Workshop Speakers/Panelists/Chairs


What Can We Still Learn from Studies in Animal Models of Neurodegenerative Disease?

Monday, April 27, 10:30 AM

Joseph Araujo

Intervivo Solutions

Joseph Araujo is President and CEO of Intervivo Solutions. He is focused on optimizing the translational value of InterVivo’s services to facilitate the development and approval of novel drugs. Joseph continues to be closely involved in projects utilizing, characterizing and developing the aged dog as a natural model of age-related human diseases. Joseph is a strong proponent for the use of validated natural and/or translational animal models in drug discovery.

His scientific background includes graduate training in pharmacology at the University of Toronto, more than 25 refereed publications and several invited presentations, which exemplifies his continued passion for scientific innovation and expertise in natural aged canine models of human disease. Joseph directly supports developing of local biotech talent and companies and has co-founded and held executive level positions in several Ontario-based Contract Research and Life Science companies helping to build their global presence and success.

Case Study: O-GlcNAcase Inhibitors for the Treatment of Tauopathies – From Early Discovery to a Clinical Efficacy Trial in PSP Patients

Tuesday, April 28, 10:20 AM

Dirk Beher, PhD


Dirk Beher is the Chief Executive Officer, Founder and Member of the Board of Directors of Asceneuron. Since the creation of Asceneuron in 2012 he has developed the company to become a leader in the field of orally bioavailable drugs for treating tauopathies and related neurodegenerative disorders.

Under his leadership Asceneuron has raised to date over CHF 40 million from leading venture capital firms and successfully advanced the orally bioavailable modifier of tau pathology ASN120290 from discovery into mid-stage clinical development.

Dirk brings more than 27 years of experience in the field of neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. Prior to Asceneuron he spent 14 years in pharmaceutical drug discovery leading R&D teams around the globe at Merck Sharp & Dohme (Merck & Co.), Amgen and Merck Serono (Merck KGaA).

Educated at the Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg, Germany Dirk holds a Ph.D. and a Diploma (M.S.) in Biology. He is an inventor of numerous patents and author of 50 peer-reviewed publications and reviews.

Compound Optimization after Target Identification: From HTS to Lead

Monday, April 27, 10:05 AM

Kurt Brunden, PhD

University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Kurt Brunden is Director of Drug Discovery and Research Professor in the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) within the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where he oversees drug discovery and translational research programs in the areas of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), frontotemporal lobar degeneration and Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Brunden’s work is funded by NIH grants and through a number of collaborative research programs with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Prior to joining CNDR in 2007, Dr. Brunden was an executive in the biotechnology sector, where he served as VP of Research at Gliatech, Inc. and later as Sr. VP of Drug Discovery at Athersys, Inc. In these positions, he initiated and managed drug discovery and development programs in AD, cognitive enhancement, schizophrenia, inflammation, metabolic disease and cancer.

Prior to joining industry, Dr. Brunden was an NIH-funded faculty member within the Biochemistry Department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, with a research focus on the regulation of myelination. He obtained his B.S. degree (magna cum laude) from Western Michigan University, with dual majors of Biology and Health Chemistry, and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Purdue University, with a post-doctoral fellowship at the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Brunden has over 100 scientific publications, 8 issued U.S. patents with foreign equivalents, and a number of pending patent applications.

NINDS Opportunities for Translational Research Funding

Monday, April 27, 8:50 AM


Monday, April 27, 5:15 PM

Charles Cywin, PhD


Dr. Charles L. Cywin joined the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) in 2011 in the Office of Translational Research and currently serves as the Program Director for the Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network (BPN) .

He is responsible for the providing project leadership and coordination for a portfolio of neuroscience drug discovery projects ranging from early discovery to Phase I trials. He is the Contract Officer Representative for our Medicinal Chemistry, DMFP and Clinical contracts. Prior to joining NIH he spent 17 years at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals where he was Director, Medicinal Chemistry and was responsible for Hit to Lead and Lead Optimization programs focused on clinical candidate selection in a number of therapeutic areas. He created the lead discovery team, the parallel synthesis group and led the efforts to identify and implement new technologies, infrastructure and outsourcing in medicinal chemistry.

Dr. Cywin received his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Providence College, performed his doctoral training at Syracuse University focused on natural product synthesis where he was a University Fellow, and completed his postdoctoral fellowship with Professor E.J. Corey at Harvard focusing on asymmetric catalysis.

EARLY CAREER INVESTIGATOR PANEL: Discuss job opportunities in drug discovery

Monday, April 27, 5:15 PM


Tuesday, April 28, 10:15 PM

PANEL: How Do I Get Funded?

Tuesday, April 28, 2:40 PM

Kuldip Dave, PhD

The ALS Association

Dr. Kuldip Dave leads The ALS Association’s global research program, ensuring transparency, accountability and impact across its extensive research portfolio. In his new capacity, he ensures that that the Association continues to drive research that improves the lives of people with ALS and helps us find a cure. 

Prior to this position, Dr. Dave was the former director of research programs at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, where he developed and implemented the Foundation’s ambitious research vision in the biology of Parkinson’s. He convened scientists from academe and the pharmaceutical industry to fund promising research opportunities, and he was deeply involved in advancing the study of alpha-synuclein, a protein linked to Parkinson’s disease. 

Dr. Dave received his undergraduate degree in biology from Rutgers University, and a Ph.D. in pharmacology and physiology from Drexel University College of Medicine. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at a biotechnology firm and later joined the pharmaceutical company Wyeth, where he was the biology team leader for programs in the Women’s Health Department. He later moved to Galleon Pharmaceuticals as a senior research scientist. 

Omics to Identify Novel Target for Neurodegenerative Diseases

Sunday, April 26, 3:20 PM

Philip De Jager, MD, PhD

Columbia University

Dr. Philip De Jager is the Weil-Granat Professor of Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center, where he is the Chief of the Division of Neuroimmunology and directs the Center for Translational & Computational Neuroimmunology.

He graduated from Yale University (Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry and Medieval French literature) and from the MD PhD program at Rockefeller University and Cornell University Medical College. He completed his neurology residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His research program involves applying modern methods of human immunology, genomics, and computational biology to investigate neurodegenerative diseases such as AD, PD, and MS.

How to Run a Clinical Trial?

Monday, April 27, 1:55 PM

Anita DiFrancesco


Ms. Anita DiFrancesco is a clinical development professional with more than 25 years of experience designing and managing clinical trials, predominantly with small to mid-size biotech companies. Prior to Samumed, Ms. DiFrancesco was Director of Clinical Operations at HUYA Bioscience, where she was responsible for the creation and leadership of the clinical operations team. She also served as Director of Clinical Research at Cypress Bioscience and spent time at Chiron Corporation and the Immune Response Corporation. She has experience in a variety of therapeutic areas including vaccines, chronic pain and oncology.

Ms. DiFrancesco received her B.S/B.A. from Georgetown University in Business and Biology.

The Handling of Drug Discovery IP and Paths to Commercialization

Tuesday, April 28, 1:50 PM

Maria Emanuel, PhD

University of New Hampshire

Dr. Maria Emauel leverages 13 years of intellectual asset management (IAM), technology transfer, and value proposition development experience to help researchers strengthen partnering opportunities and proposal development. She joined UNHInnovation in 2006, managing institutional intellectual assets and engaging with innovators to identify, evaluate, protect, commercialize, and manage their innovations. Dr. Emanuel presented regularly on intellectual property-related topics, including co-instruction of an IAM course, and worked on IAM-related institutional policy development. Dr. Emanuel recently moved to UNH’s Research and Large Center Development office, where she manages UNH’s Collaborative Research Excellence (CoRE) initiative to fund interdisciplinary research projects, facilitates diverse research-focused partnerships within UNH and with external collaborators, and supports proposals integrating partnering or commercialization.

Prior to joining UNH, Dr. Emanuel was the director of marketing for Ardais Corporation in Lexington, Massachusetts, a life sciences start-up company. Dr. Emanuel earned her B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of New Hampshire and Ph.D. in Cell Biology from Case Western Reserve University. Following graduate school, she was a research consultant with a pharmaceutical company in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Opening Remarks

Sunday, April 26, 3:00 PM

Lauren Friedman, PhD

Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation

Dr. Lauren Friedman supports the management of our drug discovery portfolio by providing scientific and strategic review of preclinical drug discovery proposals and tracking program progress. Dr. Friedman also manages the ADDF ACCESS program, which provides a virtual network of contract research organizations (CRO) and consultants and offers educational resources on drug discovery and CRO selection and management.

Dr. Friedman completed her postdoctoral training at Columbia University, where she studied modulators of autophagy in Alzheimer’s disease. She earned a doctorate in neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she focused on molecular mechanisms underlying the development and degeneration of brain circuits involved in autism and Parkinson’s disease. She received a bachelor’s degree in biopsychology from Tufts University. Dr. Friedman has authored numerous peer-reviewed publications and is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, New York Academy of Sciences and the Association for Women in Science.

Pre-clinical Science, Clinical Development and Pathway to Marketing Approval of a Living Cell Pharmaceutical for AD – the Mesenchymal Stem/Stromal Cell Paradigm

Sunday, April 26, 3:45 PM

Jacques Galipeau, MD, FRCP(C)

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Dr. Jacques Galipeau is the Don and Marilyn Anderson Professor of Oncology within the Department of Medicine and UW Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and is Associate Dean for Therapeutics Development at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health. He is the director of the University of Wisconsin Advanced Cell Therapy Program whose mission is to develop personalized cell therapies for immune and malignant disorders and to promote and deploy first-in-human clinical trials of UW cell therapy innovations to improve outcomes for children and adults.

Dr. Galipeau leads a research program in the study and use of mesenchymal stromal cells as an immunotherapy of catastrophic illnesses including cancer and immune disease. He has also developed the field of fusion engineered cytokines known as fusokines, as a novel pharmaceutical means of treating immune disorders and cancer. He is an internationally recognized expert in translational development of cellular pharmaceuticals and the sponsor of a series of FDA-sanctioned clinical trials examining the use of personalized cell therapies.

Dr. Galipeau is the Chair of the ISCT MSC Committee.

What are Biomarkers and Why Should I Develop Them?

Monday, April 27, 1:30 PM

John Gerdes, PhD

Rio Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Dr. John Gerdes is the President of Rio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. located in San Francisco, CA. He is a Professor within the Department of Biomedical & Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy at the University of Montana, in addition to serving as a Visiting Professor within the Department of Radiology & Biomedical Imaging, School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Gerdes obtained his Ph.D. degree in chemistry at the University of California Riverside and was a medicinal chemistry postdoctoral fellow at the University of California Berkeley. He is an established scientific investigator within the fields of positron emission tomography (PET) imaging and central nervous system (CNS) drug discovery and action.

Dr. Gerdes’ current projects include those advancing new PET imaging tracers with live quantitative CNS imaging of specific target proteins, including: the glutamate excitatory amino acid transporter 2 (EAAT2), the norepinephrine transporter (NET), the serotonin transporter (SERT), acetylcholinesterase (AChE), and brain insulin receptors, among others. The projects rely on his expertise of tracer radiosyntheses, performing PET tracer FDA Animal Rule and clinical IND-enabling studies by acquiring pharmacokinetic tracer measures from PET imaging data analyses providing in vivo biomarker target protein signature tissue density determinations; e.g., CNS binding potential values (BPND), in addition to obtaining requisite IND and IRB approvals, and also coordinating and advancing clinical CNS PET imaging trials.

Synthetic Biology in Drug Discovery: New Tools for Medicinal Chemists

Sunday, April 26, 4:10 PM

Edmund Graziani, PhD

Apertor Labs

Dr. Graziani is a natural products chemist with 20 years’ experience in drug discovery at Wyeth and Pfizer, where he was Research Fellow. His research contributions have included the discovery of novel leads for early phase programs in oncology, as well as the discovery of ILS-920, a non-immunosuppressive analog of the mTORC1 allosteric inhibitor rapamycin (sirolimus). ILS-920 entered Phase 1 clinical trials for amelioration of neurological deficits following ischemic stroke in 2009.

At Pfizer, Dr. Graziani established a bioconjugation chemistry group that contributed to the discovery of novel antibody-drug conjugates resulting in multiple clinical candidates for oncology indications. He is currently CEO and co-founder with Prof. Jay Keasling of Apertor Labs, a synthetic biology start-up focused on the discovery of novel reversible allosteric inhibitors of mTORC1 for treating diseases of the aging immune system.

PANEL: How Do I Get Funded?

Tuesday, April 28, 2:40 PM

David Kemp


David Kemp has served as President of CurePSP, the foundation for prime of life neurodegeneration, since January of 2015.

Previously, he owned his own brand strategy and design firm, Jager Di Paola Kemp Design, for 25 years with more than 100 employees, three offices and clients including Burton Snowboards, Nike, Virgin, Microsoft Xbox, Black Diamond, Levi’s, Merrell and others.

Earlier, his corporate design firm, Harmon Kemp, Inc., based in New York City, worked for leading brands in the financial, manufacturing and transportation sectors.

Dave started his career in journalism as a community newspaper and trade-magazine editor, reporter and columnist for The Boston Globe and Manager of Public Relations for Dow Jones & Co. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and received his MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

KEYNOTE: The Clinical Potential of Senolytic Drugs

Monday, April 27, 9:00 AM

James Kirkland, MD, PhD

Mayo Clinic

Dr. James Kirkland is the director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at Mayo Clinic and Noaber Foundation Professor of Aging Research. Dr. Kirkland’s research is on cellular senescence, age-related adipose tissue and metabolic dysfunction, and development of agents and strategies for targeting fundamental aging mechanisms to treat age-related chronic diseases and disabilities.

He published the first article about drugs that clear senescent cells – senolytic agents. He is a scientific advisory board member for several companies and academic organizations. He is President-Elect of the American Federation for Aging Research, has been a member of the National Advisory Council on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, and past chair of the Biological Sciences Section of the Gerontological Society of America.

He holds honorary appointments at Boston University and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He is a board-certified specialist in internal medicine, geriatrics, and endocrinology and metabolism.


Sunday, April 26, 3:15 PM

PANEL: How Do I Get Funded?

Tuesday, April 28, 2:40 PM

Walter Kostich, PhD

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Dr. Walter Kostich is the Director of Commercial Research at the National MS Society. He manages commercial research partnerships developed through the Fast Forward program. Fast Forward bridges the preclinical commercial funding gap by targeting funds to de-risk therapeutic development for MS. Walt also serves as a program officer for the academic research grant program, where he is responsible for grants with a clinical component.

A Neuroscientist by training, he joined the National MS Society in 2015 following a twenty-year career in the pharmaceutical industry in neuroscience drug discovery. He was most recently a Senior Research Investigator at Bristol-Myers Squibb. In that role he provided leadership for several preclinical drug discovery programs in neurologic and psychiatric disorders. Dr. Kostich earned a Masters degree from Washington University and a Doctoral degree from the University of Maryland.

Case Study: Challenges in Biomarker Development for Huntington's Disease

Monday, April 27, 4:05 PM


Tuesday, April 28, 2:40 PM

Douglas Macdonald, PhD

CHDI Foundation

Dr. Douglas Macdonald is a molecular neuropharmacologist with extensive drug discovery and development experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. At CHDI he forges and manages external partnerships, coordinates in-licensing and out-licensing opportunities, and works with the Foundation’s biology and chemistry groups to advance therapeutic programs across the portfolio of scientific and research projects. His scientific focus is on the development of HTT lowering therapies (gene silencing and gene therapy) as well as biomarkers and HTT protein quantitation assays. 

Prior to CHDI, Dr. Macdonald was a Senior Research Scientist in the CNS Molecular and Functional Neuropharmacology group at Sanofi-Aventis (Bridgewater, NJ) where he led several R&D programs for neuropsychiatric disorders. Before that, he conducted research in the CNS Department at the Schering-Plough Research Institute (Kenilworth, NJ) and in the Merrifield laboratory at the Rockefeller University (New York, NY). He received his PhD in Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics from Boston University School of Medicine, his MS in Medical Sciences from the Department of Biomolecular Medicine at Boston University, and his BS in Chemistry from Trinity College (Hartford, CT).

He is currently a member of Boston University School of Medicine’s Dean’s Advisory Board, a member of the Board of Fellows at Trinity College, a member of the NIH/NINDS Neuropharmacology and Diagnostics Small Business Innovation Research Study Section, serves on the SAB for the CureDuchenne and an advisor to the ALS Association, and is a Lecturer at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy and Regulatory Sciences.

National Institute on Aging Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Translational Research Program

Monday, April 27, 8:40 AM

Zane Martin, PhD


Dr. Zane Martin is Program Director for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Translational Research in the Division of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging (NIA). She oversees grants focused on drug discovery, drug development, and clinical trials aimed to ameliorate various dementias of aging.

Before being hired as Program Director, Zane was a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at NIA. During that time, she was awarded the National Institutes of Health Award of Merit for the development and implementation of the Alzheimer’s Disease Preclinical Efficacy Database (AlzPED). AlzPED is a publicly available data resource that aims to increase reproducibility, transparency, and translatability of preclinical Alzheimer’s drug discovery studies with the goal of improving the drug pipeline to human clinical trials.

Dr. Martin has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and M.S. in Pharmacology from the University of Texas Medical Branch. She received postdoctoral training in the Department of Neurochemistry at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities. Her research career has primarily focused on drug discovery strategies to combat Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. She has investigated a wide range of therapeutic targets, including tau hyperphosphorylation, synaptic dysfunction, and amyloid aggregation.


Monday, April 27, 1:00 PM


Monday, April 27, 5:15 PM


Tuesday, April 28, 2:40 PM

Liliana Menalled, PhD

The Michael J. Fox Foundation

Dr. Lilliana Menalled joined The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in 2016. As a Senior Associate Director, Liliana stays closely linked to the Parkinson’s community in order to develop and implement an aggressive and innovative agenda for accelerating research and drug development for Parkinson’s disease.

This ensures that MJFF priorities reflect and best serve the ultimate needs of patients. Dr. Menalled regularly meets with academic and industry scientists from around the world to identify promising proposals to support and provides troubleshooting and ongoing management of projects as they progress. She currently leads the Foundation’s priority interest in understanding GBA1, a major risk factor for Parkinson’s disease. She is also an active member of the Foundation Therapeutic Functional Team, leading initiatives seeking to identify promising therapies that would slow progression of Parkinson’s disease and/or alleviate the symptoms. 

Dr. Menalled earned her Pharmacy Degree and Ph.D. from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. After finishing the research work for her doctorate degree at UCLA, she spent over thirteen years in the biotech/CRO industry leading behavioral phenotyping, target validation and drug screening programs on animal models of neurodegenerative disorders.


Tuesday, April 27, 8:30 AM

Elizabeth Mills, PhD

Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation

Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Mills is a member of the ADDF’s Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention program. She critically evaluates the scientific evidence regarding prospective therapies to promote brain health and/or prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and contributes to

Dr. Mills came to the ADDF from the University of Michigan, where she served as the grant writing manager for a clinical laboratory specializing in neuroautoimmune diseases. She also completed a Postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan, where she worked to uncover genes that could promote retina regeneration. She earned her doctorate in neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where she studied the role of glial cells in the optic nerve, and their contribution to neurodegeneration in glaucoma. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of the Holy Cross. Dr. Mills has a strong passion for community outreach and has served as program presenter with the Michigan Great Lakes Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to promote dementia awareness.

Requirements for an IND/Toxicology

Monday, April 27, 1:05 PM

Kenneth Olivier, PhD

Olivier KOnsulting

Dr. Kenneth Olivier, Jr., has been developing drugs for 15 years and is principal at Olivier KOnsulting.

Dr. Olivier’s work experience includes biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, spending time at Regeneron, Biogen, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merrimack Pharmaceuticals developing diagnostics, small molecule drugs, and biologics for indications in cardiology, neurology, neuromuscular, immunology, rare disease, infectious disease, fibrosis and oncology. Though his primary duties have been safety evaluations, Dr. Olivier has held the role of Project Leader, Head of Project Management, Head of Regulatory, Head of Pharmacokinetics, Head of Bioanalytical Development, Validation and Sample Analysis and Head of Nonclinical supporting multiple INDs, IMPDs, CTAs, NDAs, BLAs, PLEs and IDEs. In addition, Dr. Olivier is an adjunct faculty member at Oklahoma State University and has taught drug development courses at Harvard, MIT and through the American College of Toxicology, for which he is currently serving on the Editorial Board (International Journal of Toxicology) and as an elected Council Member. Just 2 years ago, he created what is currently the Oklahoma State graduate course on drug development attended largely by faculty, medical and veterinary students.

Dr. Olivier has spent the past 9 years training CSOs, CEOs, CMOs, Project Team Leaders, Functional Heads and Team members on how to transition from discovery to development to market approval (within private and public companies), covering all topics related to drug development. Dr. Olivier has chaired/co-chaired/presented symposia and taught drug development annually over the past 14 years, covering all areas and specific topics such as safety pharmacology, stem cells, computational modeling, antibody-drug conjugates, and the art of clinical dose level selection. In addition to teaching and developing much needed diagnostics/devices/therapies, he enjoys participating on Scientific Advisory Boards, including a DARPA funded project at MIT and a start-up company in San Francisco. Dr. Olivier’s publications include evaluations of toxicity related to novel therapeutics in immunology and oncology, such as interferons, bispecific antibodies, targeted liposomal nanotherapies and Intellitrap® technology.

Most recently (2016), he published a book on the development of ADCs covering chapters from discovery through post-market approvals with topics spanning all aspects of drug development, including CMC, Nonclinical, Regulatory and Clinical strategies. Dr. Olivier obtained a BS in Toxicology from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and a PhD in Veterinary Biomedical Sciences from Oklahoma State University.

MODERATOR: EARLY CAREER INVESTIGATOR PANEL - Discuss job opportunities in drug discovery

Monday, April 27, 5:15 PM

Meriel Owen, PhD

Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation

Dr. Meriel Owen is is a member of the ADDF’s Scientific Affairs team. She supports the scientific portfolio through strategic review and program management.

Dr. Owen earned her doctorate in neuroscience from Northwestern University, where she used neuroimaging and robotic techniques to better understand the neural mechanisms underlying motor impairment after stroke. She received a MSc from University College London in clinical neuroscience and a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Owen is also interested in the intersection between neuroscience and entrepreneurship. During her graduate studies, she completed the Kellogg Management Program for scientists and engineers, was selected as a Northwestern Leadership Fellow, and co-founded a startup company that won the Neuro Startup Challenge.

PK/PD in Preclinical Development

Monday, April 27, 10:55 AM


Monday, April 27, 5:15 PM

Natasha Penner, PhD


Dr. Natasha Penner is Director in the Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacometrics group at Biogen, Cambridge.

Dr. Penner is a chemist by training (MS in Chemistry and PhD in Analytical Chemistry from Moscow State University, Russia). She also has MS degree in Pharmacometrics from University of Maryland. She spent 2 years as a post-doc at Purdue University then worked in drug metabolism characterization group at Schering-Plough (now Merck) and Biogen.

Case Study: Development of Small-Molecule Ligands to Target TDP-43

Monday, April 27, 4:30 PM


Monday, April 27, 5:15 PM

Allen Reitz, PhD

ALS Biopharma

Dr. Allen Reitz has had more than 38 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, including nearly 26 years with Johnson & Johnson. He led the Central Nervous System Medicinal Chemistry research effort including for Alzheimer’s Disease for 16 years at the Spring House, PA facility of JNJ. He has invented eight compounds that have entered human clinical trials, including mazapertine and troriluzole, the later of which is currently in Phase II/III clinical trials for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease ( He has over 160 scientific publications and 68 issued U.S. patents, is on the Editorial Advisory Board of ACS Med. Chem. Lett. and edits the journal Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry. He has extensive experience in project and portfolio management, target validation, hit triage, hit to lead and lead optimization medicinal chemistry, eADME profiling, and preclinical candidate selection.

He is also Adjunct Professor at Drexel University College of Medicine and holds an Executive Masters in Technology Management from the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton, Penn Engineering). Dr. Reitz founded and is CEO of both Fox Chase Chemical Diversity Center, Inc. and ALS Biopharma, LLC since 2008.


Monday, April 27, 5:15 PM

Developing your Team and Your Funding Strategy

Tuesday, April 28, 2:15 PM

Edward Spack, PhD

Vector BioSolutions/Therini

Dr. Edward (Ted) Spack has over 25 years of biotech translational experience, including preclinical development of drug candidates for multiple sclerosis, nosocomial infection, and biodefense. At SRI International, Dr. Spack directed the PharmaSTART program (a consortium of SRI, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and UC San Francisco), drafting preclinical development blueprints that led to several major grants and new biotech companies. He has consulted with the NIH translational core services committee and several NIH institutes on preclinical development and serves on several study sections, including the NIA Alzheimer’s Disease Drug Development review panel, the NIH Small Business Review on Drug Discovery for Aging, Neuropsychiatric and Neurological Disorders, and the Falk Trust Catalyst and Transformational Award programs. As Managing Director of an innovative partnership between the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and EMD Serono he supported innovative early stage MS drug discovery and development projects in academic labs and biotech companies. Through the California Life Sciences Institute (CLSI) FAST program and the SRI Innovation program he mentors SF Bay area and international academic and industry teams in biotech company formation and pitch decks.

Dr. Edward Spack received his doctoral degree from The Johns Hopkins University and his postdoctoral fellowship in cellular immunology at Stanford University.


Monday, April 27, 10:00 AM


Tuesday, April 28, 2:40 PM

Nadine Tatton, PhD


Dr. Nadine Tatton  joined AFTD as Scientific Director in June 2013. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a neuroscientist in basic science and translational research, combined with technology transfer and business development expertise. She has a personal connection to ALS, having been a family caregiver and is deeply committed to the translation of scientific discoveries into treatment opportunities that will benefit patients and caregivers alike in FTD and other neurodegenerative disorders.


Monday, April 27, 3:10 PM

Case Study: Challenges in Drug Development for Neurodegenerative Disease

Monday, April 27, 3:15 PM


Tuesday, April 28, 2:40 PM

Leticia Toledo-Sherman, PhD

Rainwater Charitable Foundation

Dr. Leticia Toledo-Sherman is Senior Director of Drug Discovery for the Tau Consortium and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Neurology at UCLA. In her role at the Foundation, she provides strategic direction and oversight of the drug discovery portfolio. Dr. Toledo-Sherman brings critical expertise and best practices in neurodegenerative disease drug discovery to accelerate the development of therapies for Tauopathies.

Previously, she was Director of Medicinal Chemistry and Computer-Aided Drug Design at the CHDI Foundation, leading drug discovery programs for therapeutic development in Huntington’s Disease (HD). Prior to joining CHDI, Dr. Toledo-Sherman was Executive Director of Chemistry at Lymphosign (Pharmascience Inc), leading the development of therapeutics for blood cancers. From 2000 to 2004, she led a multi-site, multidisciplinary team using chemical proteomics and bioinformatics to discover therapeutic targets and to investigate the mechanism of action of drugs. Dr. Toledo-Sherman started her professional career as a leading scientist at Kinetix Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Amgen), where she implemented an in silico platform aimed at rational drug design of kinase inhibitors targeting multiple therapeutic areas. She has served on the Science Advisory Board of the SGC-UNC Kinase Unit and is currently on the Science Advisory Board of The Chemical Probes Portal.

Dr. Toledo-Sherman is an advocate and supporter of open science at the pre-competitive drug discovery stage. She received a PhD in Organic Chemistry from The State University of New York at Stony Brook and did postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.


Tuesday, April 28, 1:45 PM


Tuesday, April 28, 2:40 PM

Alessio Travaglia, PhD

Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation

Dr. Alessio Travaglia is a member of the ADDF’s Scientific Affairs team. He supports the scientific portfolio through strategic review of funding proposal and program management.

Dr. Travaglia completed his postdoctoral training at New York University, where he studied mechanisms underlying memory formation during infancy. He earned a doctorate in nano science at the University of Catania (Italy), where he worked on synthesis and characterization of new potential drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Travaglia has authored numerous peer-reviewed publications, including articles in Nature Neuroscience and Journal of Neuroscience.

Case Study: Challenges Associated with Biomarker Development in Neurodegenerative Conditions – “A Commercial Perspective”

Tuesday, April 28, 10:45 AM

Iswariya (Ishu) Venkataraman, PhD


Dr. Iswariya (Ishu) Venkataraman obtained her doctorate degree from the University of Luebeck, Germany in 2018. She was awarded the Doctor rerum naturalium (Dr. rer. nat.), which is translated as doctorate of natural sciences in the United States. The field of study was Neuroscience.

Iswariya Venkataraman (Ishu Venkat) is the “Market Development Manager” in the Scientific Affairs department of EUROIMMUN US. She plays a key role in expanding the market for EUROIMMUN’s neurodegeneration assays in the United States. As part of this responsibility, she interacts with key opinion leaders in the field and builds a network to represent the scientific arm of the company. She is currently a member of the ADNI Private Partner Scientific Board (PPSB) that aims to advance the standardization and validation of biomarker tests in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.

Case Study: Development of Novel Stress Kinase Inhibitor

Monday, April 27, 3:40 PM


Monday, April 27, 5:15 PM

D. Martin Watterson, PhD

Northwestern University

Dr. Martin Watterson serves in an advisory role to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the areas of process and risk analysis. In addition to industry consulting, Dr. Watterson serves on advisory boards for small business start-ups, biotechnology companies, and non-profit organizations in the area of CNS drug discovery and development. His personal CNS drug development experience includes the discovery and preclinical development of novel small molecule therapeutic candidates that attenuate disease related to synaptic dysfunction, as well as participation in development of protein replacement therapeutics. 

Dr. Watterson is the G.D. Searle Endowed Chair Professorship at Northwestern University, where he is also Professor of Pharmacology in the Feinberg School of Medicine. Previous relevant activities at Northwestern include the founding of an academic drug discovery research and training program characterized by the generation of multiple CNS drug candidates taken into preclinical and clinical development through the leveraged use of Foundation and NIH funding. He also served in various administrative positions, including Department Chair, University Center Director, and Curriculum Co-Director. 

Prior to Northwestern, he held faculty positions at The Rockefeller University, where he was an Andrew Mellon Fellow, and at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he was Professor of Pharmacology and an Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Watterson is the recipient of the 2016 Melvin R. Goodes Prize recognizing researchers working in promising areas of drug discovery for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

SEMA4D Signals Neuronal Stress and Triggers Inflammatory Transformation of Astrocytes

Tuesday, April 28, 11:10 am

Case Study: SEMA4D Modulates Blood-Brain Barrier, Microglia, and Inhibits Remyelination in Neurodegenerative Disease

Tuesday, April 28, 11:10 AM

Maurice Zauderer, PhD


Dr. Maurice Zauderer has served as Vaccinex’s President and Chief Executive Officer and a member of its board of directors since our inception in April 2001.

Prior to founding the company, Dr. Zauderer was an Associate Professor at the University of Rochester and has also held senior faculty positions at Columbia University. During his academic career, Dr. Zauderer held the position of visiting scientist at the Laboratory of Cell Biology, the Ontario Cancer Institute and the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Zauderer received a B.S. in Physics from Yeshiva University and a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.