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Speaker Bios

Amy Altman, Ph.D.
Associate, Booz Allen Hamilton

Before moving to the Washington D.C. area to join Booz Allen Hamilton, Dr. Amy Altman received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degrees in Microbiology from Miami University in Oxford , Ohio . She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Vanderbilt University in 2000 and completed a 3 year post-doctoral fellowship in the area of eukaryotic DNA replication. Dr. Altman also received a certificate in business for Growing and Managing the Biotech Enterprise from the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management in 2003.

Dr. Altman is currently an Associate with Booz Allen Hamilton, a global strategy and technology consulting firm. Booz Allen has been at the forefront of consulting for businesses and governments for 90 years. Today, Booz Allen is one of the world's largest consulting firms, with more that 16,000 staff worldwide, serving clients on six continents.

As an Associate with Booz Allen, Dr. Altman provides science and technology support to clients within the Department of Defense, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG), the Air Force and Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC), as well as The Office of The Secretary of Defense. Dr. Altman also provides Subject Matter Expertise to numerous classified clients. Her work is generally focused in the areas of bioterrorism (threat assessment, sensing, defeat, and decontamination of weapons of mass destruction), enhancing soldier performance and survivability, and applications of biotechnology to the Department of Defense. Her work in these areas led to her receiving numerous awards.

You can reach her at


Michelle Cissell, Ph.D.
Associate Director of Strategic Planning, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

Michelle Cissell, Ph.D. is Associate Director for Strategic Planning in the Research Department of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF). Her duties include portfolio analysis, strategic planning, and management of the review of clinical grant applications. Prior to joining JDRF, she served as an American Association for the Advancement of Science /NIH Science Policy Fellow at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Dr. Cissell has a Ph.D. in Molecular Physiology from Vanderbilt University and a B.S. in Biochemistry from Purdue University.


Bruce Conn, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology, Dean of School of Mathematical & Natural Sciences, Berry College

Dr. Bruce Conn is Professor of Biology and Dean of the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences at Berry College in Mount Berry , Georgia . He has served on the faculties of the University of Cincinnati and Wilmington College in Ohio , St. Lawrence University in New York , and the University of the South in Tennessee , where he was Chair of the Department of Biology. He holds a current appointment as Associate in Invertebrate Zoology with the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University

Dr. Conn earned the B.S. degree in biology from Lee University in Cleveland , Tennessee , the M.S. degree in biology from Morehead State University in Kentucky , and the Ph.D. in biology from the University of Cincinnati . As an active researcher and writer, Dr. Conn has authored more than 200 scientific publications, including dozens of articles in scientific journals, and a major textbook, Atlas of Invertebrate Reproduction and Development , that was awarded national honors in bio- and medical publishing by the Association of American Publishers. He has lectured in several countries around the world, and throughout the United States , and recently taught in the doctoral program in pharmacy at the University of Valencia , Spain

Dr. Conn serves several major international journals: as Associate Editor of the Journal of Parasitology ; as a member of the editorial boards of Acta Parasitologica and Parasitology Research ; as business manager for the journal, Invertebrate Biology ; and as an editorial reviewer for numerous scientific journals and book publishers. Dr. Conn has served as President of the American Microscopical Society, one of the oldest scientific organizations in America . He has also served as President of the Southeastern Society of Parasitologists, and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Academy of Science. He is currently a member of several international research collaborations based in the United States , Canada , Poland , Ireland , Spain , and Australia .


Mark D. Dibner, Ph.D., MBA
President, Bioability LLC

Mark D. Dibner is the President and founder, of BioAbility, LLC, an 11-year-old firm in Research Triangle Park, NC. BioAbility’s staff of ten provides strategic business information, business strategy and analysis for the biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and the life sciences industries. Mark received his Ph.D. in neurobiology and pharmacology from Cornell University Medical College, his M.B.A in strategic planning from Widener University and his BA from the University of Pennsylvania. He spent 10 years as a research scientist in both academia and industry. He has written more than 110 published articles and is the author or editor of 12 books on commercial biotechnology and the life sciences. For 13 years he served as adjunct associate professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, teaching courses on management of technology and entrepreneurship, and for three years was a Fellow of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has served on the boards of directors for four biotechnology companies, the Council of Biotechnology Centers, the Association of Biotechnology Companies, and the Emerging Companies Section of BIO, as well as on four editorial boards. Prior to founding BioAbility in 1994, he spent eight years managing BioAbility’s precursor group as a vice president of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and prior to that was a principal scientist at E.I. Dupont for six years. Mark was also the co-founder and President of Strategic Outcomes Services, Inc., a pharmacoeconomics consulting firm (1998 until its sale in 2001), and is founder and Chairman of Kramden Institute, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable corporation (2003- ) that collects, refurbishes computers to donate to disadvantaged children. He enjoys working with entrepreneurs, corporate boards, and PhD students and postdocs looking for alternative careers.


Kerri Dugan, Ph.D.
Research Biologist, Counterterrorism Forensic Science Research Unit, FBI Laboratory

Kerri Dugan attended the College of William and Mary where she earned B.S. and M.A. degrees in Chemistry. She performed her doctorate work at Princeton University and received a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology for her work on the c-Myc and E2F-1 oncogenic transcription factors. She joined the Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit of the FBI in 2000 as a Research Biologist and currently serves as group leader of the Biological Sciences group within the CTFSRU. Most of Dr. Dugan’s research focuses on mitochondrial DNA analysis techniques, SNP genotyping, and DNA extraction.


Robert Gould, Ph.D.
Vice President, Licensing & External Research, Merck Research

Dr. Gould is currently Vice President, Licensing and External Research, Boston, Merck Research Labs. His responsibilities include identifying early stage opportunities for collaboration or licensing with both academic and biotechnology institutions on the East coast of the United States.

Dr. Gould obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1981 at The University of Iowa under the guidance of Dr. A. A. Spector, after completing his undergraduate degree in chemistry at Spring Arbor College, Michigan. He then moved to the Departments of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, Maryland for post-doctoral studies with Dr. S. Snyder. In 1984 he joined Merck Sharp and Dohme Research Labs as a Senior Research Pharmacologist in the Pharmacology department. He has remained with Merck Research Labs for 20 years. During this time, he was responsible for identifying compounds which block glycoprotein IIb/IIIa on platelets and thus might be useful antithrombotic agents. This work culminated in the identification of Aggrastat TM. Prior to his current position he was Vice President, Basic Research, in West Point, Pennsylvania where he oversaw strategic direction and drug discovery activities for multiple therapeutic areas, as well as MRL’s centralized high throughput screening and imaging facilities. For a number of years, he has sat as a permanent member of the internal Merck committees responsible for approval of therapeutic area strategy, for entry of compounds into development, for entry into humans, for entry into phase III trials, and for licensing activities.

Dr. Gould is a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, the American Heart Association (Fellow), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Licensing Executives Society. He has published over 80 peer-reviewed publications and has received numerous awards including the American Oil Chemists’ Honored Student Award, the Clarence P. Berg Award for the outstanding graduate student in biochemistry at the University of Iowa, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Award for Postdoctoral Investigation, the Alumni Career Achievement Award from Spring Arbor College, Fellow of the American Heart Association, and induction into The Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars.


Mary Hanlon, Ph.D.
Health Science Policy Analyst, NIH-NIDDK

Dr. Mary Hanlon is a Health Science Policy Analyst for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda , Maryland . Her primary responsibilities involve program planning, analysis, evaluation, and coordination of research programs supported by the Special Statutory Funding Program for Type 1 Diabetes Research , which is a special appropriation that the NIDDK administers on behalf of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. She also oversees the planning, evaluation, and scientific program analysis of other diabetes-related research efforts supported by the NIDDK. Prior to her employment at the NIDDK, Dr. Hanlon was a Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) Fellow at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) from 2001-2003. In 2001, she completed her Ph.D. degree in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Vanderbilt University , under the direction of Dr. Linda Sealy, where she studied the regulation of the c-fos promoter by the transcription factor CCAAT-Enhancer Binding Protein-Beta. Dr. Hanlon received her bachelor's degree, summa cum laude, from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania in 1996.


Emma Hitt, Ph.D.
Freelance Science Writer

Emma Hitt, PhD, is a freelance medical writer, writing primarily physician continuing medical education materials for the pharmaceutical industry and specializing in oncology. Recent and ongoing projects include a news piece for The Lancet Oncology ; press materials regarding the antihypertensive agent Altace (ramipril); a large slide-set project designed to accompany the approval of Amgen's new targeted cancer drug panitumumab; a monograph on the use of antithymocyte globulin in myelodysplastic disorders; and a monograph on tumor lysis syndrome.

Dr. Hitt has been freelancing fulltime since May 2001, when she earned a PhD in Nutrition and Health Sciences (molecular biology/cancer emphasis) from Emory University . In 2003, she also completed a master's degree in technical communication at Southern Polytechnic State University, where she is currently teaching an undergraduate class in journalism.

Dr. Hitt lives in Marietta, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, and enjoys working from her home office, allowing her to maximize the amount of time she can spend with her husband and two-and-a-half-year old daughter.


Kathy Lee, Ph.D.
Pure and Applied Science Group, Office of Technology Transfer, McGill University

After a Ph.D. at Northwestern University's Institute for Neuroscience and a post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern University's Department of Biology, Molecular Biology and Cell Biology, I joined Northwestern's Technology Transfer Program as a Licensing Assistant.  In that position I learned the basics of patent law, contract drafting and negotiation, and was eventually promoted to Licensing Associate.  I have handled technologies in various disciplines including chemistry, medical science, biotechnology, and biomedical engineering.

In May 2005, my husband and I moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  As of mid-October, I joined the Office of Technology Transfer at McGill University as an Officer in the Pure and Applied Science Group.  My recent activities have included drafting and negotiating contracts written in French, and I was recently asked to participate as an interdisciplinary officer, by evaluating technologies in both the life and pure and applied sciences at McGill.


Gene Kinney, Ph.D.
Director, Department of Alzheimer’s Research, Merck

Dr. Gene Kinney has over 10 years of neuroscience drug discovery experience and is currently Director in the Department of Alzheimer's Research, West Point Neuroscience Drug Discovery at Merck Research Laboratories.

Dr. Kinney joined Merck in 2001 to establish a behavioral and systems neuroscience effort within a newly forming Neuroscience Department. This team utilized functional methodology including behavior, neuroanatomy and electrophysiology to support ongoing efforts and initiate new drug discovery efforts. In his current role, Dr. Kinney supervises a cross-functional team of scientists focused on validating and developing therapeutic agents that interact with molecular targets useful for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. In addition to scientific responsibilities, Dr. Kinney provides project leadership for multiple internal drug discovery programs as well as leadership for collaborative projects with outside scientists from Biotechnology and Academia. Prior to joining Merck, Dr. Kinney had enjoyed time at both AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Dr. Kinney received his BA in Psychology from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and his MA and PhD in Psychobiology and Complex Systems from Florida Atlantic University .


Michelle McMullen-Tack, Ph.D., J.D.
Patent Attorney, McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff

I am an attorney practicing patent law with a focus on biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and diagnostics. I received a B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Illinois , and completed a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology at Northwestern University . I obtained a J.D. from DePaul University School of Law and I am admitted to practice in Illinois and before the U.S District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Additionally, I have been registered to practice before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office since 2002.

I have been working in patent law for approximately five years and was initially hired out of graduate school as a technical advisor. Shortly thereafter I sat for the Patent Bar, which allowed me to prosecute patents before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office as a patent agent. I continued to work as a patent agent while I pursued a law degree. Upon completing my J.D., I accepted an associate position with McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff, a patent boutique firm, in Chicago . My practice encompasses two primary areas, patent litigation and patent prosecution. I draft and prosecute patent applications, and prepare patent validity and freedom-to-operate opinions. I am also involved in several pending patent infringement suits. I routinely draft motions and assist in discovery and case management.

In graduate school, my research was in the field of molecular and reproductive endocrinology. For my doctoral work, I characterized the in vivo functions and actions of the peptide hormone inhibin. By producing a transgenic mouse that overexpressed the rat inhibin alpha subunit gene, I was able to examine the role of inhibin in ovarian function, female infertility, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. My research was supported by several training grants and awards, including National Institutes of Health training grants in biotechnology and reproductive biology.


JJ Owen, Ph.D.
Manager, Business Development, AVEO Pharmaceuticals

JJ joined the Business Development group at AVEO Pharmaceuticals in early 2005. His role is to actively seek Oncology partnerships for either R&D collaborations or in-licensing opportunities. Previous to AVEO, JJ worked for 3 years at Millennium Pharmaceuticals in the Knowledge Management and Scientific and Competitive Analysis group. As the Oncology liaison with the Millennium R&D and Commercial groups, he was tasked with collecting and analyzing competitor information. Other work experience included 3 years at Proteome/Incyte Genomics as a curation team manager and a brief post-doc at Children’s Hospital in Boston. In 1999, JJ received his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University from the laboratory of Steve Hanks where he studied the role of Focal Adhesion Kinase in cell migration.


Diane Pennica, Ph.D. 
Diane Pennica, Ph.D. Senior Scientist in Molecular Oncology, Genetech

Dr. Diane Pennica is a co-discoverer of the heart attack and stroke drug, 
t-PA (Activase). In addition to cloning t-PA, other significant accomplishments include the cloning and characterization of p53, cardiotrophin-1, urokinase, TNF-α, uromodulin, the WISP genes and interferon-γ. She received her BS in Biology from the State University of New York at Fredonia in 1973, her Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island in 1977, and did a post-doctoral fellowship at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology. Dr. Pennica is currently a Senior Scientist in the Molecular Oncology Department at Genentech where she has been for 26 years. Some of her awards and honors include being chosen by Science Digest as one of the scientists involved in the top 100 innovations of 1984 for her work on t-PA. She received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Fredonia State University, and a Service to Humanity Award from the Fredonia Chamber of Commerce. In 1989, Dr. Pennica received the Inventor of the Year Award from the Intellectual Property Owners Foundation in Washington, D.C. for her work on the discovery of t-PA. In 1995, she was named to the State University of New York Alumni Honor Role for excellence in career achievements. In January of 2005, she received The Achievement Award for Research from the University of Rhode Island.

For the last two years, her research has focused on trying to identify novel genes, which are specifically induced or expressed during colon tumor development. Such genes may be useful markers for cancer diagnosis and may be potential targets for cancer therapeutics.


Ben Petro, Ph.D.
Chief, Knowledge Integration Program, Office of Research and Development, Science and Technology Directorate, Department of Homeland Security

Dr. Petro currently serves as the Chief, Knowledge Integration Program Office, within the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Research and Development. The Knowledge Integration Program Office coordinates and oversees the Department's technical research and laboratory studies to identify, characterize, prioritize and mitigate hazards posed by chemical, biological, radiological and explosive (CBRE) threats. In this capacity, Dr. Petro and his office engage researchers from academia, private industry, and the federal government to provide key decision makers within DHS and the Federal biodefense community with actionable information on current and emerging CBRE threats.

Dr. Petro transferred to DHS from the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) Counterproliferation Support Office where he most recently served as Program Manager for a suite of counter-chemical/biological warfare (CBW) programs. Previously, Dr. Petro was the Chief Scientist and Senior Analyst for DIA's Red Team BioChem 20/20 where he helped project potential trends in foreign development and use of chemical and biological weapons. Dr. Petro began his career with DIA as a biological warfare analyst charged with assessing threats posed by selected nations and terrorists. During his tenure at DIA, Dr. Petro led and/or participated in a number of advisory panels and workshops targeted to address underlying issues of science and security and to facilitate incorporation of cutting-edge technical insights into the Intelligence Community (IC).

Dr. Petro received his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from Vanderbilt University , where his research focused on understanding the molecular signals that dictate development and maturation of B-cells that contribute to acquired immunity and how naturally occurring mutations that disrupt those processes lead to immunodeficiency diseases in humans and animals. Dr. Petro's work has been published in a number of peer-reviewed journals; recent publications have appeared in Science, Studies in intelligence, and Biosecurity and Bioterrorism. Dr. Petro's contributions have been recognized via a number of awards from DHS, DIA and CIA; in 2004, Dr. Petro received a Studies in Intelligence Award from the Center for the Study of Intelligence for his contribution to the body of intelligence literature and the Director of Central Intelligence's Galileo Award for innovation within the IC.


Ricardo Richardson, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology and Director of the Cancer Research Program at the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute, North Carolina Central University

Bio coming soon!


Amy Rock, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist, Cumberland Pharmaceuticals

Amy D. Rock, PhD joined Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc. shortly after the company’s inception and has played a pivotal role in building the Regulatory Affairs Department and its infrastructure. In addition to managing all interactions between Cumberland and the FDA, Dr. Rock oversees the entire preparation of pre- and post-approval regulatory submissions, from outlining general strategy to reviewing individual documents. Additional responsibilities include (1) a role in Research & Development in protocol development and managing clinical trials; (2) a role in Medical Affairs overseeing call center activity, and (3) a role in Marketing & Sales in the development of sales force training and product promotional materials. Lastly, Dr. Rock serves on the company’s corporate compliance committee. Dr. Rock received her B.A. in Economics from Washington University, PhD in Immunology from the University of Kentucky, and M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University.


Lori Rudolph-Owen, Ph.D.
Program Manager, Portfolio & Program Management, Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Lori currently works in the Strategic Development Operations group at Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, MA. She manages and coordinates the development team responsible for guiding a Cystic Fibrosis drug candidate from the pre-clinical and clinical phases on to registration. Prior to joining Vertex, Lori spent 6 years in various roles within the Oncology Discovery Research organizations at Eisai Research Institute (1 year) and Millennium Pharmaceuticals (5 years). At both companies, she was responsible for generating animal and cell based models to identify drug candidates involved in the initiation and progression of solid tumors. Prior to her move to the Boston area, she completed a short post-doc with Dr. Graham Carpenter at Vanderbilt University. In 1997, Lori received her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University in the laboratory of Dr. Lynn Matrisian where she studied the involvement of matrix metalloproteinases in reproductive and carcinogenic processes.


Cindy Vnencak-Jones, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pathology, Director of Molecular Genetics Laboratory, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Dr. Vnencak-Jones is the Director of the Molecular Genetics Lab at Vanderbilt University Medical Center . Operational since 1989, this lab is one of the largest academic based clinical DNA laboratories in the Southeast serving the patients of middle Tennessee and surrounding areas but also acting as a reference laboratory receiving specimens from across the nation and around the world. Testing primarily includes screening and diagnostic testing for inherited Mendelian and complex diseases as well as testing for the diagnosing, staging, and monitoring of treatment for patients with acquired diseases. Dr. Vnencak-Jones received her BS in Biology from the University of South Carolina in 1980, her PhD in Human Genetics from the Medical College of Virginia in 1985 and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Division of Medical Genetics at Vanderbilt University .

Dr. Vnencak-Jones has served on multiple committees for national organizations promoting the training, education and competency of professionals in the field of Molecular Diagnostics. At her institution, she carries out these activities by serving as the Director of the American Board of Medical Genetics – Clinical Molecular Genetics fellowship program and the Associate Director of the American Board of Pathology – Molecular Genetic Pathology fellowship program.

Dr. Vnencak-Jones has authored 10 chapters and published 65 peer reviewed papers. While her clinical research covers a wide range of topics, an underlying theme prevails – the application of molecular techniques for the diagnosis and understanding of human diseases.


Nancy Wall, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor and Chair of Biology, Lawrence University

Nancy Wall is currently an associate professor and chair of biology at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. Her science career began as an undergraduate biology major. Before deciding what area of biology to pursue in graduate school, she completed an M.A. in biology education while teaching high school biology. Her current research interests include pattern formation and examining the evolutionary link between growth factors involved in left-right asymmetry. Her current teaching responsibilities include developmental biology, comparative vertebrate anatomy, developmental neurobiology, general zoology, and gender studies.


Brian Zambrowicz, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President of Research, Lexicon Genetics

Dr. Zambrowicz co-founded Lexicon Genetics, a biopharmaceutical company that developed large-scale gene knockout technology for use in drug discovery. He currently serves as Executive Vice President of Research, and previously served as Senior Vice President of Genomics (February 2000 to August 2002), Vice President of Research (January 1998 to February 2000), and Senior Scientist (April 1996 to January 1998). Dr. Zambrowicz received his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington, where he studied tissue-specific gene regulation using transgenic mice. He did a post-doctoral fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington.