Ahmed Mousa’s career path is far from typical. He’s stepping into the role of CEO at Vicore after seven years with Pieris Pharmaceuticals, where he saw the team grow significantly. At Vicore, he’s leading efforts to develop groundbreaking drugs for respiratory diseases, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, aiming to transform patient prognosis.
In a recent interview with BioSpace, Mousa shared how his early fascination with “The West Wing” and molecular biology paved the way for his current role and shaped his unique journey.
Q: Did anyone in your family or community work in healthcare or pharmaceuticals while you were growing up?
A: Both of my parents have deep roots in healthcare. My mom is a pharmacist, my dad is a pharmacology professor, and my sister is a physician. Additionally, I have relatives working in various healthcare roles. Science and healthcare were integral parts of my upbringing.
Q: What was your educational experience like, and what motivated you to pursue law and biology simultaneously?
A: I’ve always been incredibly curious and passionate about both science and politics. Shows like “The West Wing” fueled my interest in politics. When I went to Cornell for undergrad, I decided to dive deep into both molecular biology and political science, even though they had no overlap. This diverse education allowed me to think differently and broaden my perspective.
Q: How did your educational journey influence your career choices?
A: My passion for the sciences remained strong, but I became concerned about limited impact in a lab setting. This led me to law school to understand the business and legal aspects of drug discovery and development. I also worked on healthcare-related issues in the Senate. While working at law firms on intellectual property cases was a great foundation, I knew I wanted to be more directly involved in drug development.
Q: Can you recall a moment when you realized you were in the wrong role and needed to pivot?
A: I spent a significant time in IP litigation, which I was good at, but I eventually realized it wasn’t where my long-term passion lay. While it was enjoyable to blend scientific concepts with legal arguments, I knew my true calling was in developing innovative drugs.
Q: What’s a significant failure in your career that taught you a valuable lesson?
A: While leading therapeutic program advancement at Pieris, I faced the challenge of managing a team mostly based in Munich while I was in Boston. Initially, travel helped, but with COVID restrictions, I struggled to stay connected. I learned the importance of in-person interactions and how they influence team dynamics and communication.
Q: What do you consider the most pressing challenge in the biotech industry today?
A: Despite exciting science and unmet patient needs, there’s a challenge in sustaining enthusiasm and investment in drug development. After the initial post-COVID excitement, investment has waned, posing a risk to our industry. Developing new drugs is costly, time-consuming, and risky, so maintaining support is crucial.
Ahmed Mousa’s journey from a fascination with politics and science to leading Vicore highlights the importance of diverse experiences and an unwavering commitment to innovation in the biotech world.