of the things that excite me in general about smaller companies and not just IJN is that when there is a small team that, you know, work with the same vision to make the impossible become possible and people with different background in terms of ideas and discipline coming together, I found those early days that are extremely exciting. Of course, you know, one day once the instrument number one and two and so on, they started rolling off the assembly line companies like GSK, they wanted us to you know, they wanted application scientist with a brand new instrument.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Well, you know, you always got to work out the kinks in it, right? So I was sort of sent as my first job along with the instrument. No, I never forget instrument. No. 0002 included also a scientist option to go with the instrument for a year to GSK. So it was it was interesting. It was sold. And so it was just a great, great opportunity for me, great learning opportunity. And my job was to, you know, compare at that time to electro commonness and technology with all the, you know, the Luminex platform, the homogeneous. And, you know, time is of the essence. And, you know, the regular analyzers and SBA technology at the time was pretty. I think technology was pretty hot, so I really learned about the pros and cons of each one of these platforms. That's sort of led me to the rest of my career. And then at Beier, I really learn about Piqué immunogenicity biomarker now and then. And then at biogenetics, that's really I merged those two discipline together. And in the early days,

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
One more question about the agent and the early Mzoudi. I'm curious because I have an answer to this question in my head, and I'm curious if I'm right. What was the number one challenge to making that instrument work early, like, let's say instrument zero zero two when you when you got to GSK and you needed to make it work, what was the number one challenge?

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
You know, I mean, the engineers at Iogen were brilliant. These were just such such amazing people. They would ride on the you know, on the spot. They would come with ideas about how to improve things. And as you know, we got a first generation engine instrument that didn't pan out really well. And that's what everybody eventually ran into, you know, MSD and a core says from Roche and so on. So technology is very solid today. And I think, you know, what jumps at me when there was a problem, like the beads are clustered in one part of the surface when the beads were not uniform, when when all of a sudden and the solutions that we threw out, their decisions were usually not the ones that were just really crazy solutions. It was like a simple one change a salt concentration, you know, move from dispo familiarity to this level. Osmolarity. And I think I've always that sort of discipline I've carried on, because when I actually today doesn't matter if it's a business solution that I need to come up with or if it's a scientific solution, I always try to before I make things more complicated and come up with a complicated solution. I always want to go back and ask the fundamentals and the easy one. Are we sure about these fundamental solutions before we make the world more complicated for ourselves?

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Occam's Razor look for the simplest solution for exactly how I thought you were going to say reagents. That was I

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Saw that buffered our reagents.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Are they. Are they absolutely are. Yeah. Yeah. So everything I do really want to dive in deep and the history with biogenetics. And so you were an A.I. and things were maybe a little tumultuous at the time. I remember kind of following them in the news, but then all of a sudden you say, hey, I think I'm going to start my own company. So tell me what got you going there.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Great question, by the way. You know, I mean, you know, and I'm involved with several different companies, but biogenetics is something so close to my heart. I love this company. I love the people that work in it. And I think the culture is is and we're going to talk about that probably some more. But that's a company that is just you know, every time I hear the name, I put a smile on my face. This story around Biagio lyrics starts when so when I was at Bayer, I manage a small team of preclinical clinical development. Of course, you know, being in a pharma or biotech, you are source a lot of that work. And at a time, you know, I was I was outsourcing several companies to some of these small, medium and large Ciro's about preclinical and clinical. And the one thing that really I noticed was that this outsourcing business was a hit and miss process. There was a lack of consistency. Doesn't I mean, if you got lucky and you got to got a good team for a particular project and you S.R.O., you were golden, but it didn't mean that the same team was assigned the same project. I didn't mean that the same person you were talking over the phone would end up working on your project. So it was really hit and miss process and over, you know, several years of outsourcing. I started thinking about this, that, look, there's got to be a better way to come up with it with a CEO role model and maybe was a more of a sort of a utopian, you know, desire to say we really can come up with it with a really ideal S.R.O..

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
And my ideal S.R.O. in my in my head was there's no reason that an employer I wanted to employ that comes into the S.R.O. comes with a small and motivated that they know that I love going there and doing the projects at the same time, you know, they provide quality work quality Sari's and that in return would result in returning and happy clients. And if at a time I was thinking, if I can set up a system, a process that can that can be a cyclical process, the company can grow. And, you know, to be honest, which at a time I thought, well, you know, if I start a scenario like this, I go to probably about 50 to 100 people and maintain it in you know, not in my wildest dream, I thought that, you know, I'm going to eventually come up with a company that has several hundred employees in several in a couple of continents and so on. So that was the whole idea of of where Biagio start brewing, brewing in my head. And and the key is, you know, then I in 2008, when we started Biaggio lyrics, the timing was, you know, maybe a little bit interesting. You know, 2080, if you guys remember it was it was bad time. The banks basically would not give you any loan. It was a default by biotech. Start laying off their scientists. I'm talking about top notch scientists left and right. It was just not a not a pretty time.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
And at that time, you know, I was actually part of the city council Pontarlier Development Program in the afternoon. I was taking classes and I had some mentors. And these mentors were the CEOs and the CFOs of some of their companies. That day they exited. And so it was very interesting. Eventually, I partnered with one of the one of one of the instructors there. There was another scientist Madlener event that had been with me for for several years in several different companies. And we started biogenetics lyrics with maxing credit card, home equity 401k. We somehow came up with about 250 K and we started actually renting a U-Haul. And as these farmers were busy closing their doors or or or not closing the door, there were basically downsizing. I would go in there, you know, and I would pick up these instruments. We would pick up these new instruments. And for, you know, for a small amount, five cents or ten cents on the dollar. And we started actually putting these in in storage because and then we start looking for a building. And that's how Biaggio is came to exist. And it was really. But but here's the thing. At the end of it, the reason and we can talk about this some the reason, Biagio, this has been so successful, because from day one, the culture that we put in there and the caliber of the people we brought to Biagio lyrics really set the foundation and the pillars for what, biogenetics lyrics today. And we'll continue to be, you know, successful S.R.O. because of those early days.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
So I got to ask, how did you come up with the name Biogenetics? Was that was that you? Was that Matt somebody?

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Yes, it was a collective process. And we actually started writing, writing some names down and I mean, some crazy name. I actually printed some cause I, I looked at him, I found a few days ago it was called biomarker because we thought with a biology and marcom is a biomarker, so biomarker. And we came up with some crazy, crazy logos and names initially. But the reason we really liked biology politics, because we thought it's sort of, you know, describes what we do. It's a biology agility and analytics. Biology part is easy because we actually are in the in the business of supporting, you know, human and animal health. So that study involves biology, analytics, whereby collaborators we do piqué, immunogenicity biomarker, NAPP and so does the analytics. The agility is the part. You know, it was pretty close to my heart because what I found when I was outsourcing, you know, in my previous life is that a lot of CEOs would would sign a contract and then it's like they would sit on it. Or if it was like almost like a plumber. Right. You know, you you sign ten contracts. You what? You work on each one for a day. And that was something that I really did not did not like. And I want to change that. So I put that agility in there because I think it is important when you sign a contract, not a contract, may start three or four months later when you actually put a team, but then this team got to work with a sense of urgency on the project. And that's why this agility doesn't just do it quickly. It means work with a sense of urgency, attention to detail, but deliver the project in a timely fashion. So that's how the name biogenetics came to exist. And do I have to tell you, I think it's still for some of the clients. It is a little bit hard to pronounce it. But once you start using biogenetics as a zero or you work for Biagio after a few months, I think you get used to the name.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Yeah, absolutely. Well, the meaning behind that means a lot. And actually, we at a sales meeting last year, we were playing this game. And one of the questions I had was the Beanie team had to spell biogenetics as fast as they could, and then they got points based on who wrote it correctly, the fastest. So but it's also it's a great marketing name, though, because it's really easy to remember and it sticks in your six year mind. So I think we'll hit 600 employees this month, I think is what what we heard. And three locations, over 100000 square feet of space growing even more will have multiple additional locations this year. But give me a picture of what it looked like in 2009. I don't even know. I haven't heard all the stories with covid and whatnot. It's hard to have these conversations. I don't even know if it was in the same spot or somewhere else.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
I know it's actually, as you were reading again where we are today, biogenetics with a number of employees, it really brought a smile to my face. And the reason for that is we started midyear in 2008, not really not knowing, you know, with all the layoffs, all the project craziness that was going on, you know, the farmers were really sort of pretty tight with their budget because they didn't. What was about to come for them, so there was a lot of unknowns. We actually found this space actually where Biagio list today in North Carolina in RTP, we found the space that we could subleased for it was a seven thousand square foot. I never forget the first day I went in there. You know, there are three of us to all these rooms, seven thousand square foot. And we're like, oh, my God, what did we do here? You know, it's all this open space. Of course, the funny part is a few years after that, with 50 people in the building, we were on top of each other. We couldn't wait until we expanded the building. So don't put in two. I would say, you know, during the first 12 months, really exciting time. But within the first month, we started actually signing relatively large contracts with with the with the farmers. And the initial work was mostly biomarker work and and cell-based assay related work.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
And then and then eventually, obviously optical images he picked up, which probably did we do more Pickaninnies University, you know, today. But at the end of the 12 months, if my memory serves me right, you know, we had about 15 or 16 employees, we had seven customers. But these seven customers become very loyal customers early on in particular. Two of them, you know, really helped us get a good number of projects into the lab. And, you know, with 16 people and I could not believe, you know, when at the end of probably about 12 months or 18 months or so, we looked at our our books and we saw that we have actually managed to bring in about a couple million dollars of revenue. And we all looked at each other and it was more than just a funding and having the door open, it was such a great satisfaction, at least for me and the team that was working with me, that we had sort of proven to ourselves in a relatively small way that our model of hiring really good experienced scientists, training them properly, make sure these scientists know how to be client driven, client oriented scientist is the key for growth and success. And it was as simple as that. And that was really planting to see properly with the right culture, with the right people early on.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Yeah, well, you talked about the culture and that's so important. And I think that's that's something we still talk about today. One of the quotes that I think everybody biogenetics has heard from you on or another is building a culture with leaders at every level. What does that mean to you and why is that such an important statement to you?

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Absolutely. Absolutely. Look, I mean I mean, before even that's one of the statement that I use quite a bit or the codes. And the other one that I want to also mention that I probably use even more is that our IPR, our people will talk about a little bit. And then I will also answer your question, because, again, I am absolutely a true believer, our IPR, our people. And one of the things that I love about our current CEO that, you know, has been here for about ten years now, Mr. Jim Dayton, when he came for interview and I told him that he looked at me and and he goes, I love this. And I said, Jim, if you want, you know, if you really believe that that the success of a serious, serious people, then come and join me. It has nothing to do with anything else. We have the right people, the right scientists. We train them the right way. This business will be successful. And of course, the credit goes to Jim. Now, that has taken a company that my vision was 50, 100 people has taken it to almost 600 people. So I want to I want to acknowledge that now in terms of, you know, building a culture with leaders at every level. Look, everyone at Biagio is a leader in a different way.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Some manage, you know, a large number of people, a number of projects, and some may just lead their own work and maybe only one project for one client. But we make sure that our employees do really understand and believe that a small capacity or a large capacity are all leaders at some level. And by now, having the employees feel that and really believe that they are leaders are just different levels, then we say, OK, what are the things that are expected of a leader that we call them accountable and they should hold themselves accountable? And that accountability, it has to do with act with integrity. This is something that, you know, within our organization, we always talk about you don't push anything under the rug. We have seen the examples of CEOs that have done that and for the right reason, got in trouble with FDA. We act with integrity at biogenetics. We do what is right for the project, what right for the client. And if we do something wrong, we make sure we bring it to the surface and we'll fix it. You know, we want to make sure that as these leaders at different levels, that they are goal oriented and achieve results. This is every client that comes to us that projects that are very much on a timeline, on a budget.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
And we have to respect that. So we got to at every level be goal oriented and achieve results. This is something that I love about our. And I'm so glad the culture is still there from three employees to now about 600 employees, that we have a winning attitude. You know, there was there was for me, the level of frustration when I was previously in my former career of listening to a S.R.O. there would basically take me my simple project. But the hard ones are like, well, I'm not sure. It's like, well, I need support for all my projects. I'm really proud to say that in our employees they have this winning attitude. We can do it. What you know, think outside the box. What I love about our leaders at the high level, you know, our, I would say directors and vice presidents, they really work hard to make sure they bring the best out of people. We all have God given talent. We all have some things that we're good at. And there's some things that no, you know, it takes extra time and effort for us to do it. And so the management team do. You're absolutely the way they lead and they act as leaders to bring the best out of our people is something that that I that I love seeing every day.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Do you report here is that it's very important. I think as a leader, you always want to go ahead and make sure that you train yourself, always seek to learn more. And you also want to train those, you know, that report to you. And it's only through the process that the entire team grows together. And I will say I don't. I left maybe the best or the most important thing for the last to mention is that I like to believe that our leaders and our organization today, what they're good at is they learn from their mistakes. This is science. It is sometimes trial and error. And we work closely with our clients. And if we make a mistake, we see what went wrong. It was a mistake that was, you know, obviously we did something wrong. We have to repeat it and do it right. Right. But but then there are mistakes that that is just science. And we try something and A and B doesn't work and C seem to be working. So now why is he working and learn from that and move forward, really analyzing what needs to be done. So I think this is very important, this concept of building a culture with leaders at every level.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
I'm soaking it all in. I'm already thinking I can't wait to listen to everything you talked about and take a few more notes. And because what really comes to heart is that we are there, right? The organization is operating, you know, exactly as you talked about. And the ownership, it's a big family to families. Six hundred. That's it seems crazy to say it, but it's. But it feels true, right? I can't wait till I can get out and visit some of the sites and talk to some of the people and meet some of these family members I've never met. But what advice I'll say for me, what advice for me to carry on the legacy and the tradition in the future as we as we go forward over the next five, 10 years?

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Well, first of all, Chad, you're an incredible leader yourself, and I'm so grateful you are part of biogenetics. And I can tell you, when we wanted to hire you, we knew that your culture is very similar to where you practice to buy our Jewish culture. Culture is very important for us. You know, when you grow the company with 20, 30, 40 people a month or so, you know, you got to make sure that you put systems and processes to maintain that and that it starts with, you know, hiring the right people. So I can really give you advice because you're incredible individual yourself. But I always sort of want to share with you some of the key elements that I believe are in place that that all the leaders of Abargil that should continue grooming. And I think it will make the Biagio that continue being successful. You know, we have managed to build a culture that that really revolves around hiring the best. It starts with hiring the best. But but that's not enough. Then you have to go in and provide the best training on a routine basis for these individual. These trainings can happen within the company. And also, you know, on these days on Zoomer, you know, once that covid is over to actually go to now to national or international meetings and really learn, it is very important that our employees continue to understand the importance of biogenetics. Being a client driven organization. We are good clients. We got good projects without their faith in biogenetics. There is no Biaggio lyrics. So that's very important. It is also very important that, you know, we continue making sound, solid decision based on science and data.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
We don't do voodoo science here. We do science and we make decisions. And sometimes you've got to involve the client to make those decisions. You know, along along with you, one of the key factors I don't think I've ever been in any organization that you have such a big group now. And we still work as a team, are being a team oriented organization. It is so important. And I have to, again, give the credit to our etcher, to our CEO, to all of our executive team that they're saying example by that it is good for the organization to question each other, to argue about, you know, what is the best way to proceed. But. When we lock arms and we move forward, and I think our employees see that and by seeing that they're going to mimic it, obviously at their level at is smaller, you know, in the laboratory, smaller team. This is something that for a while I was worried about, even if their organization gets bigger. What are we going to do with this? You know, but but we've done it well. It's about think outside the box. You know, when you're a small company of 10 or 20, you do think outside the box because you have to survive. But when you when the companies get to a thousand two thousand people, just they go into their little silo, into their own little office because and here's you know, they just do a truby and then I'm going to throw it over the wall and somebody is going to take care of see through these guys, not the organization that we want to have.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
And I'm happy to say we're not thinking outside the box working together. Transparency is very important. Now, I want to also mention around something around it, you know, our culture of open door policy and accountability, you can pretty much walk up and down the hall and you will not see unless there's a conference call, you know, closed doors. The CEO is not in there in his office. The CFO is not just in his office. The door is open. We encourage people to go and have a conversation with them at all. Different level. You know, you don't have to just talk to your drek, boss. You could actually go talk to your boss's boss and have ideas and do a brainstorming. That is something that is extremely important. I hope we can continue doing that. I have no doubt that if we continue harnessing, promoting, continuing some of the cultures that have been embedded within the Biagio lyrics, you know, employs team members that, yeah, you know, in 2008 there were three of us. In 2009, there were 15, 16 of us. In 2013, there were 50 of us. And today in twenty twenty one, we there are about 600 of us. And I really foresee if we can harness this culture and continue doing what we're doing, that whoknows in three, four or five years, there would be several thousand employees, several continents, multiple laboratories. And that's just really exciting for me as a founder to just look and see where this organization is going now with all these amazing leaders that including yourself and our, you know, all the executives that are now, you know, driving this company.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
And I couldn't be more excited to be a part of it, Afshin. And what's incredible is that not only have you done all this and growing biogenetics, but you're involved in so many other things. And I want to ask you about a few of those, because sometimes it seems like every time we have a conversation, there's there's another venture that that Africans involved in. So we'll touch on a few. But I don't even think we're going to touch on all of them. But tell us about your involvement with Cameron Cameron's and exciting company. It's going to be big. It's going to be big, I think. So tell us about it.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
I appreciate that. First of all, you know, I want to I want to you know, I am still involved quite a bit with biogenetics that that was that was my baby. And I love that company. And I'm on their board. I'm still adviser and very much involved. And, you know, I still get, you know, probably a good hundred emails from biogenetics. So so I am. And I'm involved with the growth, obviously. So I'm loving, you know, again, it's still my involvement with Biagio and that will continue for years to come

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Out of it.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Well, I appreciate that. And so, look, you mentioned Chimaira on Bio. It was about two years ago when, you know, I was fortunate and I came across a husband and wife team that had started working on a self amplifying RNA technology, of course. Right. Not everybody talk about RNA. But two years ago, people were not the two individuals. I got what I like. I like to acknowledge them, Dr Jolli Mazumdar and Dr Tim Chandra model and both of these. See you and the CEO and co-founder of Kamiar on Bio. They actually had developed a novel nanoparticle technology called Chaser and The Chaser. Again, it stands for Chimaira Enhanced Self amplifying RNA and they basically harness the property of this self, amplifying RNA and synthetic genomics to engineer novel RNA drugs. And these unique particles really let Chimaira on two in case protect protected Amarone and deliver it to various tissues. So I'm so excited because this is a company, I'm the chairman of the board with them. I'm investor. This small company, we actually now have two covid vaccines that are in development. These vaccines are the RNA based on RNA technology riden.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Our animal studies have shown that we are the only RNA technology, as far as I'm aware, that they are stable in the refrigerator or two to eight degrees, not in a minus Adriamycin for up to two months. We have some early evidence that it is probably stable, even in room. It sure we're working on that and we're now actually a month ago, we started working on the other African variants of it. So this is so exciting because the company at this stage that we've got to bring a CFO, we got to go ahead and bring a CMO. We're doing a fundraising. So it is something that, again, it's very close to my heart. So I am hoping that I can try to come back to your podcast maybe shortly in the future. And along with this with a sea of Caibarien by you and tell you about where we are today. Very exciting. We're also working on an oncology vaccine. We're working on rare disease. Very exciting time for Chimaira and by a good for them, good for human health, because I think going to something really good.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Wow, that's amazing. And just another way that you keep busy. And what about the vaccine allows it to be stable at room temperature? Because obviously that's a big topic of conversation for the MRI and the MRI are the most exciting vaccines for me. Right.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
I'm going to keep it short. In essence, here is, you know, if you look at a lot of the RNA technologies, they basically encapsulate, they synthesize RNA, they have to synthesize the lipid and then they go to put it, put it together. It is not a very efficient way of doing this. And by the way, those lipids, they're not very stable when we're are not in a minus 80 to a minus 100. Well, what this technology allows it actually the RNA is encapsulated in a protein vessel. And this so is one simple construct that you transfer to cells with a double standard DNA. This double standard DNA basically codes for the self amplifying region for the area of interest, which in this case there is protein for the core of it, and then also for the glycoprotein that coats the entire RNA. Right. So and so it is incredible that, you know, you basically transfer to sell the cells, mammalian cells and then in mammalian cells are actually making these vesicles with Marnay in it, with the cells amplification that is already embedded in their spits it out in the media. And you do purification. Are you ready to go? And because of Dad not dealing with, you know, protecting the RNA with the lipid particle, that is something that is you know, and I'm excited, actually, the one of the I think the first three or four founders of Moderna and their chief scientific officer, chief scientific officer, joined us a couple of months ago as advisors. So we are just this company I'm really excited about. It reminds me of you, by the way, of biogenetics early days except one zero one is it one is a biotech.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
That's really, really exciting, actually. And I love it. I love to see the evolution of the science. Right. So in one way, chirot is coming behind. Right. Higginsville, where were they with the vaccine. But they're coming. They're stepping up the game. Right. And that's going to covid is not going to go away. We all wish it would be designed to go away for a long, long time, I don't think. And so we're going to need new and more effective vaccines.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
There is a connection here, you know, I mean, companies know Chimaira on bio ad companies like Kaiman Bio cannot go to where they need to go without companies like Biogenetics or Bojo, that it's because, you know, I mean, all of you, obviously all the safety talks, you know, the preclinical clinical studies that need to be done. So it's all at the end of it. It's all you know, we're one big happy family, right. That we all got to support each other for human health,

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Without a doubt. So, OK, so another thing, I love dogs. I've got two of them at my feet right now. I'm hoping they don't start barking, but maybe they'll get excited when we talk about canine biologics. But that's another company focused on canine biologic, focused on canine oncology treatments and diets.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Right, Chad? There are so many smart people out there and it's just a matter of talking to people and learning about their passion and then see how you want to if you want to get involved with them and help them to to go somewhere. And so about two years ago, I was so lucky. I came across, you know, this individual, Mr. Jeff Sutherland, who's the CEO and founder of of Canine Biologics. And, you know, I was sitting I was talking to him and his story. I just realized this man is so passionate about dog and dog held. And and we started talking and he started telling me about, you know, the nutritional product that he's working with. So to sort of fast forward, you know, we partnered to work on a really a nutritional product to support dogs fighting cancer. Why there are over ten million dogs dead in us alone end up with cancer and they usually can live maybe about eight months, nine months, maybe a year. But during this time, there's no reason for the dog to suffer, to just be sitting there and you can do chemotherapy and a lot of other things. But at the end of it, there's enough data out there that's shown that if you put a proper diet and support nutritional support, these dogs can actually live a healthier, more semi healthy life and a family can still enjoy them until the day.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Obviously, they will they will pass away. So, you know, for us, you know, we developed a complete and totally integrated nutritional system that that really brings together three parts. You know, one is food, obviously, the salmon oil. And really a unique supplement mix that is that is sort of comprised of plant extracts, amino acids, vitamins, minerals that are really selected, we just put it put this whole Garmisch together is actually there selected based on scientific data and positive impacts on dogs, digestive immune system. Again, I was I never had a dog until I and I still don't. But I have to tell you, now that I talk about dogs, I get as passionate as I talk about human health because I am surrounded by canine biologies with people that really do care about, you know, these dogs that are suffering. And there's so many great stories. We have had people come knock on your door, my dog is dying. You know, what can you do? And I'm like, well, the product is this was about a year ago. The product is not ready or can it can you please do a mix for me? And we have some great stories that have been in the in the media.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Wow, that's amazing. And another venture that I mean, you're so full of stories and evolvement. Ghandour So what is what is Ghandour?

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Oh yeah. So again, of course, you know the name probably, you know, sort of describes it. You know, Gaddar, those guys that are sort of, you know, very territorial and they sort of look to see what's around. Well, this is really cool. You know, I ended up but I don't know, maybe, you know, half a year ago, six or seven months ago, I came across a founder and I sort of board member. They start talking to you about this idea that they have come up with a weed, a system that really connects EHI face recognition, and they connect that to each other and payroll. And I was thinking, wow, that's pretty amazing because you know, you know who's coming, who's who's going use sort of, you know, automatically, you know, can calculate payroll if they're taking their break. There's so many factors that come into play. There's so many things that we can solutions that this, this or for so many different industries that this this technology can provide solutions. And they were in the beta testing. And I started actually looking at the beta testing that they were doing. And I got really excited interest that, you know, Lambrew is the founder there and Robyn is one of the, again, people that the board members.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
And we started talking. And the next thing you know, you know, I'm involved with this company as an investor, as a board member is a 33 billion dollar, you know, industry that that doesn't have a really solid solution. So so I am so excited. Not in any way, form or shape am I fintech guy. I'm a biotech guy. But, you know, I think some of my business background around how to set up a company around the marketing, you know, comes into play. So I am glad to be part of their team. And I really think that over the next, of course, you know, we were like, for example, two days ago, we were talking about starting to our website, try to design it. So this is really a seed stage, early stage. The difference is that they already have a product which is in beta testing. So it's a little bit of a reverse of, you know, you set up the website first. So I'm really excited again working with them.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Yeah, that's cool. In a few years ago and I don't know exactly how far back you moved out to Colorado. And we sort of share the we're the Colorado Office of Biogenetics, I guess you can say. Right. So I have a place out there, too, as you know. And if you're in Cherry Hills Village and I'm curious both what drew you out to Colorado and now you're a councilman at Cherry Hills Village. There's a story in there. And would you mind sharing that with us?

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Absolutely. You know, first of all, you know, I got to tell you, I've lived in different parts of us for the past. Good. Probably 30 plus years, 40 years or so. And so, you know, in in southern California, you know, in in Kentucky, in Georgia, in Maryland, in North Carolina, of course, you know, now I called Colorado home. And part of it is, you know, my my family loves skiing. So, you know, I had no choice other than moving here. But, you know, I reside in Cherry Hills Village and small community of about 6000, you know, people, you know, just probably 10 minutes, 15 minutes drive to downtown Denver, small community. And about a little over two years ago, you know, I decided to run as a councilman for my district. And, you know, that's actually the funny part. It was a close race and we'd over 90 percent of the voters turning out. I managed to win by fifty nine individual votes. So that tells you next time, one day somebody tells you every vote counts. Well, in my count in my case, it did count. Forty nine individual votes was a difference.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
You know, the reason I got involved with the city and the council, because this is my way of giving back to the to the community. And I actually believe being a scientist has helped me in making sound and data driven decision for the city. So you're going to probably see me, you know you know, we have a council meeting every two weeks or so, and that lasts for several hours. And probably if you look at the meeting minutes. You know, I probably talked, at least, you know, between all the councilmen, you know, because I just don't go through as a scientist, I am trained. You know, we just go, here's one, two, three. Here's a data here. The facts. Here's what we do not know. What a solution. What are the pros and cons? And let's go with it. Right. So I'm trying to apply that to that to the government. And sometimes, you know, it works and sometimes, you know, it doesn't necessarily work. But is it is something different than the drama involved? I'm very much enjoying it.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
And a future additional political players in your future.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Well, Chad, let's see how this goes with the council. And then and then, you know, to be honest with you, I. I love just working on different projects with different people in a team oriented atmosphere. You know, where this will go with any one of these endeavors. Who knows? You know, I'm open to it. I love what I do. I love the people I work with. I hope as it continues that I can I can have continue having the energy to really be involved with just these different sectors.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Afshin, that's so clear from from our discussion. I mean, the curiosity that you've had just just talk to people. And when you find something that's interesting and you have a connection, go for it. You know, and if you and if you keep those relationships real and personal, clearly, you know, it leads to success. Right? If you're having fun and you're in, you're doing smart things, you're making smart choices and you're in you're having fun. I think I think you're going to have some measure of success and anything and anything you do. I mean, those are there's some great lessons in there. You touched on mentoring and been clearly so much of you talked about in the biogenetic stories about the I don't know if you use the word mentor, but it is mentoring the staff and mentoring the people and being a leader, a leader at every level. Talk about it a little bit just in terms of being a mentor and thinking about that, because that's kind of a topic I touch on with all of my all my guests. So sure.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
So, look, I mean, you know, I think throughout life, you know, you mentor people and you always have mentors yourself. That's just just the way the only way to grow. You learn through both process by mentoring and being mentored. You know, some people use books as their mentor. Some people use their college professors. Some people use somebody that they don't know and they just talk for ten minutes, you know, in a bus stop. And I can tell you that, you know, for me, mentoring, it comes down to I just want for people to believe and follow their dreams as a mentor, to be honest with you. What I do, I sort of, you know, play as a devil's advocate to say, tell me your ideas. I love to hear it. And I just ask a few questions to see, you know, how they talk through it completely. And also during that process, it comes down to are they passionate enough to really pursue because you know, their dream, that's very important. Having a dream is wanting having the passion and the drive to go after it is what makes a difference. And so from that perspective, really, that's what I bring into the game with them. Of course, some of the business and science experience comes into that as well to mentor them. At the same time, I wish I could actually found the name of every professor, teacher, anybody that I had from first grade and write him a thank you better. You know, I've been very fortunate.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
I've been very lucky to have a relatively comfortable life. And I attribute that to every person that ever I came across that taught me something from first grade all the way through high school, UCLA and all the universities, everything that I've gone through and and even the you know, the CEOs, the vice president of people that I worked with, you always learn from from other peoples, from, you know, you learn what to do or what not to do. Right. But I do want to acknowledge that aside from the business and the science, I would say, you know, my father really the credit I want to give it give him the credit that from a mentorship perspective, he taught me how to live right. And that was his message to his son. So I've always throughout my life, I try to whatever company I work with, I've always tried to stay ethical, live right. How I always been able to do that and be 100 percent on that? Probably not. I'm asking as a human, I've also made mistakes. But this is the thing that that I've always strive for, to be ethical and live right. And make sure you treat people the way you like to be treated, you know, which is pretty much a common theme in all the religious right. So so with that, I think I think, you know, we all are mentors and being mentored at the same time. Again, in our long answer to your to your

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Questions, there's no need to apologize. That's why you're you're here so that we can hear your story and hear your insights. And it's been inspiring. And I really enjoyed it in twenty twenty. Twenty was not the year we all thought if you go back we have to go back a little over. A little over a year now, actually, I was thinking here that about this time a year ago, there were a few people, probably, probably Arnow Chroming of biogenetics. You might have been saying 20 is not going to be the year we're all hope. And there's this. There's this virus. Exactly. Got guys. But but during that time, a lot of people had extra time or use their time in different ways. They weren't spending time on the airplanes. Were there any activities that you picked up or really focused on in twenty twenty and into twenty twenty one that you're doing different than you had ever before?

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Great question. Let me let me break it into maybe a couple of things. Work related and unrelated. You know, I just after after the you know, with their covid and we all went on Zoome I realized that how much time I was wasting in planes, to be honest with you, you know, the level of conversation and everything else that I have with clients or people is still the same. And in fact, I've spent I've been more efficient with my time and now I've actually got involved with more companies compared to if I was going to be on the plane. So that's that's one thing I'm just loving sitting eight hours behind my, you know, eight, 10 hours a day behind my on these resume calls and just talk to so many interesting people. So, Sadao, from from work perspective, I can tell you I'm busier even than before and more productive, probably. But I have picked up two hobbies, you know, socially distanced fashion to be to be, you know, save one is actually hot yoga. I am addicted to hot yoga. Now, that's great. I know it's people who know me. They're like, how can you stay still and actually, you know, meditate in a hot room? And I'm loving. And maybe that's what was missing from my life. And the second part is I picked up snowboarding a couple of years ago. Of course, I'm not the best snowboarder. I still go on green and sometimes attempt blues blue runs, but I am just loving it and I just wish I'd picked up both of those earlier in life. The only thing I want to leave you by in case if you're if you're skiing Breckenridge and you see some guy you know is having the most dramatic fall, you know, three, three 60s and wearing a neon green pants and all over them falling head first. That's me. So that's me just coming.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
How are you? Are you ever a skier? You're a skier converted to snowboarding or did you just go right into. Yeah, I

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Was a skier with a bad knee. So that's why I've I've converted. But until yeah. Actually, I'm going to go to Breckenridge this week and this weekend and spend a day there. And again, my my only goal is just when I'm going down not to hurt other people or hurt myself. That's pretty much my my, my mission.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
And I'll be out there in a couple of weeks. I can't wait. I need to need to get back to the slopes. So, Afshan, I got to ask you one other thing. So you mentioned to two new hobbies you picked up recently, but I believe you also have become a rapper, and I would love it if you could rap for us today.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Oh, my God, Chad, you are putting me on a spot. You know, it was funny. One of our the head of our body a couple of years ago, Beth Hines, actually made me a T-shirt that says little af so. So I guess I guess they say, well, you know, Lyddie off. So but now let me let me let me see what I can come up with. I come up with one. OK, so are you ready Chad.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
I'm ready I think.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Let's do it.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
My name is Zarf. I make people laugh every time you see me. I'm taking a bath.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Cha cha cha cha cha cha cha.

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
One day I was studying book in hand when I saw Afshin that became man. He's lyin, he's mean. He's a big machine. He's the craziest doctor I've ever seen. I don't think you saw that. But I dropped him.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
I saw that. Well, yeah, that was absolutely brilliant. Afshin, thank you so much for being a guest. I have enjoyed this conversation so much and I couldn't have added a better way than with that rap. So any last words that you want to share with the guests tonight?

Dr. Afshin Safavi:
Well, look, Chad, I really appreciate you spending time with me and getting into the big story and some of the other companies that I'm involved. And, you know, again, first of all, thank you very much. I also want to thank all, you know, everybody else that are listening and followers of your podcast. And the last thing is, you know, I really want to just acknowledge, you know, as a founder, you know, with biofuel leaks and any one of these other companies I'm involved with, you don't build a company by just an individual or with just the vision of an individual. A company is built by team. And going back to Biaggio that there was a team of probably. 10 or 15 people that came in 2008, 2009 to help me build what is biogenetics today, and then every year additional team members come. You know, when Jim Dayton came as a CEO, you know, we had 50 people. Then we had Mark better, you know, our H.R., we had our CFO, we had Nick our Morasco, you know, our chief commercial officer and anything more and more people and yourself, you know, you guys join in and it's just it really it really does take I know it's a cliche. It does take a village. It does take a team to build a company. And I'm proud to be part of biology politics today. And again, I wish everybody the best. And thank you again for your time and for allowing me to talk to talk to you and your and your audience.

Dr. Chad Briscoe:
Afshin, thanks so much. That's another mic drop moment, and that is all for this episode. If you enjoy today's episode, please be sure to subscribe and Apple podcast Spotify or your favorite podcast app. So you never miss a conversation if you'd like to hang out with us biogenetics outside of the podcast. We have many webinars and other presentations available for your enjoyment and education. Visit Biogenetics Dotcom to see what's coming up and how you can stay in touch. And don't forget to keep an eye out for more episodes of molecular moments coming soon. We're looking forward to some additional great guests. We'll have world renowned experts talking about rare diseases, diversity in the pharmaceutical industry, new and exciting technologies, and a conversation with a patient who's benefited from the recent tremendous developments in our industry. Molecular moments would not be possible without the support of our sponsor, Biogenetics Labs Biogenetics is a global contract research organization specializing in large molecule bio analysis based in Durham, North Carolina, with labs in Hamburg, Germany, and Boston, Massachusetts. Biogenetics provides high quality bio analytical services to leading pharma and biotech companies around the world. They offer assay development, validation and sample analysis under Nanji LP, GLP and GCP, as well as GMP Quality Control Testing. If you are looking to work with a team of highly experienced scientific and kuai professionals through all phases of clinical development, look no further than biogenetics. For more information or to speak with their scientists today, visit their website at Biogenetics Dotcom.

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