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Biocom California Catalyst Awards

2021 Catalyst Awards Nominations: Now Open!

Do you know an up-and-coming academic, entrepreneur, investor, corporate leader or business adviser who is making their mark on California life science before their 40th birthday? Get them the recognition they deserve. Nominations are now open across the Bay Area, San Diego and Los Angeles life science communities.



“Thanks to advances like gene editing, therapies are increasingly sophisticated and targeted, patients can hopefully have access to medicines that are better targeted for their disease, their health and their biology.”

Rachel Haurwitz, Ph.D., 2019 Winner


The Biocom California Life Science Catalyst Awards are an annual celebration of the most inspiring and driven young minds who are sparking meaningful change to human health through their research, discovery and entrepreneurship.

Who is eligible?

The awards are open to accomplished and up-and-coming academics, entrepreneurs, investors, corporate leaders and business advisers who are making their marks on the Bay Area, San Diego and Los Angeles life science communities before reaching their 40th birthdays.


Winners will be highlighted in the Biocom California LifeLines digital magazine, recognized in a social media campaign and celebrated at the Biocom California Annual Dinner in the fall of 2021. Winners are also announced in an accompanying news release.


The Biocom California Life Science Catalyst Awards were created by Biocom California in conjunction with the San Diego Venture Group in 2016. The inaugural program attracted a stellar array of accomplished young professionals. A committee of executives and board members from both Biocom California and the San Diego Venture Group selected 10 winners and 10 honorable mentions for the 2016 class. Since then, the awards evolved to encompass rising leaders from throughout the state of California.

“The convergence of scientific disciplines is transforming the way we approach human health. Data-driven personalized medicine is an exciting wave of the future.”

Shannon Mumenthaler, Ph.D., 2019 Winner

Congratulations to our 2020 Catalyst Award Winners

Sarah Bhagat
Sarah Bhagat

Sarah Bhagat, Partner, Sofinnova Investments

  • Sarah Bhagat is a Partner at Sofinnova Investments, where she focuses on biopharmaceutical investments
  • Sarah is currently a member of the board of directors of Inozyme (INZY) and a Board Observer for Aeovian, Antiva, Neurana, and NorthSea. She previously served as a Board Member for Promedior (acquired by Roche for up to $1.4B)
  • Sarah received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Yale University working with thesis advisor Dr. Stephen Strittmatter.
Racquel Bracken
Racquel Bracken

Racquel Bracken, Partner, Venrock

  • Racquel Bracken joined Venrock in 2016 and focuses on pharmaceutical and biotech investments.
  • Racquel was an early employee of Clovis Oncology, a biopharmaceutical company focused on acquiring, developing and commercializing targeted small molecule therapies in combination with companion diagnostics.
  • She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology from Harvard University and is also a member of the Kauffman Fellows.
Pedro Coelho
Pedro Coelho

Pedro Coelho, Co-founder & CEO, Provivi, Inc.  

  • Pedro co-founded Provivi in 2013 together with Dr. Peter Meinhold and Prof. Frances Arnold (Nobel Laureate 2018).
  • Provivi is creating scalable, pheromone-based insect control solutions that will improve quality of life and the health of our environment. The company recently launched its first product in Mexico for the control of the fall armyworm
  • Pedro obtained his Master’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Oxford and holds at Ph.D. in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology.
Jasson Crockett
Jasson Crockett

Jasson Crockett, Director of Community Business and Economic Innovation, Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, City of Los Angeles

  • Jasson Crockett joined Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Economic Development in 2016
  • He works to connect companies of all sizes to resources within City Hall to enable their growth in the City of LA and develop a more connected ecosystem wherein companies can thrive.
  • Jasson holds a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University where he majored in Finance and Management, and is currently earning his Executive MBA at the University of California Los Angeles
Wei Gao
Wei Gao

Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering, California Institute of Technology

  • Dr Gao is currently an assistant professor of Medical engineering at CalTech
  • He a recipient of IEEE Sensor Council Technical Achievement Award, Sensors Young Investigator Award, MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35 Global List (TR35) and ACS Young Investigator Award (Division of Inorganic Chemistry).
  • He received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at University of California, San Diego in 2014 as a Jacobs Fellow and HHMI International Student Research Fellow
Arthur Kuan
Arthur Kuan

Arthur Kuan, CEO, CG Oncology, Inc.

  • Arthur Kuan is Chief Executive Officer and Board Member at CG Oncology, a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing the next evolution of oncolytic immunotherapy for patients with advanced cancer.
  • He was an early investor in CG Oncology and joined full-time in 2014. Arthur was the featured honoree on the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
  • Arthur received a M.S. in Biotechnology from the Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania.
Trevor Martin
Trevor Martin

Trevor Martin, Co-founder and CEO, Mammoth Biosciences

  • Trevor Martin co-founded Mammoth Biosciences with the mission to enable the next generation of CRISPR-based products across therapeutics and diagnostics
  • His scientific work has been featured in outlets including FiveThirtyEight and The Atlantic. He is the featured healthcare honoree on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, is on Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list, and is a Malaria No More “10 to END” innovator.
  • Trevor earned his BA from Princeton University and his PhD in Biology from Stanford.
Inanc Ortac
Inanc Ortac

Inanc Ortac, Founder, CSO of DevaCell; Founder, CSO of Sarmal; and Founder, CEO, CSO of Innovasion Labs PINC

  • Inanc is currently Chief Technology/Scientific Officer at DevaCell Inc. He has been working on the interface of physics, biology, chemistry, material science and engineering for all his career and considers himself as the first generation of pure nanoengineers.
  • Ortac was featured on Forbes as “Greatest Young Inventor in 2012”.
  • He received his Master’s degree (photonics) and his PhD degree (nanotechnology) both from the Electrical and Computer Engineering School at UCSD.
Katie Planey
Katie Planey

Katie Planey, Co-founder and CTO, Mantra Bio

  • As Mantra Bio’s CTO, Katie leads indications selection, patent portfolio creation and technology platform development.
  • Katie Planey is a driven and perceptive entrepreneur who is passionate about creating biotech companies that are data savvy from the ground up. She draws upon her expertise in technical strategy, engineering and biomedical informatics to achieve that goal
  • She received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Yale and then completed her MBA and a subsequent PhD in Biomedical Informatics at Stanford.
Cameron Turtle
Cameron Turtle

Cameron Turtle, Chief Business Officer, Eidos Therapeutics and SVP, Portfolio Management and Corporate Development, BridgeBio Pharma

  • Cameron Turtle, DPhil, is the Chief Business Officer of Eidos Therapeutics.
  • He was a consultant in McKinsey & Company’s Silicon Valley office, where he worked with biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical product companies on strategy for mergers and acquisitions, due diligence, growth and clinical trial strategy, and commercial operations.
  • Turtle earned his DPhil in Cardiovascular Medicine as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford and his B.S. in Bioengineering from the University of Washington.

Please join us in recognizing the winners of our 5th annual Catalyst Awards from San Diego, Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Our industry would not be the same without young leaders like this year’s winners who help to ignite innovation and fuel the growth of our industry, and we thank all our 2020 nominees for their hard work and dedication.

Click through below to read more about each winner. Read the full press release here.

2019 Winners

Adam Adler, Ph.D.
Adam Adler, Ph.D.

Adam Adler, Head of Laboratory Research Operations, GigaGen

Dr. Adler has more than fifteen years of research and laboratory management experience, including deep expertise in antibody sequencing. At GigaGen, he leads laboratory research operations and is responsible for the development of GigaGen’s product pipeline in oncology and immune deficiency. He has used his expertise in cutting-edge technologies including microfluidics, protein engineering and genomics to create GigaGen’s immune analysis and drug discovery technologies that have enabled rapid pipeline development. Prior to GigaGen, Dr. Adler held research management roles at LakePharma, where he was responsible for all internal and external projects including developing new antibody sequence analysis tools, and at Genentech where he worked to identify novel oncogenes and validate cancer drug targets. Dr. Adler has authored over 25 research publications in leading journals and holds a B.A. in Biological Sciences from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Stanford University School of Medicine.

Rachel Haurwitz, Ph.D.
Rachel Haurwitz, Ph.D.

Rachel Haurwitz, Ph.D., Co-founder, President and CEO, Caribou Biosciences

Rachel is co-founder, president, and CEO of Caribou Biosciences, a CRISPR gene editing company developing cellular therapies to treat cancer. In 2014, she was named by Forbes Magazine to the “30 Under 30” list in Science and Healthcare, and in 2016, Fortune Magazine named her to the “40 Under 40” list of the most influential young people in business. In 2018, the Association for Women in Science recognized Rachel with the annual Next Generation Award. Rachel earned an A.B. in Biological Sciences from Harvard College, and received a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Anitha Jayaprakash, Ph.D.
Anitha Jayaprakash, Ph.D.

Anitha Jayaprakash, Ph.D., Co-founder, Girihlet Inc.

Anitha Jayaprakash is the CEO/Co-founder of Girihlet Inc, which is focused on building a powerful immune platform to identify and target novel biomarkers for diagnosing, treating and curing autoimmune conditions. With a Ph.D. in Biomedical Genetics from Mount Sinai school of medicine, NY, she has a strong technical background (16 peer reviewed publications, 5 patents). Girihlet has extended its target identification platform from humans to multiple species (dogs, cats, monkeys, swine, mouse) with the goal of creating a best-in-class pre-clinical evaluation platform. This allows them to select the most accurate pre-clinical species to test their therapeutic assets before moving into humans. Their platform has already helped determine that a version of colitis in a mouse model is caused by diet changes leading to autoimmunity, independent of the microbiome.

Anitha recognized early on that small biotech startups face many obstacles that could be avoided by following the example of research universities. In such settings, internal collaborations are encouraged, and scientists can better advance their own research programs by sharing domain expertise and expensive equipment.

In addition to running her company, she set up the first co-sharing biotech incubator in Oakland, CA in 2017 called the Oakland Genomics Center (OGC). Since its inception, OGC has been growing, in size and occupancy. It is now self-sufficient. It has incubated more than 16 biotech startups and is currently home to 14. She is a big booster of Oakland and is proud to have contributed to creating and facilitating biotech jobs in the city.

Noga Leviner
Noga Leviner

Noga Leviner, Co-founder and CEO, PicnicHealth

Noga Leviner is the co-founder and CEO of PicnicHealth, a venture-backed digital-health startup with the mission to structure the world’s medical data to make it useful for both patients and researchers.

After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and struggling to keep track of her own health data, she was inspired to create a company to empower patients with access to their complete, digital medical history. PicnicHealth regularly works with research initiatives to provide study volunteers access to their own data, and in the process creates data sets that power some of today’s most cutting edge precision medicine research.

Noga is a vocal advocate for patient data access in the US healthcare system and has spoken widely on the subject including at the White House. She spent the early part of her career working with Ashoka to support social entrepreneurs in Latin America and then co-founded Lumni USA, where she raised and deployed the first US investment fund to help underserved students access low-risk student loan products. Noga has a B.A. from Stanford where she studied Human Biology and Economics.

Matt Davidson Ph.D.
Matt Davidson Ph.D.

Matt Davidson Ph.D., CEO and Co-founder, Azora Therapeutics and Founder, Verrica Pharmaceuticals

Matt Davidson Ph.D., CEO and Co-founder of Azora Therapeutics and Founder of Verrica Pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Davidson is a founder, executive, advisor and investor with experience successfully leading a company from idea to IPO. He is the co-founder and CEO of Azora Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company developing drugs for serious unmet needs. Azora is developing therapies for the treatment of inflammatory diseases and expects to begin treating patients in clinical trials and close its next round of financing in 2020. Dr. Davidson is the founder and former CEO of Verrica Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: VRCA), a pharmaceutical company developing novel therapies for dermatological conditions including molluscum contagiosum and common warts. At Verrica, he invented the core technology, helped raise over $100M in private and public financing and led the company as CEO from founding into pivotal Phase 3 trials, which were successfully completed in 2019.

Dr. Davidson received his B.A. in molecular and cellular biology from UC Berkeley and his Ph.D. in Immunology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine.

Shannon Mumenthaler, Ph.D.
Shannon Mumenthaler, Ph.D.

Shannon Mumenthaler, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering, University of Southern California Lab Director, Lawrence J. Ellison Institute of Transformative Medicine, University of Southern California

Shannon Mumenthaler, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. She completed her B.S. in Genetics at UC Davis and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Pathology at UCLA. Her postdoctoral training was done at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and USC. Although her primary scientific training is in cell biology, she applies a unique multidisciplinary approach toward her research program, partnering with mathematicians, clinicians and engineers to explore critical areas in cancer. Her overall research interest focuses on the importance of the tumor microenvironment in influencing tumor progression and treatment response. She is inspired by working with colleagues from diverse scientific backgrounds to think outside the box, devise new ways of approaching cancer, create new model systems and push the limits of cancer research. In addition, Dr. Mumenthaler is the Lab Director for the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC, a translational institute that bridges clinical care, research and innovation. Dr. Mumenthaler helps strategize the goals, partnerships and scientific planning for the institute.

Patrick Phelps
Patrick Phelps

Patrick Phelps, Sofie Biosciences (Sofie), Co-founder, President & CEO Director Momentum Biosciences, Board Member

In 2009, Patrick joined a group of scientists, physicians and other industry professionals to form a company named Sofie Biosciences (SOFIE) to make PET and radiopharmaceuticals more broadly available to researchers and clinicians through new generations of molecular imaging diagnostics, radio-therapeutics and devices. Patrick spends the majority of his time focusing on how to grow the business, setting the strategy, tracking execution, driving P/L growth, solving tactical issues on a daily basis, HR, capital allocation, fundraising and investor relations.

A few key accomplishments at SOFIE include:

  • Grew company from a spinout out of University of California, Los Angeles/Caltech to an operating company with ~$65M in 2018 sales a forecast of ~$70M in sales
  • Manage CGMP 21 CFR 211/212
  • Successfully led Seed, Series A, and Series B totaling $28.6M in investments
  • Raised ~$9M in non-dilutive funding in NIH and DOE grants for technology development
  • Attracted top talent and built a proud culture of great people (275 employees)
  • Products used by 600 sites around the world
  • Product launched pre-clinical PET/CT systems (in partnership with PerkinElmer) and radiopharmaceutical automated chemistry units

Patrick also spends a small amount of my time helping out on high-level issues with running a biotech incubator named Momentum Biosciences. Momentum is committed to accelerating the transfer of new technologies from academic laboratories to the commercial environments.

Prior to joining SOFIE, Patrick worked as part of a small talented team who built the pre-clinical molecular imaging business (~$40M in annual sales) at Siemens Healthcare where Patrick helped drive the adoption of two generations of small animal PET, CT and SPECT imaging systems into the life science and pharmaceutical marketplaces. Patrick also held various positions at CTI Molecular Imaging (acquired by Siemens) in clinical sales, sales support, product management (Biograph 6 PET/CT and mobile PET/CT) and marketing in the nuclear medicine and PET/CT businesses. Patrick graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Colorado. His 17 years have been spent exclusively in PET and radiopharmaceuticals.

Ranjan (Ron) Batra, Ph.D.
Ranjan (Ron) Batra, Ph.D.

Ranjan (Ron) Batra, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and Development

Ranjan (Ron) Batra is the vice president of research and development at Locana, Inc. where he is involved in creating and deploying RNA targeting gene therapy for various genetic diseases. Ron graduated from the Ph.D. program in molecular genetics at University of Florida, where he worked on RNA mediated disorders. Further, Ron did his postdoctoral training at Mayo Clinic and subsequently at University of California, San Diego.

Ron was awarded the myotonic dystrophy foundation (MDF) postdoctoral fellowship for his work at UC San Diego where he co-developed RNA targeting CRISPR therapeutics platform which was published in Cell in 2017. Briefly, Ron worked at Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences) before joining Locana in 2018. Locana received the Venture Philanthropy (MVP) grant from the Muscular Dystrophy Association for which Ron is the principal investigator. “I’m committed to working with and training the next generation of students and biotech scientists in pursuit of therapies for incurable genetic diseases.

David Chacko, M.D.
David Chacko, M.D.

David Chacko, M.D., Chief Business Officer, Erasca

David Chacko is Chief Business Officer of Erasca, bringing deep experience in strategy, finance, business development and operations. He was previously a Principal at Versant Ventures, where he held a dual investing/operating role, helping lead investment opportunities across multiple therapeutic areas. Operationally, he was intimately involved in advancing several Versant portfolio companies through company formation, fundraising, business development and clinical and regulatory activities.

Dr. Chacko joined Versant from Alcon, where, as Chief of Staff to the CEO, he worked alongside the executive leadership team to develop and implement Alcon’s top priorities to accelerate growth and innovation. He was involved in several pivotal initiatives, including identifying the causes of sales and profit shortfalls and formulating action plans to improve performance.

Prior to Alcon, Dr. Chacko was an Engagement Manager at McKinsey, leading multiple teams serving pharmaceutical and medical device clients, across sales and marketing, R&D, finance and other functions. Previously, Dr. Chacko worked at SR One, the venture capital arm of GSK. He also worked at Amgen in commercial operations and at Morgan Stanley in investment banking.

Dr. Chacko holds an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was President of the medical student body, and an MBA from the Wharton School. He earned an M.Phil. from Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar, as well as undergraduate degrees in biology and business from the University of Southern California, where he graduated as the University Valedictorian.

Sheng Xu, Ph.D.
Sheng Xu, Ph.D.

Sheng Xu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Nanoengineering, UCSD

Sheng Xu is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Nanoengineering at University of California, San Diego. He received his B.S. in Chemistry and Molecular Engineering from Peking University in Beijing, China, and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. He worked as a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His group focuses on biointegrated electronics for health monitoring and human-machine interfaces. His research has been highlighted as “Groundbreaking Research in 2018” by Forbes, “12 innovations that will revolutionize the future of medicine” by National Geographic, and 2018 NIH-wide end-of-year review. He has been recognized by a number of awards, including the MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35, NIH NIBIB Trailblazer Award, Wellcome Trust Innovator Award and MRS Outstanding Young Investigator Award (one of the 32 recipients of this award since its inception in 1991). He serves Nano Research as a Young Star Editor.

View previous years’ winners here.