Our co-founder Dr. Afshin Safavi has dedicated his distinguished career to supporting cancer research with new technological tools for a single goal:
Finding new methods that scientists can use to test the effectiveness of cancer treatments in more ways with smaller samples.
In modern cancer treatment, it turns out that small is beautiful. The opportunity to work with small samples is what gives oncologists the ability to design unique treatments that work for one patient at a time.
Consider a relatively new treatment called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, or CAR-T therapy, for short.
This therapy is offered to patients whose bodies have been battered by chemotherapy and radiation. Even when their oncologists finally find a drug that can effectively kill the cancer cells, the patient still needs to have the ability to make new, healthy blood cells.
At that point, patients have very few stem cells left to create new blood-making bone marrow when the cancer is finally defeated. But the CAR-T process allows doctors to isolate, genetically modify, and multiply life-saving white blood cells — the patient's own T-cells — for a treatment that brings about 90% of patients into remission. The treatment requires a single transfusion.
There's no worry about rejection or blood typing or compatibility issues, because patients receive their own white blood cells, only in large numbers with genetic modifications.
The treatment requires only a single transfusion because of the technology that allows technicians to identify the healthy stem cells that can be used for the process.
The ability to test small samples has applications in canine cancer research, too.
Recently, researchers have identified a gene that is associated with a rare kind of blood cancer in dogs, called histiocytic sarcoma. Dr. Safavi and his colleagues contributed to a tool called "multi-omics'' that enables researchers to identify the genes that cause the disease.
For dogs that develop this type of cancer, veterinarians will be able to test treatments comprehensively to determine whether they can have the same results every time. And, learning how to treat this form of cancer in dogs can also help inform how it is treated in people. The treatments that work in dogs, thanks to modern testing tools, can be relatively quickly adapted to treating people.
The tools Dr. Safavi and his companies have developed can be used to look at the specific genes activated in a canine cancer diet. They can be used to test the effects of the best food for dogs with cancer, which at Canine Biologics is always human-grade dog food, wild-caught Alaskan salmon oil and supplements consisting of 25 plant extracts, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
But Canine Biologics isn't just guessing what will work. Multi-omics allows researchers to confirm the results of a canine cancer diet in different dogs under different conditions.
Afshin Safavi arrived in the United States at the age of 13. He worked his way through the University of Kentucky to earn bachelor's and doctor's degrees in biochemistry. Then, with two partners and cash from credit cards and home equity loans, he co-founded a pharmaceutical analytics firm that employs 250 people on two continents.
And it turns out that the same technology that contributes to fighting cancer in people can be used to fight cancer in dogs.
Dr. Safavi is credited with nearly 200 papers published in medical journals. In 2018, Dr. Safavi co-founded Canine Biologics with Jeff Sutherland. He continues to be active in BioAgilytix, a company that does contract cancer research, Chimeron Bio, a company that develops personalized therapies based on individual genetics, and Safavi Holdings, which provides venture capital to biotech startups. Dr. Safavi lives with his wife and two daughters in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado.