Armon Sharei wants to train our immune system to fight cancer. We hear a lot of claims like this, however when a mega-pharmaceutical company like Roche inks a $500 million deal to work on it, we pay attention. At age 29, Armon convinced not only Roche but gimlet-eyed VCs to back him. How did he do this? How did he go from a boy living in Iran to being one of the stars of MIT’s storied Langer Lab?
Part of Armon’s secret is the ability to explain thickly complex ideas in accessible language that does not over simplify. He is that rarest of creatures, a scientist of the first rank that speaks lucidly and acts practically. I am grateful that Armon took time out from curing cancer to share his experiences with us in this inspiring interview.
If you are a scientist thinking of founding a company or an investor thinking of investing in a biotech startup you could learn a lot by listening to this interview with Armon Sharei (as well as the interview with biotech founder & investor Patrick Rivelli Patrick Rivelli Interview). Among the topics covered are:
- Armon Sharei Bio
- Childhood Spent in Iran & Dubai, Finished High School in Marin County
- Why Armon Sharei Wanted to Be a Scientist
- Why Leave Edenic Bay Area for Purgatorial Boston?
- SQZ Technology Comes from Failed Attempt to Shoot Genetic Materials into Cells
- How the Idea of Starting a Company Came About
- “I think one of the main examples, which is kind of the subject we've been pursuing most deeply at the company in two different projects, is the idea of telling the immune system what to target in the context of cancer”.
- SQZ Technology Excels at Getting Protein Fragments into Cells – Very Promising Method of Training Our Immune System to Fight Cancer
- Sal Asks Listeners to Subscribe & Review on iTunes – Podcast Has Great Guests & Sound
- Biotech Fundraising Is Hard – Armon Sharei’s Advice on Fundraising
- Armon Sharei Finds a Lead Investor for His Angel Round
- SQZ Biotech’s Pivot from Selling their Tech as a Tool to Looking for Therapies
- “…over 70 or 80% of scientists want to put stuff into cells for some reason. I think aside from looking under a microscope there's nothing that they want to do more”.
- Therapy Research Is Risky, But Tool Business Was Harder Than It Looked, Besides Armon Really Wanted to Do Science
- The Board Was Essential in the Pivot from Being a Tool Company to Becoming a Therapy Company
- How Does a 29 Year-old Negotiate a $500 Million Deal with a Major Corporation?
- Hiring the Right People Is the Most Important Thing a Founder Does, Look for Cultural Fit