We are thrilled to welcome a diverse group of speakers representing many roles post-PhD.
As Vice President of Innovation at MassBio, Gauri serves the evolving needs of the early-stage innovation community via programming and relationship-building with thought leaders, key stakeholders, and constituents of the Massachusetts life sciences innovation ecosystem. She leads MassBio’s efforts as a connector between innovators and the industry to enable the development, distribution, and delivery of breakthrough technologies in life sciences.
Prior to joining MassBio, Gauri was an Associate Director in Academic Partnerships and External Innovation at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research Inc., where she drove external innovation by developing research partnerships and strategic collaborations with key partners in the academic innovation ecosystem. As a business development associate at Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development, Gauri supported OTD’s mission to build strategic relationships with industry to enable the effective development and commercialization of Harvard technologies. Gauri is passionate about diversity, inclusion, and equity, and about promoting inclusive innovation that serves underserved medically relevant populations.
Gauri holds a Ph.D. in Biology from University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), an M.S. in Innovation from D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University (Boston), a B.Sc in Microbiology and Biochemistry from St. Xavier’s College (Mumbai, India), and an M.Sc. in Biotechnology from Pune University (India).
Maria Agostini, Ph.D., is a Clinical Virology Scientist at Vir Biotechnology, Inc. In this role, Dr. Agostini collaborates with cross-functional teams to support the clinical development of therapies for respiratory diseases, including influenza and COVID-19. Dr. Agostini has contributed to assay development, clinical study management, and authoring technical reports to support Vir’s clinical programs.
Dr. Agostini received her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University under the mentorship of Dr. Mark Denison studying broad-spectrum coronavirus antiviral drugs. During her graduate studies, she also interned at Gilead Sciences as part of the Chemical Biology of Infectious Diseases training program.
Dr. Amanda K. Antons, PhD, is a partner with the patent law firm Dechert, LLP.
Dr. Antons’s practice focuses on patent litigation, specifically in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, including biologics litigation, ANDA litigation, PTAB proceedings, European Patent Office proceedings, other contentious patent office matters including interferences, and related trade secrets litigation. Her doctoral training, including work on T cell/HIV interactions, provides her with significant research experience and knowledge in the biotechnology and life sciences industries.
Dr. Antons' cases have dealt with a wide variety of technologies, including monoclonal antibodies, peptides, DNA sequencing and small-molecule therapeutics. Dr. Antons also has experience counseling clients regarding patent portfolio evaluation, including conducting diligences regarding validity of biologics patents and the freedom to operate new technologies.
Dr. Antons received her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt in 2008 and her JD at DePaul University College of Law in 2011.
Originally a chemist, Dr. Jeff Bylund transitioned into biology via a Ph.D. in Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University, where he developed protocols for differentiating human iPSC’s into cardiac myocytes for use in drug discovery, toxicology, and safety pharmacology. Dr. Bylund then transitioned into a career in industry as an Advanced Biosystems Specialist at Nikon Instruments. While at Nikon, Dr. Bylund gained expertise in microscopy, optics, high content screening, tissue and cellular sample preparation, and image analysis while serving as a link between the sales and technical teams. He then had the opportunity to manage stem cell applications at Nikon and to start a new business unit providing imaging as a service to the biotech and pharma industry in the greater Boston area. Dr. Bylund recently took a new role at 10X Genomics as a Spatial Science and Technology Advisor, where he works with clients on the cutting edge of imaging and omics technology to interrogate biological systems in their complexity.
Dr. T.K. Feaster is a Pharmacologist in the Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories at FDA. He obtained his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Vanderbilt University and completed a GEM Fellowship in Assay Development and Screening at Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development. Prior to joining FDA, Dr. Feaster worked as a Scientist at Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics, Inc. in the Toxicology and Safety Pharmacology business unit. He then took the position of Cardiovascular Product Manager where he was responsible for all phases of product management, research & development, and marketing of the entire cardiovascular portfolio. Dr. Feaster’s research interests include cardiomyocyte electrophysiology, toxicology, pharmacology, and regulatory science. In addition to his regulatory science research, he serves as a toxicological risk assessment subject matter expert and consultant reviewer at FDA.
After earning my PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Louisville, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in personalized (precision) medicine. Much of my graduate experience was in molecular biology-based cancer research; my dissertation and thesis evaluated polymorphisms among genes involved in various biological pathways (e.g., DNA repair, xenobiotic metabolism, immune response, angiogenesis, and apoptosis) in relation to prostate or breast carcinogenesis. In my first postdoctoral fellowship, I screened drug targets identified through next generation sequencing by using high-throughput screening assays. In this training, collaborated with multiple principal investigators on projects discovering and validating potential drug targets. Although I enjoyed these precision medicine projects in solid tumors, I pursued further clinical opportunities through a training opportunity at VUMC. Here I was part of study using humanized patient derived xenografts to examine tumor microenvironments in metastatic sites. During this time, I was also able to leverage the excellent professional development opportunities provided by VUMC. This where I first learned about the Medical Science Liaison role.
Both of my fellowship provided a great deal of knowledge into the practical aspects of drug development, especially early development. After graduate school, this was excellent preparation for a pharma career. My first job in pharma was as a Medical Science Liaison with Novo Nordisk. Unfortunately, I was only in the position a short time but was still able to gain knowledge and experience that I used to launch my career with Boehringer. I joined the company as a Medical Science Liaison in February 2017. As MSL, I was focused on a specific therapeutic area but was able to learn about many aspects of drug development. As a Regional Lead, I follow projects across multiple therapeutic areas and in various stages of drug development.
In my current role, I work with drug development project teams as a representative of all relevant stakeholders. The United States in my region and integrate input/feedback from all departments throughout the drug development process. The alignment is particularly critical around major milestones, but manages the needs of patients, regulators and stakeholders in our healthcare ecosystem. This information help guide business decisions on clinical programs and projects. The types of information vary depending on the project, scope and many other factors; and is captured from sources including patients/caregivers, healthcare providers, payers, professional organizations, internal colleagues, competitors, press releases/social media, etc.
Dr. Wyatt McDonnell is Co-Founder, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Infinimmune, a biotechnology company utilizing natural immunity to transform natural antibodies into safer and more effective drugs for complex diseases. Wyatt and his co-founders started Infinimmune after discovering a new lens through which to view human B cells and their antibodies.
Previously, Wyatt worked on world-class single cell technologies at 10x Genomics where he was Technical Lead and Developer of Barcode-Enabled Antigen Mapping (BEAM). Wyatt also developed 10x Genomics’ first therapeutic antibodies and core immunology intellectual property behind three commercial products to interrogate the immune repertoire. As a faculty member at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Wyatt studied the human immune correlates of chronic viral infection and type 2 diabetes using single cell technology and computational approaches and received Young Investigator awards from CROI, the International Workshop on HIV and Aging, and the American Heart Association. He received his PhD and Masters also at Vanderbilt University for his work on the roles of T and B cells in HIV infection, checkpoint inhibitor toxicity, and other immune-mediated diseases. He has co-authored 31 peer-reviewed papers in journals including Nature, Cell, and Nature Medicine, and 19 published patents in relation to immunobiology, genomics, and disease. He has been invited to speak at conferences including PEGS, the Keystone Symposia, the World Vaccine Congress, and PMWC.
Wyatt is a one-time National Spelling Bee finalist and can be found playing piano, reading, or exploring the Bay Area culinary scene in his free time.
Dr. Stacey Mont, PhD, is the Associate Director for Business Development Competitive Intelligence at Bristol Myers Squibb in Princeton, NJ. Dr. Mont received her PhD from Vanderbilt University in Cancer Biology and Radiation Oncology, focusing on immuno-oncology biological mechanisms for the treatment of cancer. Prior to her current role, Dr. Mont served as a US Medical Communications Manager for Early and New Assets with BMS.
Bio coming soon!
Kristina (Kristi) Thiel completed her PhD in Biochemistry at Vanderbilt University under the mentorship of Graham Carpenter, followed by postdoctoral training at the University of Iowa in RNA biodrugs with Paloma Giangrande and gynecologic oncology with Kim Leslie. Dr. Thiel is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Iowa. The focus of the Thiel laboratory is translational studies of gynecologic cancer to better guide treatment choice and improve overall survival.
Dr. Thiel has a strong track-record in coordinating multi-investigator projects and fundraising for academic research. She is also a cofounder of the University of Iowa spinoff company, Immortagen, which is developing bioinformatics analysis tools for personalized cancer treatments. She has authored 57 scientific manuscripts and is the named inventor on two patents.
Dr. Wexler is the Chief of Staff for Vaccine Research & Development (VRD) at Pfizer, where he leads strategic and operational planning and scientific support for the Office of the Chief Scientific Officer of VRD. Aaron joined Pfizer in 2021 as a senior manager of scientific communications, where he managed writing, editorial, and graphic design projects, including research manuscripts and patents.
Prior to joining Pfizer, Dr. Wexler was a post-doctoral research fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Skaar at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. During his time at Vanderbilt, he received offers for prestigious fellowships from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation and the Life Sciences Research Foundation to support his research into how Clostridioides difficile invades and modifies the intestinal environment and resident microbiota. He earned a PhD and MPhil in microbiology from Yale University under the mentorship of Dr. Andrew Goodman, and a BS in biology from Cornell University.
He is a father, a husband, and a classically trained violinist.