Oct. 27, 2022

Entrepreneurial doctor and team aim to be global leaders in antimicrobial research

2022 Top 40 Under 40: Dr. Ali Pormohammad, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Ali Pormohammad
Ali Pormohammad Avenue Magazine

In just three years, Dr. Ali Pormohammad, PhD — who came to Canada from Iran in 2019 to further his postdoc studies in antimicrobial research — has not only learned English, but has had his research appear in 50 publications, won numerous awards and scholarships, and, most recently, formed MHCombiotic Inc., along with colleagues. The hope behind this startup is to bring antibacterial and antibiofilm products to health-care, veterinary and agriculture industries where antimicrobial resistance is a growing problem. Drug-resistant infections were directly responsible for 1.27 million deaths worldwide in 2019 and associated with another 5 million deaths that year. Not content to stop there, Pormohammad, 33, and his team aims to scale-up the company into a global leader in antibiotics.

As a postdoc, have you worked with any professors who were extraordinary?

I admire, of course, my postdoc supervisor, Prof. Turner. He is not only one of the best scientists I have ever met, but also one of the finest humans — ever. I continue to learn a lot from him.  

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?

I don’t think I have one magnificent highlight in my career. Yet. I’m just learning and so I have a long way to go. However, as an immigrant who came to Canada in 2019, I’ve had to deal with lots of problems such as learning how to speak English and not knowing anyone — no one — in Canada. To win some of the postdoc awards that I have, as well as this Top 40 Under 40 honour, is a huge achievement for me and none of this would have happened without Prof. Turner’s support, as well as the other positive people who are now around me.

What is the most satisfying thing about your current work?

To have 100-per cent trust and support by my supervisor is the most delightful thing about my job.

Who are your biggest heroes?

My dad and Prof. Turner.

What are your biggest regrets?

I should have come to Canada sooner.

Any advice for students or new grads?

I know everyone has lots of concerns. But I try to think that life without problems is like food without spices. Keep working hard and be patient; you will solve all the problems.  

How do you define an entrepreneur?

Someone on a challenging, but ultimately rewarding path.

Can you take me through one of your proudest a-ha! moments?

Tackling my problems in Canada as a newcomer. I had a good life back home in Iran, but I came to Canada for a better one, but it wasn’t easy . . . it wasn’t, as you say here, a walk in the park. I remember walking to work at 7 a.m. in -10℃ all winter long. Then I’d walk home at 5 p.m. and then, because I didn’t have an income, I would work part-time at a restaurant from 6 p.m. until midnight. I had so many other problems that first year . . . and that was before COVID!

With files from Avenue Magazine.

Meet the entire 2022 cohort of Top 40 Under 40 honourees at Avenue Magazine.