John Joyoprayitno, President, CEO, & Co-Founder, Alafair Biosciences, Inc.
In the dynamic landscape of healthcare, true innovation calls for far more than mere proficiency in medical science. To truly make a difference, visionary healthcare leaders must not only drive ground-breaking advancements but also possessthe strategic acumen to navigate the complexities of the industry. With a finger firmly on the pulse of innovation, true healthcare leaders skillfully weave cutting-edge medical breakthroughs into the fabric of patient care to revolutionizehealthcare delivery and outcomes, creating a transformational impact on the lives they touch.Avidly exhibiting such an innovative spirit and a heart for humanity, John Joyoprayitno, the President & CEO and Co-Founder of Alafair Biosciences has emerged as a trailblazing figure in the healthcare industry.
Shortly after earning a bachelor’s degree from University of Texas at Austin, Johnco-founded his first venture, a bicycle and triathlon shopin Austin, Texas in 2003. Remarkably, the shop generated$4 million in sales during its inaugural year, marking the beginning of a series of ground-breaking initiatives. Building on this momentum, John co-founded the iconic Austin Speed Shop, which focuseson customizing pre-1964 American carswith a style reminiscent of pre-World War II through the late 1960s. The business quickly gained a worldwide footprint with numerous television appearances, including a dedicated show on the Discovery Channel, and it became a globally renowned entity in the traditional hot rod and custom car world.Meanwhile, deep within, John felt something was missing. He yearned to utilize his skills to make a meaningful impact on humanity. Along his path, he set up various other enterprises, including a specialized medical device distribution firm focusing on spine and neurosurgical products.
Then came a pivotal moment when John joined forces with his close friend, Daniel Peterson, MD, a full-time neurosurgeon,andSarah Mayes, PhD, co-inventor of the Alafair technology, to establish Alafair Biosciences,initially taking on the role of Chief Operating Officer and later sharing some of the CEO responsibilities.Dr. Peterson had stumbled upon a ground-breaking technology at the University of Texas at Austin. Recognizing John’s affinity for medicine and intention to pursue medical school, Dr. Peterson directed John’s entrepreneurial and operational acumen toward the MedTech sector.This was John’s initial foray into healthcare and MedTech.
Resilience amidst Roadblocks
Just like any thriving business, Alafair encountered numerous obstacles throughout its journey. A major hurdle was determining the best approach to introduce their technology to the market.Initially,they set out to address complex abdominal adhesions, a highly-regulated field requiring substantial resources. In 2012, seeking to expand his knowledge, John enrolled in the Master of Sciences in Technology Commercialization Program at the University of Texas at Austin. At the suggestion of Dr. Peterson,Johnexplored the potential of applying their technology to hand surgery. After several months, they realized that optimizing their product for hand surgery was indeed a viable direction. Alongside Dr. Peterson and Sarah Mayes, Ph.D., Alafair Biosciences underwent a strategic shift toward the hand surgery market.
Raising funds presented an ongoing challenge throughout their early journey.Securing a $2 million investment from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund was a critical milestone. As with all fundraising, there were unexpected delays.At one point, the team was under the impression that the deal was sealed, awaiting only a single signature,sothey started to green-light projects. But this optimism proved costly, as the remaining signature was delayed due to unforeseeable events, forcing the team back to square one. Despite these challenges, the team’s determination remained unshaken, and with the patience and assistance from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund’s staff, they managed to expedite the subsequent submission process and secure funding.
Cultivating a Culture of Excellence
According to John, culture is king. He follows a deliberate hiring process and always strives to lead his team by supporting them and allowing them to work in ways that suit them best. “When someone believes in you,cares about you, and gives you a chance, there is a loyalty that is created that motivates people far beyond money or benefits,” opines John.
At the same time, John isn’t afraid to take swift action when a team member proves detrimental to the positive culture he aims to cultivate. “In previous ventures, I have fallen into the trap of thinking, ‘How will I ever find anyone else that can do X, Y, or Z’. The relief that an organization feels when you cut out someone who is toxic to culture is significant. I have always been shocked at how quickly we find exactly the person we’re looking for once we make room for new. Hire slowly, fire quickly,” he adds.
VersaWrap®’s Role in a Remarkable Recovery
Describing a life-changing event that deeply impacted him, John recalls a chilling episode that transpired several years ago within the precincts of the University of Texas at Austin. The campus turned chaotic as a person with multiple knives went on a stabbing spree and thrust a sizable 16” bowie knife into the back of an ROTC student. While the student managed to extricate the knife himself, his flexor tendons were severed and his hand’s functionality was severely impaired.
Despite surgery, the student’shand began to develop significant amounts of scar tissue,hindering his ability to fully open and close his hand, jeopardizing hisfuture military aspirations.Seeking help, the student approachedthe surgeon, who was well aware of a new product on the horizon—VersaWrap®, created by Alafair.The day that VersaWrap came on the market, the surgeon repaired all four flexor tendons, cleared out the scar tissue and applied VersaWrap. Within 6 weeks, the ROTC student was released from physical therapy with no restrictions, and his hand regained its normal functionality.“He was so thankful! The physical therapist and surgeon said they had never seen a recovery this quickly after an injury so severe. It is the best of feelings knowing that you played a part in helping someone, changing their life forever. At that moment, the 6+ years of hard work to get to this point felt completely worth it,” shares John.
Expanding Horizons and Transforming Healthcare
Alafaircontinues to surge forward, exceeding even its own ambitious projections, and according to John, they’ve only begun to uncover the immense potential that lies ahead.Alafair’s influence now extends across various medical fields such as extremities, spine, urology, and general surgery. Notably, the foot/ankle and spine segments have witnessed remarkable expansion over the past year, a trend that John plans to nurture in the upcoming years.A recent FDA clearance has further empowered Alafair by introducing a gel delivery option for VersaWrap utilizing a syringe. This innovation enables surgeons to easily apply VersaWrap in the most confined tissue spaces.In addition, John is also enthusiastic about and eager to introduce a new pipeline product that is poised to revolutionize theway productsof this class are utilized.
Looking beyond Alafair,John remains opento new opportunities that align with his mission to enhance post-surgical outcomes and patient care. “As I continue to come across those technologies thatwill significantly impact patient outcomes, I will work to bring them to market and nurture them through the difficult early stages of adoption. This is where I can leverage my experience, continue to help patients, and add the most value to healthcare,” concludes John.