An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Lowry Curley (co-founder and CEO) of AxoSim, which was honored in our:
- 2022 Best Tech Startups in New Orleans
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in Louisiana
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in Baton Rouge
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in Louisiana
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in New Orleans
- 2019 Best Tech Startups in Louisiana
- 2019 Best Tech Startups in New Orleans
Tell us the origin story of AxoSim – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
AxoSim’s core technology, our Nerve-on-a-Chip, or NerveSim®, spun out of my thesis work at Tulane University with my professor, Dr. Michael Moore. Though it started as an academic project, we quickly realized that there was a significant need in the pharmaceutical industry for alternative ways to test new drugs, outside of animals. 89% of drugs fail to ever reach patients, which has driven the average cost for a new drug to over $2.6B and average time to market to over 10 years, largely due to the inability of animals to predict human results.
AxoSim’s NerveSim® and BrainSim® platforms are revolutionizing the way that pharmaceutical companies develop neurological drugs. Our mission is to empower advancements in human neuroscience so that patients in need can get the care they deserve. We deliver human data, faster. This reduces failure and enables companies to develop effective drugs more quickly and at lower cost, fostering innovation and facilitating breakthroughs in the treatment of the world’s most devastating diseases.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
For me, it was a challenge growing my role as the company itself grew. As I evolved from “co-founder” to “CEO”, my focus rapidly shifted from product to leadership . Building a product requires a much different skill set than commercializing it, and managing a team of 4 is dramatically different than managing a team of 20. I always try to stay aware of where my strengths and weaknesses are, and I spend a lot of time reading and leaning on mentors and advisors. Being aware of my gaps also guides building an effective team. There are clear parallels with the challenges of growing the company itself as well.
Maturing our company and technology to a level that will enable exponential scale has been a challenging, and perhaps unforeseen challenge. The skill sets that made us great at developing new products and working closely with our early adopter companies were not necessarily what we needed to expand our reach. We have put significant effort into building new operational, technical, and quality control systems to ensure we can grow successfully, while continuing to focus on our core competencies. There will always be new hurdles and challenges, and I believe the key is always challenging yourself to grow and setting the right foundation for success.
What does the future hold for AxoSim?
We have worked with many of the top international pharmaceutical companies, and our goal is to be working with every single one of the top 25 biggest and most impactful in the next 3 years. Ultimately, we want our platforms to bring better treatment options and cures for patients suffering from devastating neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s, and MS. We want to point to a drug that is saving lives and be able to say that we played a pivotal role in its success.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in New Orleans?
Its impressive and continuing to grow. Recently two of our local startups were acquired for a combined $1.6B! It took many years of work and growth by both the companies themselves and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The local experience and support systems are reaching a critical mass that should pave the way for the next billion-dollar companies. New Orleans is also continuing to invest in life sciences and medical technology, which is already bringing job opportunities and international business partnerships. The life cycle for life sciences companies may be longer than traditional tech, but there are several companies well on their way to putting the New Orleans biotech scene on the map.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
As I mentioned before, learn what your personal strengths and weaknesses are – challenge yourself continually, and surround yourself with a complementary team. Never stop learning and be open to reinventing yourself both personally and professionally.