Pushing Boundaries in Neuromedicine
As Janet Qi, CPA, MBA, watched neurodegenerative diseases slowly claim the lives of those closest to her, she decided to do something about it.
In late 2020, she teamed up with the world-renowned Dr. Grima to found PurMinds NeuroPharma, a company that pursues breakthrough solutions for devastating neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson's.
As Chief Executive Officer, Janet raises funds, attends conferences and meets with potential investors from around the world to give PurMinds a competitive edge and a valuable place in the market—ensuring its breakthrough findings make a difference.
For our latest Spotlight, we asked Janet about her unique career path, her role as an entrepreneur and her vision for the future.
Where did you start your career and how did you get to where you are today?
After graduating from Richard Ivey School of Business in 2002, I started my career as an internal auditor at Scotiabank and then a corporate banker at Scotia Capital. In 2012, I left the bank and started my own consulting business.
Since 2018, I have started a couple of biotech startups that have become part of today's PurMinds NeuroPharma.
How did you get interested in entrepreneurship and specifically neuromedicine?
In 2017, one of my best friends, Maestro Kerry Stratton, who was the Artistic Director of Toronto Concert Orchestra and renowned radio host on 96.3FM, was diagnosed with ALS and died 15 months after the initial diagnosis. Meanwhile, my uncle contracted vascular dementia (stroke) and went into a coma.
In late 2020, I met our current co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Jonathan Grima, who had a similar family experience of dealing with Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Grima is the world's leading expert on Nuclear Pore Hypothesis of neurodegeneration and won the Forbes 30 Under 30 award for this important discovery.
Dr. Grima and I founded PurMinds NeuroPharma, pursuing novel therapeutic solutions in devastating neurological disorders. Now we have our first clinical asset PUR001 in preclinical stage backed by promising proof-of-concept efficacy data and exciting pk profile targeting ALS.
What does a day in the life look like in your role at PurMinds?
My days are filled with meetings with our scientific team and executives on our management team. Fundraising is an important part of my role. On average I talk to at least one potential investor per day from all over the world. And I travel to various cities in the U.S., Dubai and Asia to meet potential investors and for conferences.
What do you think is the most important factor to succeeding as an entrepreneur? Or the biggest challenge?
In today's business environment, finding that competitive edge to differentiate your company and effectively communicating it to investors and collaborators is the biggest challenge. Also, recruiting the right people and motivating a capable and committed team is critical to the company's success.
How does your CPA designation help you navigate these challenges?
The well-rounded training and in-depth understanding of all aspects of business management have helped me handle the very challenging issues I face almost daily, from accounting and corporate governance, to legal and business development, to managing scientific innovation and perfecting business strategy.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years?
I hope to build PurMinds into a successful business with a pipeline of multiple clinical assets, with one or more drugs approved by FDA, and enter the market to help neurodegenerative disease patients.
What is something you wish you knew at the start of your career? Or at the start of your entrepreneurial journey?
I wish I had spent more effort finding the right mentors to guide me and avoided some of the mistakes I made.
If you could have dinner with one person—current, fictional or historical—who would it be and why?
I would like the opportunity to sit with Stephen Hawking. He managed ALS for 55 years and led a difficult life, but he was able to endure hardship while pushing the boundaries of human knowledge. I wish I could tell him that there is hope with ALS, and that our scientific team is making breakthrough findings.