Principal CEO of Cell Biopeutics Resources & Co-founder of The Joke Factory
Stepping into the room armed with a Duchenne smile, Dr Jezamine Lim Iskander is a self-professed people person with the unique ability to pull you into her pace. Without airs and graces, this driven personality lives by the philosophy of her hero Oprah Winfrey – you are responsible for your life. Doing the best at this moment, puts you in the best place for the next moment.
A graduate of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia with a PhD in stem cells and tissue engineering, Jezamine shares that she was surprised to learn that she was the first female doctorate candidate in the field. But this determined mother of three was not satisfied to set a precedent without having more to show for it. “If you stop your work after six years and think your job is just to publish a journal and graduate with no follow up, it’s going to be a complete waste of time and money.” Being passionate about wanting to see research in healthcare sciences has a real-world impact, she acknowledges, “there has to be a change of mindset in young scientists and researchers that are coming out.”
Jezamine’s strong views led her down the path of using her own medical and research experience to establish Cell Biopeutics Resources (CBR), a centralised and comprehensive hub for accessing global stem cell therapies on the market. “We will pioneer the frontier of producing, manufacturing and commercialising stem cell-related therapies or products upon successful completion of clinical trials,” she says. CBR aims to deliver mesenchymal stem cell derived treatment options for unmet medical needs such as regenerative diseases and anti-ageing therapeutic therapies.
Proud of her effort, Jezamine puts into layman’s terms the aesthetic revolution of Cutisera, an anti-ageing skincare product commercialised by her company. “When they (researchers) culture cells, they have a medium. We usually discard this medium,” she says referring to the waste material of cultured human bone marrow stem cells. “These researchers collected this medium and found it contains proteins, growth factors, and something called cytokines in it which are good for your skin.” The first cellular product that’s been approved in
Malaysia, Cutisera is said to enhance ageing skin by reducing fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots, evening skin tone while improving skin firmness and hydration. Currently sold out worldwide, she is working closely with the biotech company that developed Cutisera to develop a full range of products including cleanser, moisturiser and anti- ageing serum to be released in late September, barring obstacles.
But beauty is only skin-deep, and Jezamine’s aspirations have always been to make a far more meaningful contribution to society. “I wanted to make a difference in the medical world. I want to serve but there are many ways to do it,” She says she hopes CBR and its collaborative partner will soon be able to proceed to conduct phase 4 clinical trials in Malaysia for the treatment of chronic limb ischaemia due to Buerger’s disease. A type of vasculitis that results in inflammation of small- and medium-sized arteries and veins in hands and feet, the narrowing of these blood vessels can result in damaged skin tissue, and in severe cases lead to gangrene that requires amputation.
“I think that (giving patients hope) keeps me going,” Jezamine reflects as she points out that money does not drive her motivation. Aware of the enticement of greed in a billion-dollar industry, she has this piece of wisdom to share, “It’s essential to have people surrounding you whose ideals match yours. I would emphasise, only work with people with the same level of integrity, honesty and with strong moral principles. Forming a solid team with an aligned vision is important.”
Not only is Jezamine invested in her business, but she also continues to serve as managing director of Harith Iskander’s V Day Productions as well as being the co-founder of The Joke Factory, a comedy club that has been operating in Publika Shopping Gallery since August 2018. Divulging that the path forward is not easy, Jezamine looks to the UK and US with respect for their established stand-up comedy culture and compares it to Malaysia. “It’s a new culture we’re starting and it’s a very niche business, and I think I’m driven towards businesses like this.” She confesses to being drawn to the challenge, adding that, “if it’s not going to be challenging, I’m going to get bored.”
It’s a new culture we’re starting and it’s a very niche business, and I think I’m driven towards businesses like this. If it’s not going to be challenging, I’m going to get bored.Dr. Jezamine Lim Iskander
A woman wearing many hats, Jezamine is steadfast when she says “my main role here is as a mother. It keeps me composed and grounded. At the end of the day, the reason why we do what we do is because of the children.” Mother to Zander Xayne Iskander, seven; Alessandrea Jayne Iskander, six; and Zydane Xayne Iskander, four, Jezamine is adamant about not letting her businesses interfere with giving her children a nurturing and supportive home to thrive in. “I’ve not used the word ‘busy’ with them,” she describes wanting her children to know that they have a parent who will always be accessible to them.
She presents a united front with her supportive husband, ensuring that schedules are arranged to allow time to sit down with the children after school to do homework and discuss their experiences. “I want to know what’s happening in their lives, especially in school!” she exclaims, having recently learned of her eldest son’s growing interest in girls and emerging curiosity over where children come from. “When he throws questions like these at me, I say go and ask daddy,” she laughs, before quoting her son’s response, “Daddy said you are the science person; I should ask you!” While masterful in side- stepping the topic, she is still pleased to engage in dialogue with her children, to offer them guidance as they are exposed to new ideas and peer pressure.
“I think bringing them up in an old-school way is very important,” Jezamine comments, detailing the responsibility her children have in packing their own schoolbags and learning to clean up after themselves.
Characterising herself as a strict, disciplined woman, Jezamine describes her mother raising her without a sense of being limited by her gender. Enrolled in Taekwondo, she grew up participating in tournaments as a 10-year-old, she reminisces “It didn’t once hit me at that age, ‘oh, I’m the only girl here’,” Valuing that mindset, Jezamine is actively raising her daughter to chase after her dreams without inhibition. “I realised in the world out there, we do separate ourselves based on gender,” she goes on. “It starts from home, we will need to teach them at a very young age,” the power to free themselves from binary thinking is in their own hands.