Bader Khraibut, MD, admits that “Starting a company was not a lifelong dream.” But in December 2021 – shortly after beginning his pursuit of a master’s degree in public health (Health Care Management) at the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) – that’s exactly what he did.
The American-born Kuwaiti citizen co-founded New Haven-based Prophema Applied Research, a contract research organization (CRO), with Rijul Puri, MD, a Canadian physician and regulatory affairs expert with years of experience successfully bringing cutting-edge drugs and medical devices to international markets.
Prophema conducts full life-cycle drug and medical device development for the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. The company also operates as a life sciences general practice, providing concept-to-claim scientific and regulatory support to companies not only for drugs and devices, but also dietary supplements, cosmetics, animal feed, pharmaceutical facility design, food safety, certifications, and training.
Their goal, he said, is to combine data science and technology driven by artificial intelligence to deliver predictive analytics and meaningful results – to democratize pharmaceutical and medical device development and streamline the process to make it more accessible to researchers, clinicians, patients, and industry.
“We democratize drug development by using proprietary clinical trial software that allows for real-time streaming and data collection from patients located across the world,” Khraibut explained. “Most medical centers cannot participate in clinical trials because they need to be located near CROs or institutions, and data has to be manually entered with patient visits. Our proprietary software allows any medical clinic to participate in drug development and become a clinical trial site. Companies often struggle to enroll diverse populations in clinical trials because trial sites may be inaccessible to underrepresented populations. Our software addresses these issues.”
And artificial intelligence plays a huge role in the services Prophema provides.
“AI-enabled study design helps us optimize and accelerate the creation of patient-centric trial designs,” Khraibut said. “It helps to reduce patient burden, decrease the number of amendments, increase the likelihood of trial success, and improve overall efficiencies. When applied to clinical data, it helps illuminate complex relationships between different data points and gives us predictive capacity when designing pharmaceutical candidates and conducting trials.”
Khraibut said that he and Puri were inspired to launch the company after being disturbed by some of the business practices they saw during the midst of the pandemic.
“We started Prophema in response to the unethical price gouging that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic by CROs which were charging exorbitant fees for the development and approvals of essential and lifesaving medications and devices for vulnerable patient populations,” he explained. “Prophema’s mission was also to combat special-interest groups who lobby governments to maintain corporate monopolies on essential medications and devices.”
Co-founding Prophema is just the latest in a chain of pandemic-related events that led Khraibut to journey halfway around the globe – from his country’s Center for Disease Control to New Haven and YSPH.
Previously working as a general practitioner at the Ministry of Health in Kuwait, Khraibut joined the Public Health Administration of Kuwait a little over a month before the outbreak of COVID-19. In the early days of the pandemic, he was responsible for liaising with counterparts internationally and creating recommendations on successful public health strategies.
“We collected a great deal of data on symptoms, attitude towards vaccination, and thousands of swab samples collected door to door in key neighborhoods through our mobile surveillance units at the Kuwait CDC,” he said. “We created recommendations that we presented to the minister of health and the prime minister to guide policymaking during the pandemic.”
Khraibut said the experience thrust him into the world of public health and showed him that solving health problems on a national scale was rewarding.
“I particularly enjoyed watching the effect of my work positively impact the population,” he said. “This is when I decided to seek higher education and training in public health that would develop me into a better leader in the health care space, and I was fortunate enough to win a full scholarship to Yale. And Yale is simply the best.”
Having seen firsthand the effects of robust public health policy in Kuwait’s response to the pandemic, and having started a health care business, Khraibut came to YSPH with an interest in health care management.
“The Yale School of Public Health is renowned for its quality of education,” he said. “The health care management program has an excellent balance of both health and business courses, with courses like Narratives in Health Media and the Social Internet, Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship and Managing Social Enterprises. These courses highlight the innovative and forward-thinking curriculum that creates alumni who are able to adapt and respond to changing environments.”
Khraibut hopes his MPH in health care management will allow him to develop specialized skills that he can apply in areas such as medicine, entrepreneurship, management, and policy. He also hopes to learn how to best streamline technologies to make cost-effective access to health care available to as many people as possible.
Khraibut found support and guidance for his entrepreneurial ideas at InnovateHealth Yale at YSPH. InnovateHealth supports the creation of innovative solutions to challenges in public health and education for underserved communities in the United States and low-resource countries.
“He came in with a lot of background expertise already,” said Fatema Basrai, director of innovation at InnovateHealth Yale. “InnovateHealth Yale supports students at all stages of their ventures – from early-stage seed funding to help finding interns and staff. We’re also part of a great entrepreneurial ecosystem that shares resources including mentors, access to funding, and more. In my role as director of innovation for InnovateHealth Yale and innovation manager for the Sustainable Health Initiative, I spend time cultivating relationships with entrepreneurs and organizations doing work in the public health innovation space and finding ways to help them amplify their impact.”
Khraibut said he has been impressed by the faculty at YSPH. He said Dr. Howard Forman, in particular, has been “a great mentor and advisor to me during my time at Yale.” Forman is a Yale professor of radiology and biomedical imaging, public health (health policy), management and economics. Khraibut also praised Forman’s health care colloquiums, where he and his fellow students can meet and network with Yale alumni who are leaders in the healthcare space. “These collaborative efforts have provided a growth platform for Prophema Applied Research,” he said.
In turn, Khraibut has left an impression on his professors.
“I was struck by Bader's depth of knowledge, a key component to his building a successful enterprise,” said Robert Makuch, professor of biostatistics and director of the regulatory affairs track at YSPH. “More importantly, his enthusiasm was contagious; this led to lengthy in-depth discussions about his areas of interest and best ways to proceed. I am convinced that his entrepreneurial spirit and expansive knowledge base will enhance the public's health.”