Alice has been at the forefront of systems biology research for over seven years, at the National Cancer Institute, the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University, and UCLA. During this time, she has co-authored four peer-reviewed papers in high profile journals such as Cell and Neuron. She graduated from Princeton University magna cum laude with high honors in Molecular Biology and is a 2012 recipient of the prestigious Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. In 2010, she began training in the UCLA-Caltech MD/Ph.D. program, with a focus in neuroscience, where she spent five years investigating gene networks involved in neuro-regeneration. She was recently named as a Forbes 2017 30 Under 30 Featured Honoree.
Victor is one of the world's leaders in mathematical modeling of eukaryotic genome evolution. He has co-authored over 11 publications in peer-reviewed journals such as Nature and Science; his work has been featured in the NYTimes and Washington Post. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Oregon, and completed his postdoc in Sandy Johnson's group at UCSF. Additionally, he is a full-stack Django web developer on Amazon Web Services, with 15 years experience engineering in C/C++, Python, and Java.
Irene has nine years of experience leading multiple neuroscience drug discovery programs from idea to clinic. Prior to Verge, she led early discovery, pharmacology, and program teams at Nektar Therapeutics. There, she helped bring several drugs to clinic, including NKTR-181, a first-in-class mu-opioid analgesic currently in Phase 3 clinical trials. Irene completed her post-doctoral training in Catherine Rivier's group at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and received her Ph.D. in Neurosciences from the University of New Mexico.
Mark is a medicinal chemist with over 15 years of experience bringing innovative drug candidates from concept to the clinic. Prior to Verge, he served as Director of Medicinal Chemistry at Akebia Therapeutics and most recently Regulus Therapeutics. Mark was also the co-founder and scientific head of Aetheria Therapeutics, a Johnson & Johnson spinout company. Prior to Aetheria, he led medicinal chemistry and drug discovery programs at Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) for over a decade. Mark earned his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of California, Irvine in the labs of Professor Larry Overman.
Ben has been managing and growing startups for more than a decade, most recently as Head of Operations at NoRedInk, where he lead strategy, FP&A, budgeting, recruiting, and people operations. He joined NoRedInk as employee #4 and the first business hire, helping the company scale to 75 employees and several million ARR. Ben was previously an attorney at Gunderson Dettmer where he advised tech companies on corporate and financing matters, and a co-founder of Rhythm Rhyme Results, an educational music company. Ben holds a JD/MBA from Stanford University and an AB in Linguistics from Harvard College.
MICHELLE MIGHDOLL, MBA
Data Acquisition and Strategic Initiatives, Principal
Michelle has over eight years of experience working with healthcare and biotech startups, including managing business relations, partnerships, and strategy. She spent seven years with the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, growing its operations and building one of the largest, most carefully-curated human brain banks in the world. Michelle has a strong neuroscience background, with clinical training in developmental neuropsychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, and has coauthored over 10 publications in peer-reviewed journals. Michelle holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a BS in Economics with majors in Health Care Management/Policy and Legal Studies/Business Ethics, also from Wharton, and a minor in Nutrition.
Raj has over ten years of experience working at the interface of engineering and biology. His work draws inspiration from information theory and control systems to couple quantitative biological models with precise experimentation. Raj has co-authored eight publications in the fields of applied mathematics and computational biology, including a paper demonstrating a sequencing pipeline that enables a 10-100 fold decrease in the cost of profiling transcriptome activity. He received his BA in Mathematics and his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 2011. He completed his postdoc in computational biology at UCSF.
Tony has over 35 years of experience leading CNS drug discovery and development teams from idea to commercial success. As the former Global Head of Neuroscience at Otsuka, he led the team that discovered aripiprazole (Abilify™), the highest grossing drug worldwide in 2014, and elucidated its mechanism of action, enabling first-in class, FDA-approved uses in bipolar disease, depression, and schizophrenia. As Chief Scientific Officer at Assurex Health, he created pharmacogenomic products for ADHD and pain, and commercial successes yielded an acquisition by Myriad Genetics in 2016. As CSO of Psychiatric Genomics, his teams were the first to pioneer microarray-based drug discovery in psychiatric diseases, revealing insulin signaling deficiency in schizophrenia. Tony also co-founded the Regeneron vision program, directed The Biomarkers Consortium of 125 government and industry participants, and led teams at Genentech. Tony has published over 135 papers in journals including Science and Nature. He obtained his bachelors at UCLA, PhD in Psychology at UC Santa Barbara, and held a post-doctoral position in Psychobiology at UC Irvine.
Katja has spent over 10 years using transcriptomics and epigenomics to study the molecular biology of aging, neurodegeneration, and cancer, and has co-authored publications in journals such as Science, Nature, Nature Medicine, and Bioinformatics. After receiving her diploma in Statistics at the University of Dortmund, she became an expert in the analysis of DNA methylation data at the University of Münster, where she also received her Ph.D. She completed her postdoc in Anne Brunet’s group at Stanford University where she studied the transcriptomes of aging neural stem cells.
Erik has spent the last decade working at the intersection between molecular/cell biology and functional genomics. His work combines experimental molecular and cell biology techniques, such as culture mammalian tissue culture (ES cells, fibroblasts, neural differentiation, ex vivo neurons), with analysis of ultra high-throughput sequencing of functional genomic data such as ChIP-seq, MNase-seq, ATAC-seq, and others. He has co-authored seven publications in journals such as Nature, Cell, and Nature Genetics. Erik graduated manga cum laude from the University of Washington with a BS in Microbiology and received a Ph.D. in Genetics from Stanford University while working with Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Gerald Crabtree.
Ningzhe is one of the world’s leaders in neurodegenerative stem cell modeling with 15 years of experience developing cutting-edge iPSC and rodent models of neurodegeneration. Ningzhe was the first scientist to genetically correct Huntington disease in a patient derived stem cell model. He has led industry collaborations with Novartis and BioMarin that have resulted in drugs now in active development. Ningzhe has co-authored over ten publications in journals such as Neuron and Cell Stem Cell. He received his Ph.D. from University of Rochester and spent ten years in Lisa Ellerby’s group as a postdoctoral fellow and staff scientist at Buck Institute for Research on Aging, focusing on understanding and treating Huntington disease with cutting edge technologies such as iPSC models, high throughput screening and CRISPR genome editing.
Katherine has over a decade of experience in developing cell based assays for high throughput screening and target validation. Her work at Five Prime Therapeutics, in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, culminated in a published patent where Katherine is a co-inventor for a novel target to treat respiratory disease. More recently, Katherine developed functional cellular assays supporting several immuno-oncology programs at Nurix. Katherine received her BS in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley. In her spare time, Katherine enjoys cycling, hiking, and training her Japanese Akita.
Steve has spent the past 6 years working in both industry and academia focusing on the development of novel therapeutics in the CNS. His graduate work centered on developing medical countermeasures to acute seizures and neuroinflammation caused by chemical threat agents as part of the NIH’s CounterACT program as well as testing the efficacy of novel therapeutics for the treatment of neuropathic pain. His previous industry work has focused on neural circuit mapping using optogenetics as a method to discover novel drug targets for the treatment of metabolic disorders. He holds Masters Degrees in Pharmacology and Toxicology as well as Animal Biology from UC Davis.
Aurora started out in research five years ago in a small neuronal development lab at UC Davis. There, she developed her in vivo skills and begun contributing to research involving developmental diseases such as autism and schizophrenia. In addition to her in vivo work, she honed her histology skills, which led to her work being featured on the cover of a scientific journal. Recently, she made the transition into industry where she worked at an oncology biotechnology startup in which she assisted pharmalogical efforts to develop drug candidates for various cancers. She graduated from UC Davis with a BS in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior.
Tyler graduated Magna Cum Laude from San Diego State University with a BS in Chemistry. He earned his MS in Neuroscience from the University of Alabama at Birmingham studying the role of the LRRK2 kinase activity in macrophages. Throughout his graduate research, Tyler worked the intersection of genetic predisposition and inflammatory immune activity in the onset and progression of both Parkinson's and Crohn's disease. By using LRRK2 kinase inhibitors in conjunction to bone-marrow transplantation and adoptive transfers, he was able to simultaneously distinguish tissue-resident and infiltrating macrophages post-inflammatory insult and determine the disease-modifying effects of pharmacological intervention. Tyler joined Verge in April of 2019 to continue the development of disease-modifying therapies for complex neurodegenerative diseases.
Kyle previously worked as a research associate in the biological sciences department at the University of Birmingham, UK. While there, he developed and applied machine learning models to research human aging and epigenetics. As part of his research, he adapted methods from neural network analysis to predict key interactions in age associated diseases. Prior to Verge, he co-founded a startup developing a brain computer interface powered by machine learning for individuals with neurodegenerative diseases, which won a Y-Combinator grant. Kyle completed his MSci in Biochemistry in 2017 with first class honors.
Zach's undergraduate studies focused on Cognitive Science and Neurolinguistics, where a desire for more hands-on research led him to managing a brain bank. There, he supported and co-authored several papers related to Alzheimer's, Fronto-temporal dementia, and the relationship of pathology to aphasia phenotypes. He developed techniques for tissue staining and clearing, as well as inventory maintenance and monitoring. With almost a decade of experience in computer systems, Zach most recently worked on data architecture and visualization in his entry into drug development. He’s excited by prospects of laboratory automation to facilitate the fastest, most accurate discovery processes possible.
Shannon completed her PhD in Chemical Biology at Caltech in 2017, under the mentorship of Prof. David Tirrell, where she created chemical tools for cell-specific proteomics. While there, she also founded and led the Caltech's Women in Chemistry group to provide support and mentoring to the community. After defending her thesis, she started scientific recruiting because her technical background allows her to source and screen the right candidates for scientific roles. She loves speaking with everyone about their various scientific projects and is passionate about creating the most talented and diverse team at Verge.
Pia originally started her undergraduate career in the International Security and Conflict Resolution major and with a Political Science minor at San Diego State University, and finished with a Bachelors in International Studies with a Middle Eastern Studies minor from the University of San Francisco — her coursework predominantly focused on issues surrounding post-colonial identity formation and community building, armed conflict, clandestine economies, and restorative justice. After graduation, Pia worked as a political researcher, providing support on several local, state, and federal campaigns before developing the research strategy for a potential 2020 presidential candidate. After that, she opted for a new challenge by transitioning into biotech as an executive assistant, where she applies her social science background to abstract contextual and logistical challenges. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, rock-climbing, and gardening.
Paul is the founding director of USC Alzheimer's Therapeutic Research Institute. Aisen has been a leading figure in Alzheimer’s disease research for more than two decades, having developed novel methodologies as well as designed and directed many large therapeutic trials.
Eric Schadt is the director and founder of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology and chair of the Department of Genetics and Genomics Sciences at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Previously, Dr. Schadt joined Pacific Biosciences as Chief Scientific Officer in June 2009 to oversee the scientific strategy for the company, including creating the vision for next-generation sequencing applications of the company’s technology. Dr. Schadt is also a founding member of Sage Bionetworks, an open access genomics initiative designed to build and support databases and an accessible platform for creating innovative, dynamic models of disease. Dr. Schadt’s current efforts were motivated by the genomics and systems biology research he carried out at Merck to elucidate common human diseases and drug response using novel integrative genomics approaches based on genetic and molecular profiling data. His research helped revolutionize a field in statistical genetics (the genetics of gene expression), has energized the systems biology field, and has led to a number of discoveries relating to the causes of common human diseases. As of earlier this year, greater than 50% of all new drug discovery programs at Merck in the metabolic space were derived from Dr. Schadt's work. Dr. Schadt also holds an affiliate professor position in the Departments of Medical Genetics and Biostatistics at the University of Washington in Seattle, and he was recently appointed as Fellow to the Institute of Systems and Synthetic Biology, Imperial College London.
George Church is the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and MIT, and has been a founding member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. Church is known for his professional contributions in the sequencing of genomes and interpreting such data, in synthetic biology and genome engineering, and in an emerging area of neuroscience that proposes to map brain activity and establish a "functional connectome." Among these, Church is known for pioneering the specialized fields of personal genomics and synthetic biology. He has co-authored more than 330 publications and 60 patents.
Robert Tibshirani is a a Professor in the Departments of Statistics and Health Research and Policy at Stanford University. His most well-known contributions are the LASSO method, and Significance Analysis of Microarrays. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2001 and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012.
Guoping Feng is an investigator at the McGovern Institute and the Poitras professor of neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. Feng studies the development and function of synapses – the junctions at which nerve cells come together – and the relationship between their disruption and brain disorders. He has won numerous awards, including the Beckman Young Investigator Award (2002), the McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Award (2006), and the Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award (2006).
Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein is the Director of the Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins and Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience. A respected neuroscientist, Rothstein is credited as being one of the world’s top ALS researchers, especially in the field of glutamate excitotoxicity. He is the Director of the Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute, a campus-wide collaborative organization that brings together Hopkins' more than 450 basic and clinical neuroscientists.
Rudolf is a founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Professor of Biology at MIT. He is a pioneer of transgenic science, in which an animal’s genetic makeup is altered. His work focuses on understanding epigenetic regulation of gene expression (the biological mechanisms that affect how genetic information is converted into cell structures but that don’t alter the genes in the process). Most recently, this work has led to major advances in our understanding of embryonic stem cells and “induced pluripotent stem” (IPS) cells, which appear identical to embryonic stem cells but can be created from adult cells without using an egg.
Jason has been conducting biomedical engineering research for over a decade in labs at Siemens Medical Solutions, Duke University, and UCLA. He has co-authored over 12 publications in peer-reviewed journals such as Journal of Neuroscience, PLOS Genetics, and JAMA Neurology. He graduated summa cum laude from Duke University, with a double major in Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry. In 2010, he began training in the UCLA-Caltech MD/Ph.D. program, with a focus in bioinformatics. His work aims to improve the welfare of patients with neurological and neurosurgical diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, autism, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, frontotemporal dementia, progressive supranuclear palsy, Chiari malformation, and hydrocephalus.
Dr. Ehrich has spent over 25 years in drug development including the last eighteen years at Alkermes, plc, as Executive Vice President, R&D and Chief Medical Officer. While at Alkermes, he directed the development and successful FDA registration of Vivitrol and Aristada and partnered development of Risperdal Consta and Bydureon. He established a drug discovery effort at Alkermes which has yielded a broad portfolio of proprietary drug development candidates in psychiatry, neurology, and immuno-oncology. Dr. Ehrich serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards of Praxis Precision Medicines, and Aileron and Heptares. Prior to Alkermes, Dr. Ehrich spent seven years at Merck & Co, Inc. working in clinical pharmacology and clinical development.
Dr. Ehrich received a B.A. degree from Princeton University and was a predoctoral fellow in molecular genetics at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany. Following an M.D. degree at Columbia University, he completed a residency in internal medicine, subspecialty training in rheumatology, and a postdoctoral fellowship in immunology at Stanford University. Dr. Ehrich is based in the Boston, MA office.
Thomas Large is CEO and Co-Founder of Blue Oak Pharmaceuticals, a company focused on using systems neurobiology and informatics approaches to discover and develop drugs for mental health. Previously, he led discovery, preclinical research and translational medicine for ten years at Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. (originally Sepracor Inc.). Under his leadership, the discovery group at Sunovion developed a target-agnostic approach for CNS drugs by integrating research collaborations worldwide.
Prior to Sunovion, Dr. Large was a scientific leader and manager for eight years at Eli Lilly in neuroscience research, where he led several projects that resulted in clinical candidates for anxiety, psychosis and pain. During his tenure with Eli Lilly, Dr. Large also managed a group developing innovative approaches for drug targets in the central nervous system (CNS), endocrine and oncology therapeutic areas.
Dr. Large holds a PhD in Neurobiology/Physiology from Northwestern University and completed a Howard Hughes postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Large has served as a faculty member of the Department of Neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University Medical School.
Gwen is the Vice President, Business Development at BTG plc. Previously she was Senior Vice President at Shire Strategic Investment Group. Gwen Melincoff is a key force behind many of Shire's M&A and technology licensing agreements, and she has played a crucial role in helping the global specialty biopharmaceutical company grow. Through her former position as head of Shire's Strategic Investment Group and in other business development executive roles at the company, she's helped expand Shire's reach and product roster a number of times.
Saira Ramasastry, Managing Partner of Life Sciences Advisory, is a seasoned industry insider with over 18 years of transaction and advisory experience. Prior to LSA, Saira helped found and establish the leading life sciences franchise on Wall Street at Merrill Lynch and was responsible for emerging biotech coverage. Saira is a recognized thought leader on life sciences public-private alliances and is frequently called upon as a speaker. She serves on the Industry Advisory Board of the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, lead business advisor for the European Prevention of Alzheimer's Dementia (EPAD) consortium and as a Special Advisor for the G8 Dementia Initiatives. She serves on the Boards of Directors of Sangamo Biosciences (NASDAQ: SGMO), Repros Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RPRX) and Pain Therapeutics (NASDAQ: PTIE).