Ask the Cohort: Acomhal Research Inc.

Acomhal Research Inc. is a biotech spinout, from the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, that is developing treatments for cancer. Dr. Samy Lamouille and Dr. Robert Gourdie, founders of Acomhal Research Inc., are developing a drug, for patients with brain cancer, that targets and kills the cancer cells that are resistant to therapy.

What motivated and inspired you to start your company?

Dr. Samy Lamouille: As a cancer biologist, I always wanted to find new treatments for cancer patients. When you work in translational research, it is of course important to publish basic science discoveries within the scientific community, but testing to see if these discoveries can save lives is also essential. The Biotech industry translates these basic findings and identifies whether any have the potential to become new treatments for patients. When I moved to the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute three years ago, I started working on brain cancer and got very exciting results with this new drug developed by Dr. Robert Gourdie and his laboratory. Our findings drove me to start my own company one year ago with Dr. Gourdie, because I saw the potential of this new drug to help patients with brain cancer.

What does success look like to you?

Dr. Samy Lamouille: If our new treatments can extend patients’ lives, I would feel like I succeeded. I know success can be a long process in my case, but thinking about the patients is what motivates me to succeed.

What are you working on now/next?

Dr. Samy Lamouille: Right now we are seeking for funds and potential investors to initiate clinical trials as these are very expensive steps in translational research. We are also working on developing a way to efficiently deliver our drug into the brain. I’m also starting a new program on colon cancer with Dr. Jennifer Vaughn, an oncologist in the region. We believe that our drug has the potential to treat other types of cancer in addition to brain cancer as it targets a specific population of cancer cells found in tumors.

What do you like about the Roanoke area? Why do you want to be here and grow your company here?

Dr. Samy Lamouille: I came to Roanoke as I saw high potential in this city that was developing so fast. I feel that here I can be part of the region’s growth and make decisions that can influence the development of the city compared to being in a big city where it is harder to have an impact. I also believe there is a strong and supportive community here in Roanoke where you can meet people much faster and that’s very important if you need help to develop your company. Roanoke isn’t too far from other big cities like D.C. so there is potential to collaborate with other companies around the East Coast.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about applying to RAMP?

Dr. Samy Lamouille: I would definitely encourage them to do so. The mentorship, networking, connections, and exposure we get from being part of RAMP are key factors for success personally and for our startup company. The classes we have at RAMP are very useful as we are learning important business tools and insights that have been valuable for the company.


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