Circle of life from Bangladesh to Canada leads to success in Prince Edward Island
Somru CEO Mohammed Moin and his wife, Dihan Ahsan, the Director of Corporate Services.
The legacy of a village schoolteacher in Bangladesh has fueled a multi-million dollar biomedical venture in Prince Edward Island that will accelerate drug development, improve tools for early diagnosis of disease and help companies around the world bring affordable drugs to the market sooner.
“My father was a schoolteacher in a small village,” recalls Mohammed Moin, Vice President of Somru BioScience.
“He was always very community minded and wanted to help people around him.”
Just before Moin came to Canada to study at the University of Prince Edward Island in 2001, his father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Their experience of the medical system became the catalyst for the company that bears his father’s name.
“We took a journey I never thought we would have to take, to doctors, clinics, treatment and radiation and to hospitals. It taught me there were expensive medications and biomedicine not available in Bangladesh, and we saw a real need,” he says.
Moin and his brother, Rafiq, who is a molecular biologist, along with their wives, Dihan and Clarinda, co-founded Somru BioScience Inc. six years ago to develop innovative tools and solutions to accelerate drug development.
The biggest challenge the brothers faced was deciding if they should launch their venture in Canada or the United States, and Moin says it was the support systems in place in Canada that made the difference.
“We used family money to produce a niche product, achieving some sales at that time, and then we were ready to grow. It was a huge advantage doing business in Canada with the available research facilities, umbrella organizations and both federal and provincial support, all providing guidance and mentorship for free,” he says.
The company has grown and currently exports to over 20 countries. As a result of CanExport funding support, Somru recently signed a joint venture with Radiant Pharmaceuticals Ltd. in Bangladesh that is projected to produce sales of $50 million over five years, with the number of Canadian employees expected to grow from the current level of 18 people to about 100. Somru has just finished building phase one, a new 464-square metre facility, and is expected to open phase two in 2020.
Moin does not regret his decision to launch the start-up in Canada.
“I’m finding out now there is a huge advantage to setting up a business in Canada. I have gained business experience from many countries, where with the red tape and authorities, it’s crazy getting permission. In Canada, I was able to register the company online in a few hours,” he says.
Canada also brings elements money can’t buy, a community that reflects his late father’s values.
“I feel at home in P.E.I. everyone knows everyone, and everyone is open to helping anyone.”
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