An interview with Stefan Braam, CEO of Ncardia

From scientist to CEO

Getting better medicines to patients faster. is the principle that stem cell drug discovery and development company, Ncardia, is built on. "We use human stem cells to make test systems for the pharmaceutical industry", explains Stefan Braam, CEO of Ncardia. "These systems are used to predict the cardiovascular and neural safety and efficacy of drug candidates." Ncardia is now operating worldwide with facilities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the USA.

It all starts with the idea

As a PhD researcher, Braam worked with stem cells and heart muscle myocardial cells. During that time he had the idea of making more relevant physiological models for drug discovery and development. “Wrong decisions for the patient can be made when you base these decisions on animal models, as they are not always very representative. In turn, this also has a negative economic impact," states Braam. "I believe that human stem cell technology fast-tracks the delivery of better medicines to patients by improving the drug discovery process."

Stefan Braam, CEO of Ncardia: “Although my idea to start a company was ridiculed by my fellow scientists, I believed I could do it.”

Starting a company

"As a scientist, I was motivated to do something that had an impact and that benefited people. In a company focused on application and implementation you can generate this impact on a shorter time-scale than in the academic world." And so Pluriomics, a biotech company that provided a unique, novel platform bridging traditional laboratory tests and clinical testing in patients emerged in the centre of Leiden. "When Pluriomics participated in and subsequently won the Venture Challenge in 2009, the ball got rolling," recalls Braam. "With my background, I mainly focused on the scientific aspects." Serial entrepreneur and first CEO of Pluriomics, Herman Spolders, helped to start the company, define the strategy and to raise funds in the beginning. “With the trust that I was properly coached by Herman, our investors asked if I wanted to become the CEO. That is now almost four years ago.’’ Braam is now one of the few examples of a scientist becoming a CEO. Braam: "Although my idea to start a company was ridiculed by my fellow scientists, I believed I could do it."

The fusion of two companies

In August 2017, Pluriomics merged with Axiogenesis to form Ncardia. Braam: "We recognised that these companies, both leading providers in human cardiovascular stem cell technology, disease modelling and cell-based assay products and services, were compatible and complementary. So the merger of the two companies brought the best of both organisations together – the people, products, services, industry knowledge and expertise to develop and generate more innovative stem cell based products and services. It also boosted the R&D capabilities, and so now we create an impact around the world by helping to get better medicines to patients faster."

Stefan Braam and his team were the winners of the Venture Challenge Fall 2009 and received a Pre-Seed Grant.