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Previous Winners

2020 Winners

Sarah Bhagat
Sarah Bhagat, Partner, Sofinnova Investments
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
Partner, Venrock
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
Co-founder & CEO, Provivi, Inc.
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
Director of Community Business and Economic Innovation, Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, City of Los Angeles
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
Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering, California Institute of Technology
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
CEO, CG Oncology, Inc.
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
Co-founder and CEO, Mammoth Biosciences
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
Founder, CSO of DevaCell; Founder, CSO of Sarmal; and Founder, CEO, CSO of Innovasion Labs PINC
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
Co-founder and CTO, Mantra Bio
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
Chief Business Officer, Eidos Therapeutics and SVP, Portfolio Management and Corporate Development, BridgeBio Pharma
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.

2019 Winners

Bay Area

Adam Adler
Head of Laboratory Research Operations, GigaGen
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.

Noga Leviner
Co-founder and CEO, PicnicHealth
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.”

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

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

Los Angeles

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.
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.

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

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

San Diego

David Chacko, M.D.
Chief Business Officer, Erasca
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.
Assistant Professor of Nanoengineering, UC San Diego
Sheng Xu, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Nanoengineering, UC San Diego

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.

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

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.

2018 Winners

Los Angeles

Carolina Amador
President, Biotech Connection Los Angeles (BCLA)
Carolina Amador
President, Biotech Connection Los Angeles (BCLA)

Carolina is the President of Biotech Connection Los Angeles, a non-profit organization that aims to inspire, educate and connect emerging scientists and entrepreneurs with the goal of growing and diversifying the biotech community in LA. Carolina is also a Senior Associate in Global Competitive Intelligence at Amgen. She has been recognized by her faculty with the USC Women in Science and Engineering Leadership 2018 Award.

Carolina holds a MS in Chemistry and a BS in Biochemistry from the University of Aveiro in Portugal and completed her PhD in bio-organic chemistry at USC, studying synthetic methods in drug development.

Brian Benson
Director of Entrepreneurship & Commercialization, California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at UCLA
Brian Benson
Director of Entrepreneurship & Commercialization, California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at UCLA

As director of entrepreneurship and commercialization, Brian oversees all aspects of the Magnify incubator and driving strategic initiatives that support the growth of entrepreneurship and industry alliances for the California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI) at UCLA. Prior to joining CNSI, Brian was the portfolio & alliance manager at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as well as program manager of the Consortium for Technology and Innovation in Pediatrics.

He received his B.B.A. in Entrepreneurship from Loyola Marymount University

Leo Petrossian, Ph.D., MBA
Head of Corporate Development, co-founder and CEO of Neural Analytics, Inc
Leo Petrossian, Ph.D., MBA
Head of Corporate Development, co-founder and CEO of Neural Analytics, Inc

Leo is the co-founder and CEO of Neural Analytics, Inc. Prior to starting Neural Analytics in 2013, Leo was the co-founder and CTO of Custom Nanotech Consulting and Director of Nanofabrication at Nabsys. Leo earned his MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management in 2014 and earned his PhD & MS in Biomolecular Nanotechnology & Solid-State Device Physics as an NSF IGERT fellow at Arizona State University in 2007. He also holds a double B.S. in Electrical Engineering & Biomedical Engineering from California State University, Long Beach

Stephen Fiacco, Ph.D.
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, EvoRx Technologies and Canvas Pharma
Stephen Fiacco, Ph.D.
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, EvoRx Technologies and Canvas Pharma

Dr. Fiacco is a founding member of EvoRx and serves as CEO where he oversees its general operations and business development. In this role, Dr. Fiacco has advanced the business through multiple negotiations of collaboration and license agreements with large and small pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Additionally, his team has received both Phase I and Phase II NIH SBIR grants and contracts. Dr. Fiacco is actively involved in the Los Angeles biotech community serving on the advisory board of Biocom LA and had previously served on the board of directors at Innovate Pasadena.

Prior to founding EvoRx, Dr. Fiacco was an integral member of the scientific team involved in inventing EvoRx’s platform technology and has been listed as an inventor on 5 patents and an author in 4 related publications. He earned his B.S. in Creative Studies Chemistry at UCSB, his M.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Cal Tech and his PhD in Chemistry in the lab of Dr. Roberts at USC.

Joseph Dunham, Ph.D.
Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, SeqOnce Biosciences Inc.
Joseph Dunham, Ph.D.
Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, SeqOnce Biosciences Inc.

Dr. Dunham serves as SeqOnce Biosciences CSO and is focused on genomic discovery, enabling these technologies to continue to drive scientific discoveries. Joseph has been involved with technology development for next generation sequencing and imaging diagnostics. He assisted in the development of RAD for RAD sequencing during his undergraduate studies.
He holds a B.S. in Biology from the University of Oregon and a Ph.D. in Molecular and Computational Biology at the University of Southern California. His doctoral work was supported by an EUREKA RO1 award of $1.2 million he co-wrote for stem cell heterogeneity population genomics during regeneration. He continued his dedication to interdisciplinary training and translational research and pursued a Postdoctoral Scholar position with Dr. Scott Fraser at the University of Southern California. His postdoctoral efforts to co-develop a single molecule signal amplification technology (MUSE) has resulted in patents and Dr. Fraser and team received the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative award for the application of MUSE for single molecule transcript neuronal imaging as a part of the Human Cell Atlas initiative.

Long Cai, Ph.D.
Co-founder, Spatial Genomics; Research Professor, Caltech
Long Cai, Ph.D.
Co-founder, Spatial Genomics; Research Professor, Caltech

Long Cai is a Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering at Caltech and his lab pioneered the field of spatial genomics. Dr. Cai has received the NIH New Innovator Award, Transformative Award, Paul G. Allen Frontiers Foundation Distinguished Investigator Award.

Dr. Cai holds an AB/AM in Physics and Chemistry as well as a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Harvard College.

Ryan Witt
Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Immix Biopharma, Inc.
Ryan Witt
Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Immix Biopharma, Inc.

Mr. Witt runs day-to-day operations at Immix Biopharma, Inc — ranging from business development and investor relations to vendor selection, management, financial management, and clinical relations.

Ryan started his career in healthcare shaping public policy decisions and continues to do so in his personal time. In 2009, he founded a non-profit to improve patient outcomes by reducing the diffusion time of innovations in health and medical care to the Standard of Care. Here, Mr. Witt lobbied federally elected officials around combination medical products, single patient INDs, and molecular-based medicine regulatory protocols. Since then, he has participated in a number of lobby trips in Washington DC. In 2014, he was appointed to the Consumer Empowerment Working Group of the Department of Health and Human Services of the US Government to help the nation empower its consumers with their health information.

San Diego

Punit Dhillon
Co-founder and Director, OncoSec Medical Incorporated
Punit Dhillon
Co-founder and Director, OncoSec Medical Incorporated

Mr. Dhillon is the Co-Founder of OncoSec Medical, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company developing its advanced-stage immunotherapy to treat solid tumors.

He was formerly Vice President of Finance and Operations at Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. In his management experience, Mr. Dhillon has raised over $160 million through multiple financings and several licensing deals including early stage deals with Merck and Wyeth. His management experience spans corporate finance, M&A, integration, successful in-licensing of key intellectual property, strategy implementation, corporate transactions, and collaborations with leading universities and working with several key opinion leaders worldwide. Mr. Dhillon is also the founder of BeCancerPositive.org, an online community where people can share their experiences with cancer and inspire hope for others. Mr. Dhillon holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Political Science and a minor in Business Administration from Simon Fraser University.

Drew Spaventa, MBA
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Singular Genomics
Drew Spaventa, MBA
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Singular Genomics

Drew is the founder and chief executive officer at Singular Genomics. Drew is also founder and managing partner at Axon Ventures, which has made early stage investments in a number of local companies and several other early stage stealth biotech startups. Prior to his Singular Genomics, Drew was a seed investor and part of the founding team at ecoATM, which was acquired for $350 million. He was also a seed investor and consultant at Edico Genome, acquired by Illumina for $100 million.

Drew has a bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego, an MBA from The Rady School of Management and partial completion of JD at USD.

Suman Kanuganti, MBA
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Aira Tech
Suman Kanuganti, MBA
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Aira Tech

Suman Kanuganti is the Co-founder and CEO of Aira Tech Corp, an emerging high-tech startup currently focused on bridging the information gap for those who are blind or low vision. Following the impressive growth of the company since January 2018, Kanuganti has partnered with the National Federation of the Blind and AT&T to provide free Aira smart glasses to students. He transformed San Diego into the first Aira Smart City, which gave users free access to Aira services in popular areas like Balboa Park and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System for CSUN Assistive Technology Conference 2018. The technology is being implemented in cities, airports, and universities across the country.

Suman holds an MBA in Entrepreneurship / Entrepreneurial Studies from the UC San Diego Rady School of Management, a Master’s in Computer Engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a Bachelor’s in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Kakatiya University, India.

Taylor Moyer
Chief Executive Officer, Managed Lab Services
Taylor Moyer
Chief Executive Officer, Managed Lab Services

Taylor Moyer is the CEO of Managed Lab Services, implementing robust programs that are data driven and support the needs of both the scientific and administrative staff. Ms. Moyer is also a current board member and President of the San Diego Entrepreneurs Exchange, a local 501c3 organization, providing support for entrepreneurs in the life sciences industry and founded Boots in Bio, another 501c3 non-profit dedicated to training and placing veterans into careers in biotech. Prior to founding Managed Lab Services, Ms. Moyer served Lab Manager for Applied Molecular Evolution before working as procurement associate for Fisher Scientific. Following this, Taylor served in supply chain management as Sales Manager at Biohit, Inc.

She is a graduate of the University of San Diego with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology.

Arthur Suckow, Ph.D.
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, DTx Pharma
Arthur Suckow, Ph.D.
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, DTx Pharma

Dr. Suckow co-founded DTx Pharma with John Grundy and Adam Pavlicek in an effort to expand the therapeutic areas where nucleic acid medicines can be utilized for disease modification. Prior to DTx Pharma, Suckow has held positions at Janssen (J&J), MedImmune/AstraZeneca and Regulus Therapeutics, leading projects across multiple therapeutic areas (cardiovascular, metabolism, CNS, ophthalmology, immunology, oncology) and modalities (small molecules, peptides, antibody conjugates and oligonucleotide therapeutics).

Arthur received his Honors B.Sc. in Biological Sciences from University of Delaware and his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences with a focus in Pharmacology from the University of California, San Diego. During graduate school, he founded Synervate–a cell therapy company focused on a treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Chorom Pak, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer, Lynx Biosciences
Chorom Pak, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer, Lynx Biosciences

Dr. Chorom Pak is President and CEO at Lynx Biosciences, Inc., working to commercialize MicroC3, a cytomics platform technology developed during her PhD.

Dr. Pak served as the Clinical and R&D Lead at Cellectar Biosciences (NASDAQ:CLRB), where she co-developed a drug against multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, and advanced it to Phase 2 trials.

Dr. Pak received her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Jose Morachis, Ph.D.
President and co-founder, NanoCellect Biomedical, Inc.
Jose Morachis, Ph.D.
President and co-founder, NanoCellect Biomedical, Inc.

Dr. Jose M. Morachis, Ph.D. serves as the Chief Executive Officer and President at NanoCellect Biomedical, Inc.

Dr. Morachis has diverse biomedical backgnanround from his postdoctoral work on nanotechnology at UCSD’s Laboratory for Bioresponsive Materials and cancer biology research at the Salk Institute.

Dr. Morachis holds a Ph.D in biology from the University of California, San Diego and a B.S. in biochemistry from the University of California, Riverside.

Tao Long, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Bioinformatics and Structural Biology, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute
Tao Long, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Bioinformatics and Structural Biology, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Dr. Long is currently an assistant professor researching on how human genetics and gut microbiome affect health and diseases. She obtained her Ph.D. in Physics with Dr. Ned Wingreen and Dr. Bonnie Bassler at Princeton University, studying information processing in bacterial cell-to-cell communication. She continued her postdoctoral training with Dr. Lucy Shapiro at Stanford University, investigating bacterial transcription with genome-wide RNA sequencing. She further extended her computational biology experience as a bioinformatics scientist at Human Longevity Inc., focusing on genotype-phenotype association studies and interactions of the gut microbiome with the human host using statistical inference and machine learning approaches on genomics, metagenomics, and metabolomics data.

Valentino Gantz, Ph.D.
Co-founder and Director, Agragene Inc. and Synbal Inc.
Valentino Gantz, Ph.D.
Co-founder and Director, Agragene Inc. and Synbal Inc.

Valentino’s research at UCSD has been focused on understanding the link between morphological structure and DNA. During the process of obtaining functional data for this project he came to the invention of the Mutagenic Chain Reaction (MCR), a CRISPR/Cas9-based technology that alters mendelian inheritance and has tremendous promise in combating diseases spread by mosquitos (malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya) and pests and invasive species.

Valentino Gantz’s work resulted in the first peer-reviewed publication of a gene drive based on the CRISPR/Cas9 technology Gene drive elements. A subsequent publication then described the first proof-of-principle application in a disease-relevant species — the malaria vector mosquito Anopheles stephensib. Gene drives offer a potential solution to numerous problems affecting human health (Malaria, Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, Chagas), agricultural pests (spotted wing fruit fly, olive fly, Mediterranean fruit fly). The type of inheritance obtained by this kind of genetic element bypasses the rules of Mendelian genetics that we all know.

Valentino obtained his PhD in biology at UCSD and has over 10 publications.

Stephanie Culler, Ph.D.
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Persephone Biome
Stephanie Culler, Ph.D.
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Persephone Biome

Dr. Culler is the co-founder and CEO of Persephone Biome, a business taking a unique approach to gut microbiome health. At Persephone Biome, she oversees the company’s strategic growth and directs the discovery, and product development platforms of the company. Prior to Persephone Biome, Dr. Culler was a senior scientist at Genomatica, Inc. where she became an industrial leader in the fields of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering. She authored publications on Genomatica’s platform technologies and was a frequent speaker at the leading conferences. Dr. Culler has participated in organizations including Synberc, iGEM, DARPA, SBE, AIChE and NSF.

Dr. Culler earned her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Caltech and is a recent graduate of the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator.

2017 Winners

Los Angeles

Marie Rippen, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer, Lab Launch
Marie Rippen, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer, Lab Launch

Marie has been key in developing a vibrant bioscience cluster in the L.A. area. As CEO of a nonprofit known as Lab Launch, she’s helping L.A.’s scientists and entrepreneurs advance their ideas in affordable, high-quality labs, and with access to a supportive innovation community. Marie holds a Ph.D. in genetics and molecular and cell biology, giving her an excellent understanding of what cutting-edge scientists want and need. But she’s proven to also think (and act) like an entrepreneur. Marie is the creator of the Biotech Entrepreneurship Coalition, or BEC, a group that creates new opportunities for young scientists to learn about the real-life challenges and opportunities offered by entrepreneurship. “My central question is: how can we accelerate life science innovation here in L.A.?” she says. “L.A is such a different kind of biotech hub from the traditional model; it’s exciting to see how we can make those differences work in our favor.” Marie also is an avid salsa dancer. “I started in college and danced with a performance team through most of graduate school.”

Tanya Petrossian, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer, EndoCyclic Therapeutics; Principal, Building Blocks Advisory Group
Tanya Petrossian, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer, EndoCyclic Therapeutics; Principal, Building Blocks Advisory Group

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently named Tanya as one of his three picks for the city’s Entrepreneur in Residence program, but that was far from her most notable achievement of 2017. The UCLA grad also launched EndoCyclic Therapeutics, where she’s working to develop the first non-hormone therapeutic for endometriosis, the leading cause of infertility and disability in women during their reproductive years. Not long after earning her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology, Tanya dove into key business roles at Affymetrix and Ayasdi in the Bay Area. Since then, she also created Building Blocks Advisory Group, which works with life science startups and investors to bring great ideas to market. Tanya attributes her impressive work ethic to her years as a nationally ranked swimmer, where she learned to set goals, endure tough workouts and “sacrifice fun to reach a bigger goal.”

Aydogan Ozcan, Ph.D.
Chancellor’s Professor at University of California, Los Angeles; Professor, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Aydogan Ozcan, Ph.D.
Chancellor’s Professor at University of California, Los Angeles; Professor, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Aydogan, armed with a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford, is on a mission to “democratize biomedical imaging, sensing and diagnostics tools and technologies so that advanced measurements that are normally restricted to resource-rich laboratories and institutions can be conducted in resource-limited environments, including in developing countries.” Aydogan holds 34 issued patents and more than 20 pending patent applications for inventions in telemedicine, mobile health, nanoscopy, wide-field imaging, lensless imaging, nonlinear optics, fiber optics and optical coherence tomography. Notably, he pioneered lightweight, 3-D-printed smartphone attachments that can diagnose diseases such as malaria and HIV and detect pathogens in water. These mobile devices are portable and cost-effective, making them practical for use in biomedicine as well as environmental monitoring in rural and resource-poor areas.

Yan Liu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California
Yan Liu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California

Yan is developing novel machine learning models that help the doctors decipher big data so they can provide better care to patients. “I feel very fortunate to be at a unique intersection between artificial intelligence and life science,” says Yan, who pioneered fundamental technologies in machine learning for health care, including innovations for improved ICU care, cancer care and drug-intake monitoring. She currently works closely with Samsung to develop deep learning solutions for new-generation smart care of diabetes patients; her lab will help create wearable health devices with artificial intelligent technologies. She also holds six patents as outcomes of her research work, with four more patent applications in review. Yan says her best inspiration is a very special human: “Raising my daughter teaches me a lot about how human beings learn languages, acquire knowledge and socialize with others, which serves as great guidance for me to develop more effective machine learning models.”

Thomas Lipkin, Ph.D.
Head of New Ventures, University of California, Los Angeles Technology Development Group
Thomas Lipkin, Ph.D.
Head of New Ventures, University of California, Los Angeles Technology Development Group

Thomas has his finger on the fast pulse of L.A.’s biotech startup scene. Through his role at UCLA, he ushers early-stage academic research from bench to market, requiring him to work closely and productively with UCLA faculty, graduate students and post-docs. His New Ventures group also provides services through its “Startup-in-a-Box” program, which supports portfolio companies that have licensed intellectual property from UCLA; offerings include legal, insurance, banking and even human resources. “The Milken Institute recently ranked UCLA No. 1 nationally in our number of startup companies, which speaks to the entrepreneurial nature on campus and helps seed the future of biopharma here in L.A.,” says Thomas, who has a Ph.D. in cell biology and pathology. Thomas says he’s on a constant hunt for talented entrepreneurs and consultants for UCLA projects. “While building a stronger life science community here in L.A. is challenging, I’m excited to know there are talented and similarly-minded people here,” he says.

San Diego

Dov Fox, J.D.
Professor of Law, University of San Diego School of Law
Dov Fox, J.D.
Professor of Law, University of San Diego School of Law

Dov knows the sticky issues of biotech like no one else. “My writing and teaching in law and bioethics tries to make progress on the controversies of our time and the challenges that lie ahead, from health care reform and translational medicine to brain imaging and gene editing,” he says. The Yale Law School grad publishes his opinions in a range of publications and actively influences policy through submissions of governmental agency comments and amicus briefs, frequent op-eds and speeches on biotech and bioethics. Dov also serves as director of USD’s Center for Health Law Policy and Bioethics, which he was active in founding with Stephen C. Ferruolo, the law school dean. “Central to the success of USD’s Center for Health Law Policy & Bioethics are partnerships among dozens of leading institutions of research, innovation, and practice,” he says.

Zachary Hornby, M.S., MBA
Chief Operating Officer, Ignyta Inc.
Zachary Hornby, M.S., MBA
Chief Operating Officer, Ignyta Inc.

Ignyta, as a precision medicine oncology company, is trying to eradicate residual disease in defined cancer populations. And Zach is one of its secrets weapons. “I’m personally interested in trying to help the company achieve its goal while providing a work culture that makes Ignyta a fun, meaningful and fulfilling place to work,” he says. He wants employees to “feel good about not only what they did that day, but also how they did it and who they did it with.” His approach seems to be working, as he has helped the company gracefully scale from fewer than 10 employees to a public company with more than 110 employees globally. Zach also leads the global development team for the company’s lead drug candidate, entrectinib. Prior to his current role, Zach excelled at Fate Therapeutics, Halozyme, Neurocrine Biosciences and other biotech companies. “I like the collaborative spirit and positive energy in SoCal,” he says. “People in San Diego seem to love living and working here, and therefore bring positive energy to both components of their lives.” In his free time, Zach is working towards his goal to visit every country in the world. “To date, I’ve visited 102 countries on six continents.”

Todd Harris, Ph.D.
Head of Corporate Development
Todd Harris, Ph.D.
Head of Corporate Development

Todd Harris, Ph.D. has served as a member of our board of directors since 2010 and as our Head of Corporate Development since January 2016. Dr. Harris was the founder of Sienna Labs, Inc. and served as its Chief Executive Officer from July 2010 until January 2016. Previously, from 2008 to 2013, Dr. Harris was a consultant at McKinsey & Company in the Health Care Practice Division. Between 2006 and 2008, Dr. Harris held a graduate fellowship with the National Institute of Health. Dr. Harris received a B.S. in Engineering from Brigham Young University, an M.S. in Bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego, and a Ph.D. in Medical Engineering and Medical Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Matt Tremblay, Ph.D.
Vice President, Business Development, The Scripps Research Institute; Chief Operating Officer, California Institute for Biomedical Research
Matt Tremblay, Ph.D.
Vice President, Business Development, The Scripps Research Institute; Chief Operating Officer, California Institute for Biomedical Research

Matt is working to speed the development of life-saving medicines and change the way we think about funding nonprofit research. The chemist was among the first employees to join Calibr in 2012, as a principal investigator seeking new therapies for metabolic, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. But his business aptitude gained attention from the top ranks, and he was soon asked to play a more central role in operations. Recently promoted to COO at Calibr, Matt has been instrumental in establishing collaborations with organizations such as BMS, Pfizer, Wellcome Trust and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He has helped Calibr quickly become one of the most well-known translational research institutes in the world; and now, his new dual role at TSRI is helping to set a new standard for collaborative research. “I like the collegial nature of the San Diego life sciences scene,” Matt notes. “I’ve had the privilege of meeting people who were wildly successful in their own pursuits, but who engaged me as a colleague, offered advice freely and took genuine interest in what we were doing.”

Ryan Taft, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Scientific Research, Illumina Inc.
Ryan Taft, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Scientific Research, Illumina Inc.

Children with rare genetic disorders often wait five to seven years in the U.S. and Europe before receiving a definitive diagnosis. That’s not acceptable to Ryan, an entrepreneurial scientist with a doctorate in genomics and computational biology. “My goal is to completely eliminate this diagnostic odyssey,” he says. Working with Illumina, he wants to make whole-genome sequencing the standard-of-care for every child who would benefit from it. Ryan has helped Illumina expand its iHope philanthropic program, which has already donated whole-genome sequencing services to more than 100 families in need of answers, and he’s active with multiple rare disease organizations worldwide. “I grew up here in San Diego, and it is strangely delightful to have moved back after many years away,” Ryan says. “I never would have thought San Diego would become one of the hottest spots on the planet for biotech, and that I would be a small part of it.”

David Nelles, Ph.D.
Chief Technology Officer & Co-founder, Locana Inc.
David Nelles, Ph.D.
Chief Technology Officer & Co-founder, Locana Inc.

Is it possible to reverse genetic disease by targeting RNA? That’s what David is trying to find out. “Decades of effort have culminated in genome engineering, but many genetic diseases are best addressed on the level of RNA rather than DNA,” he says. In this new field of transcriptome engineering, David is already a leader, having been part of the team that developed one of the first means to target RNA in living cells using CRISPR. His groundbreaking work, which made headlines across the U.S. earlier this year, started in the UCSD School of Medicine and continues now at Locana, a company he co-founded. “UCSD has been very supportive and integral to our efforts to translate science into treatments for human disease,” says David, whose educational background includes material science and engineering

Patrick Mercier, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of California, San Diego
Patrick Mercier, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of California, San Diego

As principal investigator of UCSD’s Energy-Efficiency Microsystems Lab, Patrick leads a research team that’s inventing and developing miniaturized electronic systems that interact with the body in new and interesting ways—for example, by measuring glucose levels in sweat or monitoring neural tissues at very high spatial resolutions. “One of the big challenges we are trying to address is building more functionality into wearables,” says the MIT grad. “Current wearables offer an exciting look into continuous, real-time activity of a user; however, this information is not that useful clinically.” He’s changing that. With physiochemical sensors, wearables offer a more comprehensive look into real-time wellness. Patrick says there’s no better place to be for his research than San Diego. “The life sciences field is not only very strong, but the high-tech wireless industry also has a big footprint,” he says. “Southern California is well positioned to be at the forefront of these intersecting industries.”

Brendan Eckelman, Ph.D.
Co-founder, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Biotherapeutics, Inhibrx LP
Brendan Eckelman, Ph.D.
Co-founder, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Biotherapeutics, Inhibrx LP

Brendan is co-founder of the small biotech company Inhibrx, which is quickly developing drugs that span oncology, infectious disease and inflammatory conditions. He leads therapeutic development and scientific operations, along with holding critical responsibilities in corporate strategy execution. That’s no small task considering Inhibrx plans to file seven INDs in the next 18 months. After earning his Ph.D. in molecular pathology from UCSD School of Medicine, Brendan performed graduate research at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and before joining the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation as a research investigator. Now at Inhibrix, he’s focused on keeping the innovation engine churning, free of bureaucratic barriers. The end goal: “Annually advance multiple new therapeutics into clinical development, which are capable of surpassing the ever-raising efficacy bar.”

Karen Christman, Ph.D.
Professor of Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego; Scientific Co-founder, Ventrix Inc.
Karen Christman, Ph.D.
Professor of Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego; Scientific Co-founder, Ventrix Inc.

Karen is working on many fronts to improve quality of life for cardiovascular disease patients using biomaterials-based regenerative medicines. A prolific scientist in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine—with more than 70 publications and 100 invited talks to date—Karen also is a visionary entrepreneur and devoted mentor to dozens of current and former students at UCSD. As co-founder of Ventrix, Karen guided initial scientific research for a novel biomaterial scaffold and advanced it into a product, VentriGel, that’s now being tested in the clinic for cardiac repair. Her work has been recognized by many well-known institutions including the National Institutes of Health, Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, the American Heart Association and the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society.

Francie Barron, Ph.D.
Vice President of Biology and Regulatory Affairs, Nanomedical Diagnostics
Francie Barron, Ph.D.
Vice President of Biology and Regulatory Affairs, Nanomedical Diagnostics

Francie, the senior biological and medical sciences expert at Nanomedical Diagnostics, has been molding the company’s success for more than two years, working with teams to develop innovative new products that enable cutting-edge life science research, drug discovery and portable diagnostic and health-monitoring platforms. Her goal is to help healthcare providers make clinical decisions in a timely fashion so clinical outcomes improve. “This looks like creating point-of-care testing that can diagnose infectious disease earlier and track how the body metabolizes drugs to give real-time information to the healthcare provider,” says Francie, who completed her postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine, performing research using induced pluripotent stem cells. Francie also works closely with local high school science educators to expose kids to STEM careers, and has helped create a robust internship program with college students. When she’s not in the office, she’s often in the water: “I’m an active scuba diver, and the deepest dive I ever did was a wreck dive at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef…40.1 meters!”

2016 Winners

Martyn Gross
Founder and Vice President of Innovation
Martyn Gross
Founder and Vice President of Innovation

Martyn Gross is Founder of Clarify Medical, formerly Skylit Medical. Martyn is passionate to change the lives of patients with psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo by creating an innovative light therapy platform connected to telemedicine and mobile device software. Martyn recruited experienced luminaries to join Clarify leadership, including David F. Hale as Chairman of the Board, as well as Jim Sweeney as Clarify CEO. After founding the company, Clarify Medical has won San Diego Venture Group Cool Company, Biocom DeviceFest Coolest Device, CTO Forum Top 21 Disruptive Companies and Xconomy’s 2017 San Diego Tech Startups to Watch. Martyn was named one of the 2016 San Diego Innovators of the Year by OurCity San Diego. Previously, he led a successful corporate subsidiary spinout of a marketplace website company. Martyn holds his MBA from Rady School of Management, University of California San Diego.

Tony Grover
Vice President, Business Development
Tony Grover
Vice President, Business Development

Tony Grover is the Vice President of Business Development for Banyan Biomarkers, a company developing a rapid blood test to quickly and objectively diagnose concussions and traumatic brain injuries. In this capacity, he is responsible for fostering new business initiatives, reimbursement, marketing, and investor relations. Tony has over 15 years of diversified experience in the life science industry. Previously, he was the Director of Marketing and Reimbursement at PhotoThera, Inc., a privately held medical device company that raised approximately $100mm for the treatment of acute stroke. Prior to joining PhotoThera, Mr. Grover was a management consultant for Pittiglio Rabin Todd & McGrath (PRTM), now PwC, where he worked with a variety of Fortune 500 companies to increase operational efficiency. Tony currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Brain Health Coalition to bring brain health awareness to patients, athletes, veterans, and caregivers. He previously served on the Board of Directors for the American Heart Association, San Diego from 2010-2012, as Chairman from 2012-2014, and as Past Chair in 2015. He is currently a member of the American Association of Clinical Chemistry and the American Academy of Neurology where he served on the Corporate Roundtable Executive Committee from 2009-2013. Mr. Grover is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar from Michigan State University with a B.S. in Biochemistry. He also has a M.B.A. from Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business and completed the Harvard School of Public Health Summer Program.

Susie Harborth
General Partner; Managing Director
Susie Harborth
General Partner; Managing Director

Susie is currently General Partner and CFO at BioInnovation Capital and Managing Director/Co-Founder of BioLabs San Diego. From 2010-2014, Susie was Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at GnuBIO which was acquired by Bio-Rad Laboratories (NYSE: BIO) in 2014. In 2013, she was named a “Women to Watch” by Boston Business Journal and Mass High Tech. Prior to joining GnuBIO, Susie was Vice President, Business Operations at Cequent Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Marina Biotech in 2010) and Boston Heart Diagnostics (BHDx), a diagnostic company acquired by Eurofins SA in 2015. Susie is on the Advisory Board at LabCentral, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization providing biotech co-working spaces in Massachusetts. She is focused on emerging areas of biotechnology, including orphan and rare disease, genomics, diagnostics, women’s health and personalized/precision medicine.

Michael Heltzen
President and Chief Executive Officer
Michael Heltzen
President and Chief Executive Officer

Michael Heltzen is a very active tech entrepreneur, innovation initiator and investor. Since 2005, he has co-founded, supported and worked for more than ten successful growth companies in the DNA tech and Genomics industry. Currently, Michael holds management positions at both AllSeq Inc. and EXO Incubator Inc., and is involved with several new startups. Michael has specialized in helping Life Science innovators and technology developers to create businesses in the space of Genomics and Personalized Medicine.

Edward R. Truitt, III
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Lubris BioPharma
Edward R. Truitt, III
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Lubris BioPharma

Edward R. Truitt, III, JD – Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Lubris BioPharma – is a biotech entrepreneur and former corporate attorney. In addition to Lubris BioPharma, Mr. Truitt is a co-founder of Biological Dynamics, Inc., a molecular diagnostics company focusing on the early detection of cancer. In 2007, Mr. Truitt, along with his wife, co-founded the UCSD Entrepreneur Challenge, a business plan competition that has gone on to award over $1M and help start 15+ technology companies. Mr. Truitt received his JD from the University of San Diego and his B.A. from UC Santa Barbara. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Mr. Truitt had an active practice in corporate law, focusing on business formation and technology licensing.

Mike Milligan
Principal, Life Science Department
Mike Milligan
Principal, Life Science Department

Mike Milligan joined Barney & Barney in 2000 and became a Principal of the firm in 2008. As the Life Science Practice Group leader, Mike is responsible for building client relationships for Barney & Barney in the life science industry. Under his leadership, the Life Science Practice has grown from 7 to over 550 life science clients. He works with life science clients from new venture formation through the IPO process and is extensively involved with the Executive Liability Practice, addressing the Directors and Officers Liability needs of public companies. Mike leads his practice in providing risk management strategies and placement solutions for clinical trials and product liability. The Life Science Practice Group has placed over 1,000 clinical trial policies in over 80 countries. He was named a national “Power Broker” by Risk & Insurance Magazine. He was included in the “40 Under 40” and ranked as one of the youngest recipients. Mike serves Biocom, is on the board of Hanna Fenichel and the Cardiff 5K. A native of Southern California, Mike earned his bachelor’s degree in communications with two business minors from the University of San Diego. He holds the designations of Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) and Accredited Advisor of Insurance (AAI). He lives in Del Mar with his wife Beth and their 3 kids, Reghan, Hank and Brecken.

Ashley Van Zeeland, Ph.D.
Chief Technology Officer, Human Longevity, Inc.
Ashley Van Zeeland, Ph.D.
Chief Technology Officer, Human Longevity, Inc.

Dr. Van Zeeland is the Chief Technology Officer for Human Longevity, Inc. and joined as part of the acquisition of Cypher Genomics, a leading cloud-based genome interpretation company, where she was co-founder and CEO. Prior to founding Cypher Genomics, she served as Director, Strategic Partnerships at the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) where she focused on novel public-private partnerships to accelerate translational research. Before transitioning to her role as Director, Strategic Partnerships she was a research fellow in bioinformatics and statistical genetics at (STSI). She received a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles and MBA from the University of California, San Diego.

Dena Marrinucci, Ph.D.
Vice President, Research
Dena Marrinucci, Ph.D.
Vice President, Research

Dr. Dena Marrinucci has been part of the blood diagnostics space for over 10 years. In early 2016 she joined the founding team for Salveo Dx, a consumer based diagnostic company. At Salveo, she oversees research and development of new blood diagnostic tests. Prior to Salveo, in 2008 she founded Epic Sciences, a cancer diagnostic company. At Epic, she acted as Chief Scientific Officer and oversaw all pharma partnering diagnostic collaborations including strategy, agreements, and execution of biomarker development ensuring alignment with drug development launch. Within this role, she established partnerships with over 35 pharmaceutical and biotech companies, integrating Epic’s liquid biopsy technology into more than 60 clinical trials worldwide. She also oversaw assay development and research groups. In recognition of her work at Epic, she was awarded MIT Technology Review’s Top 35 Innovators under 35 and Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Leading Global Thinkers in 2015. Dr. Marrinucci has a B.S in Chemistry from the University of Vermont and a Ph.D. from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in chemical biology.

Rob Knight, Ph.D.
Faculty Director
Rob Knight, Ph.D.
Faculty Director

Rob Knight, PhD, is professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Computer Science & Engineering at the University of California San Diego, and author of “Follow Your Gut: The Enormous Impact of Tiny Microbes.” He received a B.Sc. in Biochemistry in 1996 from the University of Otago in his native New Zealand, a PhD in 2001 from Princeton University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and performed postdoctoral work at the University of Colorado, Boulder before becoming a faculty member in the interdisciplinary BioFrontiers Institute there in 2004. He moved to UC San Diego in 2015 to launch and direct the UC San Diego Microbiome and Microbial Sciences Initiative, which is now part of the White House’s National Microbiome Initiative. Knight’s work focuses on using readout technologies such as next-generation sequencing to improve our understanding of the structure, function and dynamics of the human microbiome, contributing to the main data analysis in the NIH-funded Human Microbiome Project. He is co-founder of the Earth Microbiome Project and the American Gut Project. Current research interests include relating the human microbiome to diseases ranging from obesity to mental illness, spatial and temporal mapping of microbial communities on different scales ranging from our bodies to our planet, and developing new data visualization methods that assist in resolving the challenge of microbial “Big Data.”

Phil Baran, Ph.D.
Darlene Shirley Chemistry Chair & Professor
Phil Baran, Ph.D.
Darlene Shirley Chemistry Chair & Professor

Phil Baran was born in 1977 in Denville, New Jersey. He received his B.S. in chemistry from NYU in 1997, his Ph.D. at The Scripps Research Institute in 2001, and from 2001-2003 he was an NIH-postdoctoral fellow at Harvard. His independent career began at Scripps in the summer of 2003. He currently holds the Darlene Shiley Chair in Chemistry. Phil has published over 150 scientific articles and has been the recipient of several ACS awards such as the Corey (2015), Pure Chemistry (2010), Fresenius (2006), and Nobel Laureate Signature (2003), and several international distinctions such as the Hirata Gold Medal and Mukaiyama Prize (Japan), the RSC award in Synthesis (UK), and the Sackler Prize (Israel). In 2013 he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, in 2015 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2016 he was awarded the Blavatnik National Award. He has delivered hundreds of lectures around the world and consults for numerous companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb (since late 2005), Boehringer-Ingelheim, AstraZeneca, DuPont and TEVA, and is a scientific advisory board member for Eisai, Abide, KemXtree, and AsymChem. In 2016 he was appointed as an Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society. He co-founded Sirenas Marine Discovery (2012) and Vividion Therapeutics (2016) and in 2013 he co-authored The Portable Chemist’s Consultant, an interactive book published on the iBooks store along with his graduate class in Heterocyclic Chemistry (viewable for free by anyone on iTunes University). Outside of the lab, Phil enjoys spending time with his wife Ana and three young children (Lucia, Leah, and Manuel).