This self-taught for­mu­la­tor and reg­u­la­to­ry expert grew Turn Ther­a­peu­tics into a dis­rup­tive enter­prise with noth­ing but a cred­it line, Google and the FDA help desk.

4 min read

Opin­ions expressed by Entre­pre­neur con­trib­u­tors are their own.

In this series called Mem­ber Show­case, we pub­lish inter­views with mem­bers of The Ora­cles. This inter­view is with Bradley Bur­nam, founder and CEO of Turn Ther­a­peu­tics, which is on a mis­sion to ren­der dis­ease obso­lete. It was con­densed by The Ora­cles.

Who are you?

Bradley Bur­nam: I am a heal­er and a teacher; my com­pa­ny is both my lab­o­ra­to­ry and class­room. My father was a physi­cian. Grow­ing up, I was inspired by his abil­i­ty to heal peo­ple with his knowl­edge. Although I have some regrets over not becom­ing a doc­tor, my cho­sen path has per­mit­ted me to heal thou­sands of peo­ple via my orga­ni­za­tion and prod­ucts. What began as a jour­ney to cure myself has become a relent­less pur­suit of ren­der­ing as many dis­eases obso­lete as time and cap­i­tal per­mits.

Share an inter­est­ing fact about your­self that not many peo­ple would know.

Bradley Bur­nam: I’m entire­ly self-edu­cat­ed in chem­istry, reg­u­la­to­ry issues, and busi­ness — you could say I got my MBA the hard way. I was a human­i­ties major at UCLA and then earned my master’s degree in edu­ca­tion at Stan­ford. I nev­er took a sin­gle col­lege-lev­el chem­istry class. How­ev­er, my lack of for­mal train­ing became my great­est asset; I did not know what the experts had deemed “impos­si­ble,” which gave me the free­dom to exper­i­ment with­out expect­ing fail­ure.

How did your busi­ness get start­ed?

Bradley Bur­nam: Turn Ther­a­peu­tics birthed from my own health cri­sis. I acquired a severe, drug-resis­tant skin infec­tion while mak­ing hos­pi­tal rounds as a med­ical device sales­per­son, requir­ing over a dozen recon­struc­tive surg­eries over sev­er­al years. With all the advances in mod­ern med­i­cine, I was exas­per­at­ed that noth­ing could heal me.

So, I endeav­ored to devel­op my own cure, turn­ing my home into a research and devel­op­ment (R&D) lab in the process. I con­duct­ed and self-fund­ed our first two suc­cess­ful FDA clear­ances with noth­ing but a cred­it line, Google, and the FDA help desk. Then, I flew near­ly one mil­lion miles as a one-man sales­force to gen­er­ate demand. I de-risked our busi­ness before ever seek­ing out­side invest­ment.

What’s your favorite quote?

Bradley Bur­nam: The diplo­mat James Bryce said, “Med­i­cine, the only pro­fes­sion that labors inces­sant­ly to destroy the rea­son for its exis­tence.” This is how I run my com­pa­ny: We should seek inces­sant­ly to destroy the dis­eases and the rea­sons for peo­ple need­ing our prod­ucts.

What was your biggest, most painful fail­ure?

Bradley Bur­nam: When start­ing out as a naive entre­pre­neur, I impul­sive­ly signed a con­tract with a “Trust me, we’ll just amend it lat­er” pitch. I learned that con­tracts are writ­ten for busi­ness divorces, not busi­ness mar­riages — and I need­ed to sur­round myself with peo­ple who bal­ance my occa­sion­al­ly delu­sion­al opti­mism.

How do you define great lead­er­ship?

Bradley Bur­nam: Be equal­ly aware of your short­com­ings and strengths; sur­round your­self with peo­ple who bal­ance your short­com­ings while focus­ing your ener­gy on per­fect­ing your strengths. Hire for char­ac­ter over cre­den­tials.

How do you eval­u­ate a good busi­ness deal?

Bradley Bur­nam: I need to see an obses­sive founder or part­ner with sim­i­lar val­ues, an exe­cutable plan, and cap­i­tal effi­cien­cy. I can­not deal with inef­fi­cien­cies that ulti­mate­ly get passed down to con­sumers via high­er prices.

Which sin­gle habit gives you 80% of your results?

Bradley Bur­nam: My lack of for­mal train­ing pre­sent­ed a cred­i­bil­i­ty issue when I was start­ing in busi­ness. I over­came this by cre­at­ing safe, effec­tive prod­ucts and obtain­ing the req­ui­site reg­u­la­to­ry approvals myself. I did the work that nobody thought I could do, then offered a piece of the results to investors after the risk of reach­ing the mar­ket was gone, not before.

The les­son? Focus your endeav­ors on what you love and why you love it, and don’t let any lack of for­mal train­ing stop you. Pick up a book to learn the skills you need. Being relent­less and resilient has giv­en me 80% of my results.

What are you work­ing on right now?

Bradley Bur­nam: We have tran­si­tioned from start-up to stay-up, and major phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal exec­u­tives are join­ing our mis­sion. We recent­ly closed our Series B fund­ing and have com­menced large-scale clin­i­cal tri­als, includ­ing one for our FDA-cleared eczema for­mu­la. We have also recent­ly joint ven­tured with one of the world’s largest cos­met­ic com­pa­nies to clean up nail salons by upgrad­ing pro­fes­sion­al-use prod­ucts to pre­vent infec­tion dur­ing man­i­cures and pedi­cures.

What do you want to be known for, or what do you want your lega­cy to be?

Bradley Bur­nam: The founder who remind­ed every­one that there is nobil­i­ty left in phar­ma.

Con­nect with Bradley on LinkedIn, and learn more about Turn Ther­a­peu­tics here.

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