Skip to content

Founder Friday: Irfan Khan, Circuit Clinical


The development of new medicines doesn’t just happen in the lab – a pharmaceutical company needs the help of participants to assess a drug’s effectiveness and potential side effects. But how likely is someone to trust the safety of a clinical study if they’re not hearing about it directly through their doctor?

Irfan Khan, a practicing cardiologist, realized that many patients didn’t want to sign up for clinical studies without a seal of approval from their physician. He decided it was time to improve the patient experience in clinical trials and founded Circuit Clinical, a startup that connects pharmaceutical companies with doctors to recruit the right patients for their studies.

Circuit Clinical maintains a list of current studies and the types of patients needed, shares that information with physicians, helps identify potential participants, and manages the data collected as a result of the study. This ensures that patients are comfortable participating in the first place (because of their doctor’s direct involvement), and that they’re safe throughout and after the trial.

Learn more about Irfan Khan and how Circuit Clinical is improving the care in healthcare in today’s Founder Friday!

How did your startup, well, start up?

We began with an observation from my days practicing cardiology – that people who make the development of medicines possible by participating in clinical research don’t have a very satisfying experience, and that there were ways to improve it using technology and by bringing to places where it was more convenient and meaningful for them.

What do you do? Your startup?

I serve as the Chief Strategy Officer for Circuit Clinical (Circuit). We are focused on bringing the promise of clinical research to people where they get their healthcare and transforming the participant experience.

When was the ‘aha’ moment for your startup when you realized this could actually work?

The first time we asked representatives of a pharmaceutical company if they would try our model of doing a clinical research study in a physician practice that had never done research before they said, “Yes, but will the Doc do it?” The doctor in question had replied the day before, “Of course I’m interested, but do you think the company would be?” That mirrored mutual interest between the stakeholders suggested there was an opportunity to build something important.

What has been the biggest accomplishment for your startup to-date?

The fact that our amazing physician partners and health systems trust us with their patients is at the top of the list. Our doctors and their patients are really what make Circuit something unique in the industry. They continually make us better with their value-focused feedback, and keep us working hard on how to truly innovate in a very conservative industry.

Goals for the next year? Three years?

This year, we want to start the work of creating a clinical research economy for all of New York State while we continue to grow at home. We’ll need the right partners to make it happen – but things look good.

Over 3 years, we should become one of the largest health care provider-based networks in the country and the only one built on a proprietary data platform. That will make us a very interesting company and one that can deliver on WNY’s collective potential.

Why Buffalo?

It’s home – and before it was home, it was the next best thing (I’m from Toronto originally, and I left my training in Cleveland looking for a way to get closer to my family). Now – 3 kids and 12 years later, and having gotten to play a small part in the Buffalo Renaissance – it’s hard to imagine it working out any better than it did.

How do you do it? What drives you?

Medicine is a great career – I recommend it to every college student who asks my opinion. Its only drawback is that the impact is linear – you can only help one patient at a time. What’s motivating about what our team is building at Circuit is that its impact can scale. We have the inside track as innovators who can transform where and how clinical research is performed. Doing that will help lower the cost of drug development and will meaningfully improve the participant experience.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Noramay Cadena, the brilliant founder of Make in LA, said it better than I ever could: “First, be stubborn on vision, but flexible on journey.”

How can you argue with someone with 3 degrees from MIT? I think it’s important to have something meaningful you’re trying to do – but I think it’s as important to understand no one gets there alone. Long before revenue or traction, you will be judged solely by the company you keep and your effectiveness at getting great people – who could work anywhere – to choose to join you on the journey. The people you’ll want, the people who will take the company places you’d never have conceived, will want to work beside someone who trusts them with the game plan.

Tags: Founder Friday

More blog posts

Charging Ahead: Jane Chen’s Electrical Revolution with StepWise

In this episode of the Latitude podcast by 43North, Justine Palkowski, Senior Marketing Manager, hosts the co-founders of Stepwise, a Y9 cohort company that recently relocated to Buffalo. Stepwise aims to revolutionize electrification, making it affordable and accessible for homeowners. Meet the Team: Jane Chen, Co-founder and CEO, brings a business background and a passion

Phenomenal Ventures Managing Partner, Helen Min on the 43North Latitude Podcast Graphic
Leaning into Your Strengths for Entrepreneurial Success

Discover the keys to entrepreneurial success as Helen Min, Managing Partner at Phenomenal Ventures, shares insights on playing to your strengths in the startup world. Helen, a Buffalo native with a background in major tech companies and advertising, discusses the evolving role of AI, the power of complementary strengths in founding teams, and the crucial

How Tech Can Save You Money with StoreCash

In our latest Latitude with 43North episode, we sat down with Daricus Releford, Co-founder and CEO of StoreCash, a dynamic app that’s reshaping how you save at your favorite stores. Daricus, part of our year nine cohort, shares the ins and outs of StoreCash, its unique features, and his journey as a black founder in