Euan Ramsay and James Taylor
Credit: Precision NanoSystems

Today, hundreds of companies depend on the biotech firm, which helps develop genomic medicine—like COVID vaccines

When Euan Ramsay met James Taylor in 2009, he knew that his life was about to change: “Suddenly, me doing a three-year apprentice- ship could be replaced by an instrument that’s sort of like an espresso machine.” At the time, Ramsay, who hails from Scotland, was working as a postdoctoral fellow with physicist and biochemist Pieter Cullis at the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), a local technology transfer group.

Armed with a PhD in nanoparticles, Ramsay originally came to Canada circa 2001 to work at the BC Cancer Agency with Cullis’s first postdoc, Marcel Bally. It wasn’t long before he ended up at the CDRD.

“Normally, drugs are just one molecule,” Ramsay explains. “Nanoparticles are composed of hundreds of thousands of molecules brought together in a particular way to form the particle.”

Although he was working as the business development manager (looking for non-dilutive funding, grants and foundation awards to support the programs moving through the CDRD), he knew what it took to make those particles himself.

Making them can be more of an art than a science: “It was difficult for me to make the same particles day after day, or for someone else to make the particles that I was making. If we were really going to advance the field, we’d have to find a better way of discovering, developing and manufacturing these particles.”

Enter Taylor.

Taylor and Carl Hansen (cofounder of biotech firm AbCellera Biologics) tried applying a technology called microfluidics—the celebrated espresso machine—in making nanoparticles. All of a sudden you could basically press a button that made particles as good (if not better) than anyone with a PhD or postdoc could create.

“James and I started to work together around concepts of using technology to help drug development,” says Ramsay. Taylor had just completed his PhD in genetics from UBC and Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology a year prior.

In 2010, when the CDRD decided to focus on drug development instead of the technology that supports drug development, Ramsay, Taylor, Hansen and Cullis launched Precision NanoSystems.

The company, which now has over 200 staff on board, specializes in the creation of genomic medicine, or nanoparticle-delivered RNA drugs—like COVID vaccines. Precision provides companies around the world with the technology and support needed to develop genomic medicine for cancer and all kinds of diseases, effectively reducing the barriers for scientists to become genomic medicine developers.

Closer to home, the company is actively working to bring bio manufacturing to Vancouver, and has partnered with the Canadian government to develop a COVID-19 vaccine that’s still in progress.

“The ability to make medicines through these technologies is potentially much faster, more precise, and many more things that we couldn’t do before,” says CEO Taylor.

Today, hundreds of companies looking for solutions to diseases depend on Precision’s technology. Over the last five years, it’s been progressing at a compound annual growth rate of 80 percent. Precision will soon move into its new headquarters—including a biomanufacturing centre—to expand its presence in the city to 100,000 square feet.

10 Questions with James Taylor

What was your first summer job?

Outdoor leader for multi-week trip camp.

Is an entrepreneur born or made?

Made.

What is your definition of success?

Making a positive impact.

What other job might you have had?

Probably in something even more esoteric than nano-biotech.

Name one thing people would be surprised to learn about you.

My real name is Bobby-Jim.

Finish this sentence for us: “Entrepreneurs need a lot more...”

Of them!  We need more people to take bold actions to solve the challenges we face today.

What businessperson do you most admire?

Anyone who is working hard on a vision that they think will positively impact the world.

What do you do to relax/unwind?

Spending time with my family outdoors in amazing BC.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Create an important vision and recruit and empower awesome people.

10 Questions with Euan Ramsay

What was your first summer job?

Worked in a cake factory.

Is an entrepreneur born or made?

Made.

What is your definition of success?

Contentment.

What other job might you have had?

Professional football (soccer) player.

Name one thing people would be surprised to learn about you.

That I am claiming I could have been a professional football player.

Finish this sentence for us: “Entrepreneurs need a lot more...”

Awards.

What businessperson do you most admire?

Satya Nadella and, although perhaps not fitting the classic definition of "businessperson", Mackenzie Scott.

What do you do to relax/unwind?

Get outdoors and bike, run, hike, camp.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Empower and encourage.

Name an item you typically forget to pack on business trips and regret not bringing.

Can't recall an instance where this happened, so perhaps it is my memory.