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Speaker Bios


Robert Copeland, PhD

Vice President, Biology, Oncology Center of Excellence in Drug Discovery, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine 

Robert A. Copeland, Ph.D. is Vice President, Biology, Oncology Center of Excellence in Drug Discovery at the GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceutical Company. He is also Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics and a Fellow of the Eldridge Reeves Johnson Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
He received his doctorate in chemistry from Princeton University and went on to do postdoctoral studies at the California Institute of Technology. Before joining GSK he held scientific staff positions at Merck Research Laboratories, DuPont Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb and a faculty position at the University of Chicago, Prizker School of Medicine. Dr. Copeland’s research interest is in elucidating the determinants of drug recognition by their biological targets, and the use of this information in the discovery and design of new medicines. He has contributed to drug discovery and development efforts across a wide range of therapeutic areas, leading to 8 drug candidates entering human clinical trials and the approval of Altabax (Retapamulin), a novel topical antibiotic. Dr. Copeland has contributed over 140 papers and reviews to the scientific literature, holds 8 issued U. S. patents and has authored 4 books in the areas of protein science and enzymology. His latest book, Evaluation of Enzyme Inhibitors in Drug Discovery: A Guide for Medicinal Chemists and Pharmacologists published in March 2005.


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Jonathan Yingling, PhD

Chief Scientific Officer, Angiogenesis and Tumor Microenvironment, Lilly Research Laboratories, Eli Lilly and Company

Dr. Yingling received a B.S. degree in Chemistry from the College of William and Mary in 1990 and was awarded a Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology and Pharmacology from Duke University in 1997. He completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Vanderbilt University in Developmental Biology in 1999. He joined Eli Lilly and Company in 2000 as a Senior Biologist in the Oncology Division. Currently he is Chief Scientific Officer, Angiogenesis & Tumor Microenvironment Biology, Cancer Research, Lilly Research Laboratories.



Deanna Adams, PhD

Institute Fellow, Department of Lead Discovery, Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation

Deanna Adams began her scientific training with the Undergraduate Biology Research Program (UBRP) at the University of Arizona in Biochemistry, and worked towards engineering plants for insect resistance. She completed a B.S. in Biology in 1994. In 2000, Deanna was awarded a predoctoral fellowship from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Foundation for studies on the interaction between the stress-activated protein kinase, MEKK3 and Bcl-xL. She received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Arizona in 2002. Following completion of graduate studies Deanna was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University from 2002-2006. Her studies at Vanderbilt focused on signal transduction pathways regulated by protein phosphatase 2A with particular emphasis on Raf/MEK/ERK. Deanna has been an Institute Fellow in Lead Discovery at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego, CA since 2006. Her current research focus is the development of high-throughput compatible cell-based assays to identify small molecule inhibitors for serine/threonine kinases.


Josh Nickols, PhD, MBA

Business Manager, Sports Medicine, BioMimetic Therapeutics

Josh Nickols is a 2003 graduate of the VUMC Molecular Neuroscience PhD program and a 2006 graduate of the Owen Graduate School of Business at Vanderbilt University. Josh joined BioMimetic Therapeutics, Inc. in 2006 where he oversees business development and R&D for Sports Medicine. BioMimetic is a public company devoted to the treatment of bone, cartilage, tendon and ligament injuries through the development of regenerative therapies.


Jim Stefansic, PhD, MBA

Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Pathfinder Therapeutics

Dr. Stefansic is the Chief Technology Officer at Pathfinder Therapeutics, Inc., a start-up medical device company he co-founded in 2004. He previously worked as a research assistant under Dr. 
Robert Galloway in the Center for Technology Guided Therapy in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University. After completing his dissertation, Dr. Stefansic was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His graduate and postdoctoral research included the development of an image-guided surgical system for use in open and laparoscopic liver resection and ablation procedures. From 2002 through 2005, Dr. Stefansic was a Research Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Neurosurgery at Vanderbilt University, where he conducted research in the field of functional brain imaging. In October 2005, he also completed his MBA at Belmont University with a concentration in finance and was a member of Beta Gamma Sigma.

Since early 2005, Dr. Stefansic has developed both short and long term business strategies for Pathfinder and managed the day-to-day operations of the Company. He also led efforts to acquire FDA clearance for Pathfinder's LINASYS (LIver NAvigation SYstem), which was granted in December 2007. He serves as principal investigator on over $3.0MM in grant money obtained through the NCI Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant program.


Ryan Bartlett, PhD

Senior Research Scientist, Protein Biology, Monsanto Company

Ryan Bartlett received his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 2004. Ryan proceeded to a post doc in Dr. Roger Colbran’s lab at Vanderbilt in the department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics from 2004-2007. Currently he is a senior research scientist for Monsanto Company in St. Louis, MO. Ryan’s role with Monsanto involves determination of protein mode of action for candidate targets in transgenic crop plants, integrating product concept from the bench to the field. He works closely with project teams to ensure integration of biochemical data into Monsanto’s product pipeline and for product support. Ryan is also involved with herbicide tolerance projects as well as protein engineering and design platforms. Ryan works closely with Monsanto HR to recruit new talented scientists to fulfill a variety of challenging positions at Monsanto worldwide.



Birgit Priest, PhD

Senior Research Fellow, Ion Channel Department, Merck Research Laboratories

Birgit Priest received her Ph. D. in Biochemistry & Biophysics from Oregon State University in 1993. After post-doctoral work at University of Vermont under the direction of Dr. Joseph Patlak and at the Vollum Institute under the direction of Dr. John Adelman, Dr. Priest joined Merck Research Laboratories in 1998, where she is currently a Senior Research Fellow in the department of Ion Channels. 
While Dr. Priest has worked and published on potassium, sodium and chloride channels, she is best known for her electrophysiological characterization of small conductance calcium-activated potassium (SK) channels, involving macroscopic current and single channel recordings of recombinant and native SK channels, as well as for her work on voltage-gated sodium channels. Some of Dr. Priest’s work on sodium channels has provided new insights into the biophysics of sodium channel activation and into the role of peripherally expressed sodium channels and specifically the Nav1.9 subtype in pain signaling. It has also provided the field with novel tools to study voltage-gated sodium channels, such as a new radioligand and a high-throughput functional assay.



Molly Thoreson, PhD

Senior Regional Medical Liaison, Scientific Affairs Department, Amgen Inc.

Molly Thoreson received her PhD in Cancer Biology from Vanderbilt in 2002. She joined Amgen in 2002 as a medical science liaison and is currently Senior Regional Medical Liaison with Amgen’s Oncology division. Molly interacts with healthcare providers to communicate Amgen’s scientific platform by presenting technical information and research concepts, and facilitating submission of investigator-initiated pre-clinical and clinical proposals. She works out of her home in Nashville, TN and travels often. She is married and has a young son, and enjoys skiing and scuba diving.