With a life-long background dedicated to helping others and a keen eye for business, Mohammad Millwala has long been destined for an entrepreneurial career in the healthcare industry. Mohammad Millwala, CEO & Founder of DM Clinical Research, has positioned the company to become the nation’s premier independent research network.
Over the last two years, the Houston-based company has opened research sites in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia, with more on the way in 2023. During the same time, the company’s staff size has quadrupled from 87 to 541.
DM Clinical Research, which currently operates 13 dedicated study sites nationally, has also been recognized for its commitment to quality research and patient care. The company earned the World Vaccine Congress 2023 Best Clinical Trial Network Award and the 2022 Society for Clinical Research Sites (SCRS) Excellence in Patient Centricity Award.
“We expect this transformational growth trajectory to continue for the foreseeable future,” said Millwala. “We are on the road to becoming the leading independent clinical research network in the nation. At the same, we remain committed to unequaled quality service to both DM Clinical Research patients and our research partners in the biopharma industry.”
Recent successes aside, Millwala has faced more than his share of challenges starting back in 1995 when, on his third day in the U.S., he was mugged on the streets of Washington, D.C. It was a rude introduction to America for the then-21-year-old college student from Pakistan.
“I only had $2 in my wallet, and the thieves were more than welcome to the cash, but they knocked me on the ground before I had a chance to hand it over,” Millwala said.
“I was laying on the ground seeing stars for 15 or 20 minutes. I never told my parents because they would have told me to go home to Pakistan immediately.
I instead leaned on my sister, who was living in Chicago at the time, and I recovered rather quickly. It was an important lesson that has served me well in business. When in doubt, turn to your family for support. Family support is what really matters. We marched forward; we survived.”
Millwala went on to earn a B.S. in Marketing at Southeastern University and an MBA at Northeastern Illinois University. He also earned his CPA and worked in national and regional accounting firms. After moving to Houston, Millwala left the accounting industry in 2002 to help manage his in-laws’ home healthcare business.
“My four years with the home healthcare business were pivotal for me because it really gave me a sense of how to build companies,” Millwala said.
“Shortly afterward I was introduced to the clinical research industry by a colleague and I started DM Clinical Research in 2006. For the first couple of years, I was drowning.
We were struggling to say the least. I thought about giving up the business and returning to accounting, but, as a mentor once taught me, life is a marathon, not a sprint.
My family has been very supportive since day one and they were pivotal in the decision to keep going through the hard times. One thing I have learned is perseverance and persistence is essential.”
DM Clinical Research continued to face challenges, but in 2008 Millwala realized why he was putting his family through the peaks and valleys of starting a business.
Millwala’s three-day-old nephew became ill and was hospitalized and he was forced to watch as his newest family member’s life hung in the balance. Witnessing first-hand the real-world impact of clinical research and healthcare drove Millwala’s ’s goals to new heights.
“The experience just gave me a sense of purpose; DM was never a business after that,” he said. “There was a mission.”
In the early days of the business, Millwala had applied a strategy of embedded sites where research programs were embedded in select physician practices.
The company had programs in 11 physician practices in 2012, when he realized the strategy resulted in operational inefficiencies that needed to be addressed. Millwala received some sage advice from another very important mentor, Christine Pierre, the late Founder and President of SCRS.
“Christine told me to stop growing wide and to grow deep, and, of course, she was right,” Millwala said.
DM Clinical Research pivoted to a dedicated site model where the company could focus on expanding its research programs. The company consolidated operations to six dedicated sites in the Houston area and eventually expanded to seven with the 2016 acquisition of the Texas Center for Drug Development.
“From the beginning, I was never interested in a mom and pop shop,” Millwala said.
“From my family background in business, I always wanted to create something that was meaningful, that was noticeable, that contributes, that has a say in the industry. We started to build the team and infrastructure to make that happen. I surrounded myself with people that were smarter than myself so I could get ideas from intelligent people in guiding DM Clinical Research so we could build together.”
COVID-19 was a business boom for many in the healthcare industry, but Mohammad was determined to make the pandemic a transformational experience for DM Clinical Research. The company enrolled thousands of patients in COVID-19 vaccine trials, including the pivotal Moderna and Pfizer studies.
“The management team and I discussed the fact that COVID-19 presented the opportunity of a lifetime,” Millwala said.
“A pandemic happens every 100 years, but what are we going to do with it? I didn’t want to use it as a spike and succeed financially for the two years and have it go away. I wanted to make sure that we changed the organization by making a difference in our community.”
DM Clinical Research has focused its recent expansion on cities with highly diverse communities. While many study sites struggle to ensure diversity, roughly 50 percent of DM patients enrolled in their studies identify as diverse. The company’s leadership team and employees are also extremely diverse, with roughly 75 percent of the team identifying as diverse.
“We are committed to making participation in clinical trials accessible to a broader, more diverse population base,” Millwala said. “The entrepreneurs of the future need to identify their mission early and revisit it often. At DM Clinical Research, we work to fulfill our mission every day.”
To learn more about DM Clinical Research, please visit www.dmclinical.com
If you would like to get in touch with Mohammad Millwala or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page