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Panel Discussion: Discovery to Therapies…It’s Changing and Quickly

with Duane Roth, Robert Abraham, PhD, Sandra Brown, PhD, Dennis Carson, MD, PhD, David Kabakoff, PhD, Jonathan Thomas, PhD, JD, and Carl Weissman


Duane J. Roth is Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of CONNECT. CONNECT is the globally recognized public benefits organization fostering entrepreneurship in the San Diego region by assisting new business formation of technology and life sciences companies. CONNECT has been directly involved with over 1,500 companies since its inception in 1985 and these companies have secured over $10 billion in funding. Mr. Roth serves on a number of advisory committees and boards of the University of California, including the President's Board on Science and Innovation, the UC San Diego Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center (past Chair), the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Preuss Charter School (Chair), the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), the Health Sciences advisory board and the UC San Diego Foundation Board of directors (past Chair). He also serves on the San Diego State University College of Business (past Chair), and the Sciences & Engineering Advisory Board. Mr. Roth is a member of the Executive Board for the California State University (CSU) Professional Science Master's Program. Mr. Roth is active in the San Diego community serving as co-Chair of the Regional Housing Working Group, and as a member of the Advisory Council for Math for America. Mr. Roth was appointed to the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee for the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) as Vice Chair by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and he also serves as a member on the Governor's Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth. Mr. Roth is a graduate of Iowa Wesleyan College, where he serves as a trustee.

Dr. Bob Abraham is a Senior Vice President in Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development, and the Chief Scientific Officer of Pfizer’s Oncology Research Unit. Prior to joining Pfizer, he led Oncology Discovery at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. Before joining the pharmaceutical industry, he pursued an academic career that began at the Mayo Clinic and Foundation and ended at the Sanford-Burnham Institute for Medical Research, where he served as Director of the Institute’s NCI-designated Cancer Center. He has long-standing research interests in cancer cell signaling, metabolism, and DNA damage responses.

Sandra Ann Brown, professor of psychology and psychiatry, was named the Vice Chancellor for Research at UC San Diego in December 2010. She oversees the Office of Research Affairs, which is charged with creating opportunities, enhancing the research experience, developing tools and training to improve research administration, and supporting and promoting university innovations. The office collaborates with or oversees the campus Organized Research Units, Animal Care, Animal Welfare, Contracts and Grants, Research Ethics, Government Research Relations, University-Industry Relations, Conflict of Interest, Stem Cell Research, Technology Transfer Office, Postdoctoral and Visiting Scholars programs, and Research Communications.
Total UC San Diego research funding for fiscal year 2010 was more than $1,043,000,000. That number included $160 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding the university was awarded over the same period. During her tenure at UC San Diego, Brown has managed academic appointments in two departments: Psychology on the general campus, and Psychiatry in the School of Medicine. She has also simultaneously directed the development of clinical, education and research activities as the Chief of Psychology at the Veterans Affair Health Services System in San Diego. An internationally recognized substance abuse researcher, Dr. Brown has had over 20 federally funded grants and 250 scientific publications. She has extensive experience working with local, state and federal agencies and led national efforts to identify and prevent alcohol and drug problems among youth. She earned her PhD in clinical psychology at Wayne State University in 1981, and is licensed as a psychologist by the California Board of Psychology.

Dennis Carson, MD is a Professor Emeritus of Medicine at Moores Cancer Center. He is also Associate Dean for Cancer Affairs and holder of the Chugai Pharmaceutical Chair in Cancer. Dr. Carson is perhaps best known for his landmark work in developing the agent 2- chlorodeoxyadenosine, or 2-CdA, for the treatment of hairy cell leukemia. This drug, now marketed as Leustatin, is the treatment of choice for this disease and has resulted in long term, complete remissions in about 75 percent of patients, often after just a single infusion. It is also effective in other lymphoid cancers, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.

David Kabakoff joined Sofinnova Ventures as an Executive Partner in 2007. David has 30 years of experience leading technology and product development programs in the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, and drug delivery fields. He currently serves as Chairman of Trius Therapeutics and Chairman of Amplimmune, Inc. He is also a Director of InterMune, Inc.; and Allylix, Inc. Dr. Kabakoff also serves as a Board Observer at Intellikine. David co-founded Salmedix, Inc., a developer of cancer drug treatments, and served as the company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. In June 2005, David negotiated the acquisition of Salmedix by Cephalon, Inc. David also held the positions of Executive Vice President of Dura and President and Chief Executive Officer of Spiros Development Corp. while at Dura Pharmaceuticals, a specialty respiratory pharmaceutical and pulmonary drug delivery company. Earlier, David was also employed as Chief Executive Officer of Corvas International and held senior executive positions with Hybritech, Inc. David received his Ph.D. from Yale University and his BA from Case Western Reserve University.

Jon Thomas is a Co-Founding Partner at Saybrook Capital (“Saybrook”), an investment banking and private equity firm based in Santa Monica, California. Long interested in the biological sciences, Thomas majored in Biology and History at Yale, where he graduated summa cum laude. As a George C. Marshall Scholar at Oxford, he then earned a PhD with a medical focus in Commonwealth History. He subsequently returned to Yale for a JD at the Yale Law School. While there, Thomas retained an involvement with biology by teaching courses on the legal implications of genetic engineering and the impact of disease on history. Thomas went on to be an investment banker for Ehrlich Bober & Co. (a top-10 Wall Street public finance firm) where, among other things, he led a team that underwrote over $1 billion in various kinds of bonds for the Los Angeles Community College District. He left Ehrlich Bober in 1990 to co-found Saybrook. While with Saybrook, Thomas led an early round of financing for Advanced Cell Technology, which recently received Food and Drug Administration approval for two embryonic stem cell-based clinical trials. In addition to his financing expertise, Thomas brings legal expertise that will help CIRM navigate clinical trials, bilateral collaborative agreements, intellectual property, loan agreements and other legal challenges that will confront CIRM going forward. His legal experience includes clerking for White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler in the last year of the Carter Administration and also for the Honorable George Mackinnon of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He later practiced at then-Munger, Tolles & Rickershauser in Los Angeles. Thomas also has a broad knowledge of governmental agencies, having served for seven years each as either member or vice president of the City of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners and as a member of the Governing Board for the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority. In that latter role, he developed a plan to finance the $2.4 billion expansion of the Corridor rail lines from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles. Through this government work and his many years in public finance, he has served at various times as underwriter, financial advisor and issuer of a wide range of tax-exempt and taxable bonds. Thomas has worked closely with political officials at the federal, state and local level on a variety of projects for over 25 years. He was the chief government liaison to the Governor and State legislature for the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors in the PG&E bankruptcy, for whom Saybrook acted as financial advisor in their Chapter 11 proceedings. He has structured a number of public/private partnerships, including the financing for the Nokia Theater in Hollywood, home to the Academy Awards. Thomas has a long-standing commitment to patient advocacy. He spent more than 15 years on the Board of the Crippled Children’s Society of Southern California and served as chair for four years. The organization, now called AbilityFirst, assists children with spinal cord injuries and mental disabilities that could be targets of stem cell therapies. Thomas currently serves as a member of the AbilityFirst Board.

Carl Weissman serves as the Chairman and CEO of Accelerator. He has been the CEO since its founding in May 2003, and was elevated to Chairman in 2008. Carl is also a Managing Director at OVP Venture Partners, one of the Accelerator investors and a firm with which he has been affiliated as a Managing Director or previously a Venture Partner since 2006. Prior to Accelerator, from 2001-2006, Carl was a Venture Partner at MPM Capital (Boston) and in that capacity served as President and CEO of Centagenetix, a Cambridge, MA, human genetics company, prior to founding Accelerator on MPM’s behalf. In his role as CEO of Centagenetix, Carl led the February 2003 merger of Centagenetix, with Elixir Pharmaceuticals, and remained on the Board of Directors of the combined entity until January 2005. Prior to joining Centagenetix and MPM, he spent six years at Prolinx, Inc., where he held a number of positions, culminating as the head of both Finance and Business Development. Carl serves on the Board of the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association (WBBA) and the Board of the Oregon Translational Research and Drug Development Institute (OTRADI).