In preparation for the upcoming CEO Talks Panel on Innovators Combating Drug Resistance, BioBuzz Contributor, Sarah Ellinwood, Ph.D. caught up with one of the panelists, President and CSO of Integrated Pharma Services (IPS), Dr. Mina Izadjoo for a preliminary “In Conversation” interview.
What is your background and expertise?
I am a Microbiologist with a passion for understanding the role of microorganisms in human diseases and health. My research has been mostly focused on developing diagnostics and therapeutics for hard-to-treat infectious agents, particularly drug-resistant pathogens.
Tell us a bit about your role at IPS/IMS.
I currently serve as the President & Chief Science Officer at Integrated Pharma Services and Integrated MicroSciences.
IPS is a Contract Research Organization that was initially established to address the laboratory testing needs of our collaborators. However, today we provide scientific testing and consultation services to a wide variety of organizations ranging from small start-ups to multi-billion-dollar companies.
IMS was established to advance our own line of proprietary products, such as technologies for standardized growth of polymicrobial communities for various downstream applications. This includes novel drug discovery and screening.
We have been largely helping with the advancement and commercialization of new antimicrobial products. Our focus has primarily been on drugs and devices.
What are some of the exciting technologies you are working on?
We currently have a patented technology that can be used for improved growth of polymicrobial communities for various downstream applications. With emergence of many infectious diseases caused by multi-drug resistant and hard-to-treat pathogens, it is of critical importance for researchers to employ standardized methods for studying microbes that mimic the environment under which the infection occurs. While many pathogens and microbes can be grown in a laboratory, they often take on different characteristics when isolated in laboratory media compared to their natural environment. This has provided a challenge for understanding pathogenesis. Currently, there is a lack of standardized, efficient, and cost-effective technologies for growing microbial communities and mimicking their natural growth environment in a laboratory or field settings.
Our technology is a simple, cost-effective, robust system for easy and consistent generation of microbial communities. The technology has various applications in the field of therapeutics and diagnostics, such as studying microbial interactions, gene analysis, biofilm research, antimicrobial and anti-biofilm drug development.
In addition, we have been working on non-drug-based products such as Electroceutical or Energy-based technologies and have also been developing bacteriophage-based therapeutics.
The theme for this BioBuzz CEO talk is “Innovators Combating Drug Resistance”. How do you think the services you provide through IPS/IMS help to tackle this problem?
IPS helps companies by providing them the supporting data and scientific evidence they need for bringing their product to the finish line. We take the product development journey along with our collaborators. IMS is focused on tackling the antibiotic resistance problem by developing novel antimicrobials and devices.
What do you think is the biggest challenge biotech companies face when developing new antimicrobial technologies?Companies face many different challenges, but I believe that the availably of funds to bring ideas/products to market is always the biggest hurdle. I am fortunate to have investors to support my endeavors, but I believe the government should get more involved and provide resources needed to bring the much-needed antimicrobial products to market. It is very disappointing when innovative companies stop their antimicrobial drug discovery programs due to lack of funding and do not get a return on their investments.
What do you consider to be your greatest/most memorable achievement so far while at IPS/IMS, and what excites you the most about this role?
I cannot refer to the greatest achievement per se, but every day I am celebrating our small achievements that are moving us forward toward addressing the problem of antibiotic resistance. I also greatly enjoy learning and working with all sorts of new technologies.
In your mind, what direction(s) should the biotech industry take to successfully overcome antibiotic and drug resistance?
Many companies have great ideas toward combating drug resistance, but they often struggle with bringing their antimicrobial technologies to market because they lack funding or resources. Many people underestimate the severity of the drug-resistance problem, thus I think it’s critical that we communicate the importance of our work to politicians. It has been estimated that by 2050 infections caused by drug-resistant pathogens will be responsible for 10 million deaths every year—we need to do all we can to combat this problem now.
While it’s easy to get caught up in figuring our solutions, it’s also important that we not forget about our next generation of scientists. We need to dedicate time to provide adequate training and mentorship to young scientists and professionals in our community so that we can continue to be on the cutting edge of research.
For more in Dr. Izadjoo and IPS visit their website – www.integratedpharmaservices.com/
Sarah Ellinwood, PhD