Leadership

Sean Ekins, Ph.D., D.Sc. Founder, Board member, Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Ekins graduated from the University of Aberdeen; receiving his M.Sc., Ph.D. and D.Sc in Clinical Pharmacology. Sean was a postdoctoral fellow at Lilly Research Laboratories. He has worked as a senior scientist at Pfizer and Lilly Research Laboratories, respectively and as Associate Director of Computational Drug Discovery at Concurrent Pharmaceuticals, Inc and Vice President of Computational Biology at GeneGo . He is on the SAB for several companies and rare disease foundations. He is also CEO and Co-Founder at Phoenix Nest. In addition he has Adjunct faculty positions at the University of Maryland, Rutgers and UNC Chapel Hill. Sean has authored or co-authored ~295 peer reviewed scientific papers, book chapters and patents as well as edited/ co-edited five books. He has received extensive funding from NIH and DOD.

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Alex Clark Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer

Dr. Clark is the founder of Molecular Materials Informatics, Inc. He is formally trained as a synthetic organometallic chemist, and has been building computational chemistry software for two decades. In recent years he has specialized in cheminformatics products, with an emphasis on usability by chemists, advanced algorithms, visualization techniques, and data quality. These techniques are conveniently demonstrated in the form of mobile apps, such as PolyPharma, Approved Drugs, Open Drug Discovery Teams and ChemSpider Mobile.

 

 

Maggie A.Z. Hupcey, Ph.D., CHIEF Operating OFFICER

Dr. Hupcey graduated from Cornell University with a PhD in Chemistry and has since had positions in strategy and project management at companies across medical devices, drug discovery, and vaccines.  She was most recently was Senior Manager, Exploratory Development at GSK where she was accountable for the technical development of three Phase 1 programs.  Dr. Hupcey brings nearly 20 years of strategic and operational experience to the company, has several patents as well as contributed to editing a book on collaborations. 

 

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Ana PUhl Rubio, Ph.D.,Senior SCIENTIST

Dr. Puhl graduated from University of Sao Paulo, receiving a Ph.D. in Biomolecular Physics. She graduated with her M.Sc. in Biotechnology and Bachelors in Pharmacy from the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Ana was a postdoctoral fellow at GlaxoSmithKline, working on drug discovery and crystallography. She also did a postdoc at University of North Carolina, performing high-throughput screening assays, development of chemical probes for cancer targets and crystallography of protein-peptide, protein-small molecule and protein-antibody complexes. Ana was an intern from IMPACT program (UNC) in the summer of 2018.

 
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KIMBERLEY M. ZORN M.S., STAFF SCIENTIST

Kim graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2013 with a B.S. in Biology, and soon after joined the Infectious Diseases Department at LabCorp quantifying HIV, HBC, and HCV RNA in human samples. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro again in 2016 with an M.S. in Biochemistry; her thesis focused on constructing an in silico model mimicking a synaptic plasma membrane in lipid composition.

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THOMAS LANE, M.S., Ph.D., PoSTDOCTORAL FELLOW

Tom recently graduated with a Ph.D.  in molecular and cellular biophysics at UNC Chapel Hill after studying the function and structure of microtubule-actin cross-linking proteins, spectraplakins. His research focused on using many different biophysical techniques, with a central focus on X-ray crystallography, to develop a structural model of a module of the spectraplakin ACF7. He obtained a M.S. in biochemistry from UNCG, where he characterized a recently deorphanized GPCR, GPR35, in silico.  Tom was an ImPACT intern from UNC in the summer of 2017.

 

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Jennifer J. Klein., M.S. Scientist

Jenny graduated from North Carolina State University in 2015 with a B.S. in human biology and B. A. in psychology. Following graduation she pursued her Masters in Physiology where she focused on disease pathology and metabolism and once again graduated from North Carolina State University in 2018. She is a rare disease patient advocate and currently serves on the Adult Resource Committee for the National MPS Society and Board of Directors for the UNC Patient and Family Advisory Board.  

Summer Interns 

 2017 - Daniel Russo

Dan is a PhD student at Rutgers University studying Computational and Integrative Biology. His current research involves the application of Machine Learning and Data Mining in the fields of pharmacology and toxicology. He has a strong passion for reading and discussing science of all disciplines, scientific communication.

 

 

Scientific Advisory Board

Joel S. Freundlich Ph.D.

Dr. Freundlich is an associate professor of Pharmacology & Physiology and Medicine at Rutgers University–New Jersey Medical School. He is a faculty member of the Center for Emerging and Reemerging Pathogens. Prior to his return to academic research in 2006, he spent eight years in the pharmaceutical industry as a medicinal chemist. His undergraduate and master’s degree training were in chemical engineering at Cornell University as a McMullen Dean’s Scholar. He received his doctorate in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the tutelage of 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awardee Richard Schrock. An overarching goal of his current research is the discovery of small molecules that modulate novel biological targets in Mycobacetrium tuberculosis – the causative agent of tuberculosis. To accomplish their aims, his lab typically employs computational, chemical, and biological techniques. His laboratory is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Nancy S. Connell Ph.D.

Dr. Connell is Professor in the Division of Infectious Disease in the Department of Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (RNJMS) and the Rutgers Biomedical Health Sciences. A Harvard University Ph.D. in Microbiology, Dr. Connell’s major research focus is antibacetrial drug discovery in respiratory pathogens such as M. tuberculosis and B. anthracis.  She is Director of the Biosafety Level Three (BSLIII) Facility of RNJMS’s Center for the Study of Emerging and Re-emerging Pathogens and chairs the University’s Institutional Biosafety Committee.  Dr. Connell has been continuously funded by the NIH and other agencies since 1993 and serves on numerous NIH study sections and review panels.  She has served on a number of committees of the National Academy of Sciences, e.g., the Committee on Advances in Technology and the Prevention of their Application to Next Generation Biowarfare Agents (2004), Trends in Science and Technology Relevant to the Biological Weapons Convention; an International Workshop (2010), and the Committee to Review the Scientific Approaches used in the FBI's Investigation of the 2001 Bacillus anthracis Mailings (2011).  Current work is with The National Academies of Sciences “Education Institute on Responsible Science”, held in Jordan (2012), Malaysia (2013) and Trieste (2014).

Ethan O. Perlstein Ph.D.

Dr. Perlstein is the Founder and CEO of Perlara, he is an aspiring orphan drug discoverer, evolutionary pharmacologist, and indie scientist. Ethan has a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from Harvard University, and was a Lewis-Sigler Fellow at Princeton University.

AAron McMurtray MD. Ph.D.

Dr. McMurtray is a board-certified neurologist with a sub-specialty in Behavioral Neurology. Dr. McMurtray earned his medical degree in 2000 at Vanderbilt University and completed neurology residency training at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, followed by fellowship in Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychiatry at UCLA/West LA VA Medical Center. After completing fellowship training, Dr. McMurtray joined the faculty at the University of Hawaii where he was awarded an American Academy of Neurology Clinical Research Training Fellowship and completed a Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Sciences.  In 2009, Dr. McMurtray was recruited to join the Ventura County Medical Center where he founded and directed a multispecialty Traumatic Brain Injury clinic.  Dr. McMurtray also served on the board of the Ventura County Brain Injury Center.  In 2012, Dr. McMurtray rejoined Harbor-UCLA Medical Center as director of the Behavioral Neurology clinic and founded a multispecialty Neuro-HIV clinic, where he instructs Neurology residents and conducts clinical research studies.  Dr. McMurtray’s primary areas of expertise include: traumatic brain injury, neuro-infectious diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases. He is a member of the American Neurological Association and the American Academy of Neurology (Behavioral Neurology, Neuro-infectious Diseases, and Government Services Sections), he is also an investigator at the Los Angeles BioMedical Research Institute and an assistant clinical professor in the Neurology department of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.  He directs an active clinical research program at the Los Angeles BioMedical Research Institute and his recent publications include clinical studies on Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, neurocysticercosis brain infection, and complications of traumatic brain injury.

Robert C. Reynolds Ph.D.

Research Professor of Chemistry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and founder of the RCR Consulting Group, has a BS in chemistry from the University of Virginia and a PhD in organic chemistry from Duke University.  Dr. Reynolds has a strong background in grant writing and reviewing and also provides insight and guidance on agency policies and procedures from pre-award proposal preparation to post-award grant and contract management. He has significant experience in the life sciences, particularly relating to drug design and the pharmaceutical industry, as well as personal care products, and his clients have ranged from small and large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, large cosmetic and formulation companies, and federal agencies that include DOD and the NIH.  Dr. Reynolds has successfully managed relationships with these organizations to secure over $100M in funding for capital improvements, major scientific research programs and establishment of robust contact and chemical screening databases. He is actively involved in several NIH review committees giving him an excellent background and insight into the federal grant system including small and large grant programs (P01, U01, R01, R21/R33 and SBIR and STTR grants).  His experiences encompass the full gamut of proposal and project capture and management from establishing an expert team, budgeting, writing and reviewing as well as business analysis and client presentations through scientific and administrative project implementation and execution.

Joshua G. Pierce, Ph.D.

Joshua earned his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Pittsburgh before completing postdoctoral studies at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA as a NIH Postdoctoral Scholar.  He started his independent career at NC State University as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and has built a group of 15 graduate students and postdocs tackling cutting-edge problems at the interface of chemistry and biology/drug discovery. During his time at NC State Joshua has been awarded an NSF CAREER grant, 2 NIH R01 grants, has been selected as a University Faculty Scholar and recently was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure.  In addition to his duties in the department of Chemistry he is actively engaged in the Comparative Medicine Institute at NC State where he holds the position of Associate Director of Emerging and Infectious Diseases.  Finally, Joshua is the Founder and CEO of Synoxa Sciences, Inc., an early-stage startup company focused on developing novel small molecule antibiotics inspired by marine natural products.

James H. Wikel, B.S., M.S.

James H. Wikel is currently the Chief Chemistry Officer of Apex Therapeutics, Inc., Indianapolis, and Founder of Pisces Therapeutics, LLC., Rockville, MD.  He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics.  Prior to this he was Chief Technology Officer of Coalesix Inc., Cambridge, MA.  He retired in 2004 from Eli Lilly & Company as head of the Department of Structural and Computational Sciences of The Lilly Research Laboratories. He has been actively engaged in pharmaceutical research for over 40 years as both a laboratory scientist and as a scientific manager, and has 41 peer-reviewed scientific publications and 50 issued U.S. Patents.  The subject matter included in these patents and publications describe 4 molecules that underwent clinical evaluation as drug candidates and one successfully marketed agricultural product.  Mr. Wikel has a B.S. and M.S. degree in chemistry from Marshall University in WV.

Rare Disease Advisory Board

Jill Wood B.A.

Jill Wood graduated from Oregon State University with a BS in retail management and apparel design. Jill is a rare disease patient advocate as her son Jonah was diagnosed with Sanfilippo syndrome. She co-founded Jonah’s Just Begun (JJB) with her husband in 2010, a non-profit to raise awareness and support those with Sanfilippo. She built a scientific advisory board, created a comprehensive social media strategy and raised funds to support the research into Sanfilippo syndrome. In 2012 she co-founded Phoenix Nest with the aim to develop treatments for Sanfilippo Syndrome. Jill frequently lobbies on Capitol Hill with the RDLA in support of rare disease initiatives.  Jill is also a speaker at major conferences where she tells her story from mom to CEO of a rare disease organization.

Lori Sames B.A.

Lori Sames is CEO and Co-Founder Hannah's Hope Fund. She received a Bachelor's degree in economics from St. Michael's College, in VT, in 1992. She worked for IDX Systems Corporation as a computer software installation consultant for healthcare until 1996. She then became a Senior Project Lead for integrated heath care delivery system installations. Before becoming a stay at home mom in 2001, prior to the birth of her second child, Reagan, she lead web-based software installations on wireless networks, in the outpatient setting for Allscripts. She helped with her husband's Pet Lodge businesses from time to time, while caring for her three daughters until her youngest daughter, Hannah, was diagnosed with GAN in March of 2008. From that moment forward her life has been dedicated to a treatment and cure of GAN, and making lasting memories for her family.

Allison Moore B.A.

Allison Moore is Founder and CEO of the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation (HNF). She founded HNF in 2001 in an effort to improve the quality of life for people with Charcot-Marie-Tooth. She divides her time between her homes in Manhattan and Amagansett, NY, with her husband, Robert, and her two young sons. Moore founded HNF in 2001 after a hospital mishap in which she was treated with medications that exacerbated her CMT symptoms and made her legs weak and imbalanced. Her goal was to create a foundation that would lead to the development of treatments and a cure for CMT and increased awareness so the world would recognize CMT as a household name.

Sharon King

Sharon King is President of Taylor’s Tale, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, was founded in 2007 by the family and friends of Taylor King of Charlotte, North Carolina, who was diagnosed with infantile Batten disease in 2006 at age 7.

Business Advisory Board 

Andrea barry B.A., M.S.

Andrea Barry is the Managing Partner of Eleventh Hour Inc. She has over 20 years of successful leadership and management experience (MDL, Scitegic, Accelrys, Vertical*i and CDD). She has an earned reputation for exceeding rigorous organizational goals and objectives. Pragmatic, focused, and driven: a person recognized for “turning plans into action” while coaching and mentoring others to achieve their best.