Karim Budhwani was so passionate about crushing cancer, he went back and got his PhD on the subject.
At the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Budhwani focused on disease modeling and cancer therapeutic discovery, ultimately graduated with a PhD in Material Science and Engineering in 2018. Instead of turning that degree into a job in consulting or academia, he decided to start his own venture.
That venture, CerFlux, is a HealthTech platform designing personalized technology and matching treatment services for cancer patients. The goal, Budhwani said, is to personalize how individualizes find the best cancer treatment options.
“[Cancer] is not a monolithic disease…it has many many heads,” he explained to Hypepotamus. “So we need to be able to look at cancer from a multi-headed monster perspective rather than a single monolithic disease.”
Its technology is working to take one single biopsy of a tumor and treat it with dozens of different regimens – something that can save valuable time in finding the right treatment for someone with cancer.
Innovating in the cancer space
Budhwani told Hypepotamus that his entrepreneurial roots started back when he moved to the US from India for college, a move that required him to take a “crazy jump without really knowing what was going to happen.”
He has deep roots in Alabama. He served as the Trade Ambassador for Alabama, a position in which he helped connect world businesses to the state.
He’s also held several key positions across the growing Birmingham HealthTech scene.
Anchored by the research university at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and several key startup accelerator programs, the city’s HealthTech scene has been growing over the last few years. Other startups building in the space include Acclinate, TheraNest, AI Metrics, and IllumiCare.
Still, Budhwani knows working within the cancer treatment space is particularly difficult.
“Innovation is very, very hard. It’s easy to throw the label around. But to truly innovate is it’s an extremely difficult roadmap. It takes a special kind of crazy person to undertake these adventures,” he added.
Budhwani said he is dedicated to building CerFlux in Birmingham. The team recently secured a $100,000 grant from the Innovate Alabama Supplemental Grant Program for those startups in the research and commercialization phase.