Entrepreneur

This Entrepreneur Invented His Own Cure, Then Turned It Into A $100M Enterprise


Bradley Burnam never took a chemistry class past high school, not a typical formula for a biopharmaceutical innovator. Quite to the contrary, 17-year-old Burnam entered UCLA where he received a Bachelor’s in sociology and then continued onto Stanford University where he earned a Master’s in education with a specialization in learning disabilities. Burnam was fascinated by solving macroscale problems such as the overuse of stimulants in children. As such, following his graduation from Stanford, he began a Ph.D. at UCLA in behavioral neuroscience.

During the second year of his Ph.D., Burnam realized his work on theory was limiting his ability to make a tangible impact. Thus, he left his Ph.D. program initially with the intention of joining Boston Scientific’s Neuromodulation Division where they were uncovering new ways to treat mental and physical health concerns such as depression, obesity, and epilepsy. Ultimately, he ended up in Boston Scientific’s Cardiac Division where he found immediate success and fulfillment given his ability to interact directly with patients and affect their health in a tangible way.

Like many other modern Renaissance men, he ended up 180 degrees from where he intended to go. “After four years in the medical device industry, I woke up with an ear three times its normal size. I immediately called my physician who instructed me to meet him in the emergency room. He recommended I have immediate surgery to remove as much of the infection as possible,” Burnam says.

To Burnam’s misfortune, he would require over 12 additional surgeries and dozens of antibiotics to manage the recurring infection. “Every time I lay on the operating table I found it difficult to believe that with all of the advances of modern medicine, nothing existed that would prevent me from undergoing these recurring surgeries. That’s when it clicked. I’m going to develop my own cure,” Burnam says. “I turned my kitchen into a chemical research and development lab.”

Burnam sourced chemicals from industrial-grade distributors, refurbished machinery from known and trusted manufacturers, and scoured literature from around the world in an effort to unlock the secret to cure his affliction. “I failed hundreds of times, went through barrels of chemicals and dedicated most of my savings to develop the first resistance-free non-antibiotic topical medicine that would kill every bug with the gentleness of a simple skin cream,” says Burnam.

After two years of attempting to manufacture hundreds of formulas in his homegrown R&D facility, at 11 p.m. on Friday, February 7, 2014, Brad had an epiphany. He knew how to permanently fuse oil and water without any additional ingredients. Using this technique, he could mix powerful cleansing agents with petroleum to create an ointment that would eliminate bacteria and fungi on any surface without irritation or side effects. This became known as Permafusion.

Bradley Burnam speaking at a wound care symposium at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in ConnecticutTurn Therapeutics

As patient number one at Turn Therapeutics‘ birth, Burnam has not had surgery since. According to Burnam, he needed to figure out how to mass manufacture his product in a regulations-compliant manner to bring it to the world, as well as the FDA’s blessing to do so. “I taught myself the FDA process. I funded the entire approval myself with a $24,000 credit line and no assistance from consultants. I called the FDA help desk nearly every day asking for their assistance. They were incredibly helpful and very surprised that a young entrepreneur was doing this with no assistance,” says Burnam.

Early attempts to create a stable formula in 2014Turn Therapeutics

The plastic surgeon caring for Burnam, Dr. Stephen Bresnick MD, felt that he had come up with a great idea, which would serve him better than repetitive surgical procedures and antibiotic therapy. Dr. Bresnick was very pleased that with the early use of Burnam’s prophylactic topical agents, the frequency of infections greatly diminished. “In spending time with Brad, I came to conclude he is as capable, productive, and creative as any scientist at any top research university in coming up with solutions to problems,” says Dr. Bresnick. 

In 2016, Burnam earned FDA approval to market Turn Therapeutics’ first product, a novel wound-care formula that would prove to be an overnight success.

Navigating the manufacturing process was nothing short of difficult. Burnam first had to find a location that could mix the ointment in-house with his proprietary method. Burnam also insisted on working with a manufacturer that had obtained licensure from the FDA. “Lots of manufacturers claim that they are GMP or Good Manufacturing Practice, but only those that achieve licensure from the FDA have verifiable proof of it. This is how you stay in business. In the life science space, it’s important to find and work with suppliers and manufacturers that care about staying in business,” says Burnam. The secret to Burnam’s efficient, cost-effective and quality manufacturing chain is to eliminate freight and distance between the constituent parts. “I realized I could keep my cost of goods equivalent to using overseas, lower-quality components by having my package and component suppliers all within easy driving distance from each other,” says Burnam. In terms of distribution, Burnam signed a partnership agreement in 2016 with the McKesson Corporation, one of the largest medical supply distributors in the world.

Workers manufacturing Turn Therapeutic’s Hexagen™ in Azusa, CaliforniaTurn Therapeutics

According to world-famous celebrity surgeon and former NFL Network correspondent, Dr. Neil Ghodadra MD, “It’s incredibly rare to meet someone like Brad, a brilliant entrepreneur eager to use his technology to further the development of cures for some of the most complicated wounds in the world.” After spending time with Burnam and giving him the encouragement he needed, Dr. Ghodadra helped him raise $5 million in Series A financing and joined as the company’s Chief Medical Officer, turning his kitchen-based startup into one valued at $100 million. That year, Burnam spent 250,000 miles on airplanes delivering talks at conferences and visiting physician experts, while continuing to build and scale his manufacturing, fulfillment, and supply chain. Burnam kept a close eye on the use patterns and publications. He noticed surges of use in eczema and nail infection and determined to expand the indications to meet these needs.

Physicians such as Dr. Dan Davis DPM, past-president of the American Podiatric Medical Association, deemed it the go-to anti-infective topical product for the patients in their wound care centers. “Brad is an innovative entrepreneur who really wants to help people by providing answers to the biofilm problems we see in wound care,” says Dr. Davis. Turn Therapeutics has even attracted the attention of top medical and public health experts like Dr. Romulo Colindres MD, MBA, MPH, current VP of Global Medical Affairs and past Global Head of Epidemiology at GlaxoSmithKline who formerly served as an Epidemic Intelligence Officer at the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Colindres has recently accepted a position on Turn Therapeutics’ board of directors.

FDA cleared Hexagen™ product shipping to physicians in 2017Turn Therapeutics

“I know we have only scratched the surface. There are more indications we can affect than time and capital permit. It’s my intention to focus on the most pressing needs with the resources we have and use our growth and resulting revenue to further R&D in additional high-need areas. I’m just getting started,” Burnam says.

I have no financial interests or ownership in Turn Therapeutics. 

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