Navigating Entrepreneurship and the Blood-Brain Barrier with Afreen Allam


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This week we invite founder and CEO of SiNON Therapeutics, Afreen Allam, to discuss the business world and her biotech start-up that's designing one pivotal particle.

At 17, Afreen found herself publishing her first DNA sequence, and at 20, applying for her first patent—no big deal. We talk about how her passion was rooted in her 7.5-year stint as a Duke Cancer Center volunteer, which was alternately depressing and motivating. Her father permitted her to study abroad as a premed undergrad with three very specific conditions, and it was then that the nanoparticle for drug delivery was developed.

While she loved the field of medicine, she felt she could make a bigger impact going into research, and thus ditched her (parents’) med school plans for business school. And that’s how her company SiNON got started. Currently they’re continuing the work on the nanoparticle that began when she studied abroad. She fills us in on a little stat—that only 2% of currently available drugs can pass through the blood-brain barrier (and schools us on just what the blood-brain barrier is). Meaning a targeted delivery tool to carry drugs from point A to B would be game-changing for neurological diseases. This could reduce dosing and side effects while improving efficacy, and be less damaging and more targeted than chemo for brain tumors, etc. The technology is in preclinical testing as SiNON raises money, hoping to license their technology to other pharmaceutical companies perhaps in late 2022.

Asad and Afreen swap start-up stories. We touch on what it’s like being a double minority in the business and biotech worlds, and how it’s especially difficult to prove your point when you can’t raise the money to prove your point. She mentions the importance of connections, and how the Muslim community is lacking. Anecdotes of fellow students who’d “never seen a Muslim in their life other than Fox News,” a reproachful campus preacher, and a legit inquiry about her making bombs are shared. We end with inspiration for future female entrepreneurs and the source of her own.

Learn more about SiNON Therapeutics' patented nanoparticle, the Carbon Dot, which looks to change the face of neurological diseases profoundly. And keep up with the latest news from Afreen @Afreen_Allam and the company @SiNONTP or @sinon_therapeutics.
American Muslim Project is a production of Rifelion, LLC.
Writer and Researcher: Lindsy Gamble
Show Edited by Mark Annotto and Asad Butt
Music by Simon Hutchinson
Hosted by Asad Butt

42 episodes