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Jason Sharpe is the Co-founder and President of AXS Studio, a company that specializes in biomedical communication using 3D animation and interactive design to explain diseases and treatments. With a background in art and sciences, he and his colleagues create visuals that educate and inspire, serving clients ranging from Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies to biotech startups. Jason developed exhibits and animations to elucidate the mechanisms of actions of pharmaceuticals and played integral roles in educating physicians, investors, and patients. 

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [3:17] Jason Sharpe explains AXS Studio’s role in visually explaining complex biomedical sciences
  • [10:20] Why Jason chose to specialize in the medical niche, marrying art with science
  • [14:47] A milestone project with a TV production that combined storytelling, science, and animation
  • [18:06] The impact of collaborative interactive exhibits on educational experiences
  • [27:13] How AXS Studio’s team management and staffing strategies contribute to their success
  • [31:05] Quality control measures that ensure scientific accuracy and client satisfaction
  • [35:45] A viral project that visualized the development of a chicken embryo from ovum to chick
  • [38:21] Final thoughts on relationships and their vital role in the business world

In this episode…

Isn’t it fascinating to think that every Pixar-like animation has the power to teach us something profound about the world of science? Imagine if you could visualize a disease’s progression or a drug’s mechanism in just a few minutes of engaging video content. How would that transform medical education and patient understanding?

Certified Medical Illustrator Jason Sharpe delves into how art and science converge to produce stunning animations that make the complex world of medical science accessible to professionals and lay audiences alike. He shares the journey that led to the founding of AXS Studio, highlighting the company’s commitment to continuous learning and its niche in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Jason discusses the keys to their success, from maintaining a close-knit culture to smart staff management, networking, and building relationships.

In this episode of Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz interviews Jason Sharpe, Co-founder and President of AXS Studio, about creating visually compelling biomedical communication tools. Jason explains AXS Studio’s role in visually explaining complex biomedical sciences, why the medical niche, the impact of collaborative interactive exhibits on educational experiences, and AXS Studio’s team management and staffing strategies.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Special Mention(s):

Related episode(s):

Quotable Moments:

  • “We use 3D animation and graphics production software to create animations, illustrations, and interactive applications to tell science stories.”
  • “We were lucky, a big milestone came early through a referral, which kicked off our company into a successful trajectory.”
  • “The biggest challenge for us is finding the right talent.”
  • “We grow with purpose and intention.”

Action Steps:

  1. Combine strengths in disparate fields to create a unique service offering. Integrating disciplines can lead to innovative solutions for complex problems, as shown by AXS Studio’s success in making scientific concepts accessible through art.
  2. Utilize the power of referrals to grow your business network. Personal introductions can open doors that may be closed to direct approaches, emphasizing the importance of networking.
  3. Invest in continuous learning and development across your team. Staying abreast of industry developments ensures a company can remain at the forefront of innovation, adding to its credibility and value as AXS Studio does in biomedical communication.
  4. Scale your business carefully to preserve company culture and avoid operational pitfalls. AXS Studio’s deliberate approach to growth has helped them avoid layoffs and maintain a positive work environment.
  5. Employ stringent quality control processes to ensure the accuracy and reliability of your output. In industries like biomedical communication, the precision of information is vital, and having a solid QA system in place can make a significant difference in maintaining customer trust.

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:01 

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz 0:22 

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different Jason Sharpe of AXS, you can check him out at axs3d,com AXS 3d. And Jason before I formally introduce you, I always like to point on other episodes people should check out. I kind of say, Jason doing research. If science and Pixar had a baby, it’d be AXS Studio. And one of the past guests I had the co-founder of Pixar on. And so that’s an interesting episode Alvy Ray Smith talks about get some great George Lucas stories and Steve Jobs stories and kind of just the pathway of Pixar. Super interesting story. Check that out. And also, this is part of the top agency series.

I had Jason Swenk on the podcast, Jason Swenk, built his agency up to eight figures sold it and then had been buying up agencies is an agency group. And that was just interesting. The landscape. valuations in the agency world also Kevin Hourigan of Spinutech, started his agency back in 1995. And just the evolution of his business, career and agency life and the Internet, that was also very interesting episodes. So check that out. And this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream relationships. And how do we do that we actually do that by helping you run your podcast, we’re an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast we do the accountability, the strategy and the flex acumen, Jason, we call ourselves the magic elves that are running around in the background to make it look easy for the hosts, they can create great content, develop amazing relationships, and run their business.

So for me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way than to profile the people and companies I most admire and share the world with are working on. So if you thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, you can go to And I’m excited to introduce Jason Sharpe. He’s a co-founder of AXS3d, And they’re the perfect combination. As I was saying, between art and science, in biomedical communication space, they use 3d animation. So think Pixar, and interactive design to explain how diseases and treatments actually work inside the body. And AXS has worked with some of the biggest pharma companies on the planet. And they work with small startups as well. They help explain their products and technologies to customers and investors. past clients that you can see on their website include Pfizer, Abbott, Bayer, healthcare, Boston Scientific and many, many more. Jason, thanks for joining me.

Jason Sharpe 3:12 

Jeremy, thanks for having me. It’s great to be here. Thanks for that introduction.

Jeremy Weisz 3:17 

I’m gonna pull up my screen. So if you’re listening to the audio only there is a video component to this. And this out of most interviews really lends itself to video. So I’m going to share Jason the website and some of their work as he’s talking, but just tell us about AXS and what you do.

Jason Sharpe 3:38 

Well, I think you gave a really good overview of like the, if Pixar and science had a baby, it would be AXS. We the people at the company are all people who were very inspired by Pixar and animation in general, were people who were artists were the ones who drew in class, often got in trouble for drawing when we’re in class. We’re also very interested in the sciences. And so we studied science in school, and then found a way to merge those two disciplines with this work in the field of Biomedical Communications. So we actually use software to do this work that is very similar to what Pixar uses and Disney uses.

So I’ll often use that explanation to explain to people what we do, and this is something in our field. You know, medical illustrators is a running joke that we cannot explain to people what it is we do. So we do use 3d animation and graphics production software to create animations, illustrations and interactive applications. And we do this primarily for the purpose of explaining science to people and telling science stories. And by telling science stories, what I mean is we for a client who has a particular disease story or drug that they’re working on, explaining to their audience, which is often physicians, how that disease process works in the body, and how the drug works to intervene.

And that usually involves visualizing things at a cellular and molecular level. And so, we’ll do that for professional audiences. But we also do work for patient audience biases. And in that case, we’re taking complex science. And we’re telling it or explaining it in a way that can be understood by somebody without a science background. And what’s common to all of the work we do, regardless of the audience is that we’re using visuals. To do this, we’re using animation, we’re using images, because we know that people learn and understand things visually, because we’re visual creatures. We can tell a lot in a two-minute animation, we can explain a lot and leave an impression that would be very difficult to do in two minutes of reading, for example.

Jeremy Weisz 6:20 

Not only difficult but not understandable. Even if you read it, there’s no way like to visualize it really, at least for me, really solidify his understanding of it. Yeah, for sure. And if you’re looking at it, we can kind of see some of the work as we’re looking at this. Jason, what’s some of the use cases? Right? So I can see use cases like a draw, they’re coming out of the drug commercial, and they need to explain very quickly and easily what something’s doing, like what a drug is doing or interactions. What are the use cases that you’ve seen that are that are common?

Jason Sharpe 7:04 

Yeah. So I’d say the most common use case that we’re involved in is explaining to specialists new information about disease pathways. So it in which our client is developing a new drug, or several new drugs, so it might be a particular pathway in cancer. And when I say a pathway, I’m talking about how molecules interact in a cell, making things go bad, when their research turns up new information on that they want to educate the medical community about it. So that they are primed for when they have a therapy that is ready to address it. They understand the science, they understand the rationale for that therapeutic mechanism.

Jeremy Weisz 8:00 

Let’s take this, is this an example of that? We’re looking at, I’m not sure if that is but…

Jason Sharpe 8:06 

This was an interesting example, because that’s actually tumor growth. And this was a video actually, that was used in an FDA submission for a drug that was being reviewed. And so it was used to explain this to the panel reviewers, which had not only professionals had scientists on the audience, but it also had representatives of the public. So it was used to explain how that, what molecules were involved in the progression of that disease. And then how the therapeutic molecule intervened to stop the cancer. Another one you just scrolled by earlier, there are a bunch of chromosomes there. So that’s a startup. Yeah, well, that’s a drug that blocks the formation of microtubules, or the skeleton that forms the structure of our cells. And that’s actually one way of killing cancer cells.

But other examples would be for companies with, let’s say, a new diagnostic company that is looking to raise awareness and quite often raise investment capital. And they need to explain what it is actually, their technology does. And so it’s sometimes these technologies are quite difficult to explain to a lay audience, and often the investors that are investing in biotech, they’ve got a base level knowledge of science, but being able to show them exactly what the approach is, how it works and why it works can make the difference between a yes and a no.

Jeremy Weisz 8:06 

A light bulb has to go on. And I mean, significant dollars are on the line here in many respects whether it’s a consumer or investor, I mean pharmaceutical company, I mean, huge dollars just to get it passed through all the stages, let alone out to the public. So yeah, investing in a video that actually explains it succinctly is probably one of the best investments I can make, I imagine. I want to talk about niche for a second, okay, because with you and your team skill sets, you can do almost anything. But you chose to go this medical route, right? Because I could see lots of applications for what you do in TV and movies and technology. How did the medical niche start? And this is like, for any agency, that thing of what niche do I choose? Do I even choose a niche? How medical find you?

Jason Sharpe 10:20 

Yeah, you’re exactly right. I mean, these skills, his talents are applicable to different industries, for sure. And before I got into this, I was working in kind of general consumer advertising, doing art direction before I was trained as a medical animator. So certainly they can I think what drew us to medicine is just a real deep interest in the subject matter and the science. It’s that and the people who get drawn into this field are people who, like lifelong learning, and our kind of science provides that opportunity.

There’s never a moment when there isn’t something new that we’re learning, and the landscape in Medical Science and Medical Research changes. It’s changing daily. And so it’s fascinating, and being able to be part of explaining that to people allows us to learn and stay up or keep up with what’s happening. So I think it’s just its interest level. And we’re all, speak for my cell phone speak for my company a little bit, I’d say we’re all kind of science nerds.

Jeremy Weisz 12:24 

When you originally started the company, were you thinking, yes, we’re doing the medical space or you’re right off the bat.

Jason Sharpe 12:33 

Yeah. So in the reason, we have a lot of people get into this field, coming out of other areas. And so I actually had a job in advertising, I quit my job. And I went back to school, and I did a master’s at the University of Toronto. So did my two business partners. One of them Sonya, she was a research scientist at UFT. She was working in a lab. And Eddy, he was in visual effects 3d animation, working with a Shanghai TV station, and subsequently worked with animation companies. And so they had done other things. And they stumbled upon this as I had, and went, Wow, this is amazing.

So we happen to go to the same program in Toronto, there are four other programs in North America, five and total that including Toronto that are accredited, that teach Biomedical Communications or some call it medical illustration. And so you come out of this with specialized training in science, communication, and digital art production, whether that’s illustration, animation, or interactive production. So yeah, we came into it very intentionally working in the medical field. And we chose to work to focus on pharma and biotech medical devices, because the work that interests us is 3d animation. And that is expensive, time-consuming work. And those are the companies with the products and the budgets that call for that kind of work.

Jeremy Weisz 14:14 

What’s a major milestone from a start the company, I love to hear the evolution of the staff and the hiring. So it sounds like three of you start the company? What was the first major milestone from a client perspective, because some of these, if you can’t name names, that’s fine. But some of these, it’s not easy to just get into a pharmaceutical company, right? I mean, they probably have a lot of procedures and protocols is a big organization. What was a major milestone from like a client standpoint in your evolution?

Jason Sharpe 14:47 

You’re right. It is very hard to get into pharma companies, particularly the bigger the harder. I’d say the well, we were lucky and that a big milestone came early in through a referral, we were referred to a TV production that was being shot in Toronto called Regenesis. It was a biotech drama that had a good run it ran internationally ran four seasons, they brought us in at season two after having some difficulty with the visual effects in the first season because they didn’t have science expertise. They had a world-renowned scientist advising the show, but they didn’t have digital team that could visualize what he was talking about. We showed them our work.

Jeremy Weisz 15:32 

Like we needed an interpreter. We don’t know what this guy is talking about.

Jason Sharpe 15:35 

This was like a year or two, I don’t remember exactly into, into our company. And so we jumped in, and we wound up doing three seasons. And it was producing for TV, it was a pretty quick turnaround. Every week, we were producing a lot of material. And it was really cool. It was stuff that was ripped from the headlines, the plots, it was all biotech bioterrorism, and we would visualize, the scientists would start talking. And we would zoom in, or they would have a call out and we’d show exactly what they’re talking about whether it was a DNA, or a virus or some kind of parasite. And that was really fun, because we got to do a really lot of interesting visualizations.

And then Dr. Elliott Edwards, who is the world renowned scientists, I mentioned, he was the scientific adviser. And so every piece that we worked on from storyboard to rough cut to final, he reviewed and advice so we knew we were getting really kind of top-notch advice. And that was very gratifying. And that kind of gave us a kickstart because we had a fantastic portfolio. And we gained a lot of valuable experience. And from that we went on to do, we’ve done a number of documentaries, we worked on a movie with Adrian Brody and Sarah Polly called Splice, where we were doing the same kind of thing visualizing what the scientists were talking about. That was Vincenzo Natalie movie.

Yeah. So that was the kickstart, I’d say after that are kind of first Big Pharma gig, which really turned into a long, long-standing relationship with a lot of work, again, came through an introduction. As you know, I know you’re always touting relationships and the importance of them. That’s how it happens. Like, I can’t go and knock on the door of Pfizer and say, hi, can I show you my portfolio and we’d love to work for you. It’s all through introductions. And that’s why it’s so important to network and keep in touch with people.

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