Tamer Mohamed
Credit: Lindsay Siu

Tamer Mohamed, 29

Co-founder, president and CEO

Life Story: Tamer Mohamed faced a tough choice in 2014. An electrical and computer engineering PhD student at UBC, where he had completed a master’s degree in electrical and biomedical engineering, Mohamed was helping refine a system to print living human tissue such as muscle and cartilage. He had also co-founded Aspect Biosystems, a novel 3D bio-printing company, in 2013, and was finding himself pulled in two directions.

“I had to make a big decision about whether to continue on with my PhD or to focus on commercializing our technology,” says Vancouver-born Mohamed, who began as Aspect’s CTO before becoming chief executive in 2016. His engineer father and nutritionist mother, who emigrated from Egypt to B.C. in the 1970s, weren’t thrilled when he put his academic career on hold. “I still promise my mom I’ll go back and finish my PhD,” Mohamed says with a laugh. “No matter how big Aspect gets, I think it’s always going to be a question on their minds.”

Vancouver-based Aspect aims to create human tissue on demand for transplant. Although that goal is still a few years away, the company has partnered with pharmaceuticals and biotechnology firms—including Johnson & Johnson, with which it’s working on printing knee cartilage that could offer a fix for injuries. Other applications include testing pharmaceuticals on tissue before clinical trials, where about 90 percent of drugs currently fail. Another revenue stream is in academic research, where Aspect retains the rights to any tissues developed using its platform.

The Bottom Line: Since Mohamed took over as CEO, Aspect has secured major funding, boosted revenue by some 1,500 percent and expanded its staff from eight to more than 20. Among the company’s honours: Canada’s most promising startup from non-profit Metabridge in 2017, one of the country’s 20 most innovative tech startups from the Canadian Innovation Exchange that year and a 2015 Startup Canada Award for Innovation.

What’s the best advice you ever received?
Don't let the fear of failure hold you back.

Your favourite book, album, song, movie or TV show is…
Book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.

Song: A Sky Full of Stars by Coldplay.

Movie: Inception.

TV show: Silicon Valley.

Who is your role model or mentor?
My father, for being humble in everything he does. Muhammad Ali, for fighting for what he believes in. Thomas Edison, for not just innovating but turning that into commercial success that changed the world

What’s your biggest regret?
Time wasted worrying about things that don’t matter.

A little-known fact about you is…
I’ve played soccer my entire life.