The 16th annual Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology Symposium, hosted by the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology and the Chemical Biology Association of Students, is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. CST. The event is sponsored by Ancora Innovation through Vanderbilt’s partnership with Deerfield Management and will be broadcast remotely.
The symposium is an annual retreat featuring a series of presentations from Vanderbilt students and faculty, a plenary lecture from a distinguished scientist, poster presentations, and speakers from Deerfield Management. A panel discussion with the event’s keynote speaker, Gregory Verdine; a representative from Deerfield Management; and select faculty/former trainees will address the intersection of entrepreneurship, industry and academia.
Gregory Verdine, Ph.D., will give the symposium’s keynote address. He is a leader in the discovery, development and commercialization of new drug modalities. A passionate and accomplished inventor of novel approaches and drug classes to engage targets widely believed intractable, Verdine coined the phrase “drugging the undruggable” to describe his life’s mission. Fog Pharmaceuticals was born from the new modality scientific work of Verdine. Together with co-founder WeiQing Zhou, he developed the scientific and business concept for the company and co-led its capitalization and operationalization in mid-2016.
Verdine is highly regarded for having moved seamlessly between roles as an academic scientist, biotech entrepreneur, investor and company executive. As Erving Professor at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School, he invented stapled peptides, including the precursor to the Phase II molecule ALRN 6924, and also made seminal contributions to understanding fundamental mechanisms of DNA repair and epigenetic DNA methylation. As an entrepreneur, Verdine has founded multiple public biotech companies including Variagenics, Enanta, Eleven Bio, Tokai, Wave Life Sciences and Aileron, and a private company, Gloucester Pharmaceuticals, that was acquired by Celgene. These companies have succeeded in achieving Food and Drug Administration approval for three marketed drugs.
Verdine has served on the board of directors of Enanta Pharmaceuticals, Wave Life Sciences, Warp Drive Bio and LifeMine Therapeutics. Having led the formation and financing of Wave Life Sciences, Warp Drive Bio and LifeMine, Verdine took a role in managing these companies as their president, chief executive officer and chief scientific officer.
Verdine earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Columbia University and served as a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow in molecular biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School.
Houra Merrikh, Ph.D., is a professor of biochemistry at Vanderbilt. Her lab is focused on discovering the basic molecular mechanisms driving DNA replication, repair, mutagenesis and evolution. By pairing cutting-edge tools, such as various high-resolution sequencing techniques, with classical genetics and biochemistry, her lab has discovered key evolvability factors that actively promote mutagenesis and accelerate evolution. In parallel to her ongoing work that investigates the basics of how these biological mechanisms function, Dr. Merrikh is focused on resolving the global health crisis of antimicrobial resistance. Her efforts are geared toward inhibiting active evolutionary mechanisms to end antimicrobial resistance development. Her findings thus far have applied to highly divergent bacterial pathogens including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Salmonella enterica. Merrikh is currently working on developing “anti-evolution” drugs that can be paired with antibiotics for treatment of infections in the clinic.
Merrikh earned her Ph.D. from Brandeis University in 2009 and subsequently served as a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, completing her fellowship in 2011.
Brandt Eichman, Ph.D., is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Chair in the College of Arts and Science, professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences and professor of biochemistry at Vanderbilt. Research in his laboratory focuses on the structural and chemical biology of protein machines involved in DNA repair and maintenance of genome integrity. Initially trained in synthetic organic chemistry, Eichman pursued graduate training in biochemistry and biophysics of nucleic acids and studied the effects of anti-cancer drugs on DNA, and determined the landmark crystal structure of the Holliday junction—the four-stranded DNA intermediate formed during genetic recombination. Current interests include DNA interstrand crosslink repair, restart of stalled replication forks by DNA motor proteins, and the roles of DNA repair enzymes in microbial resistance to genotoxic secondary metabolites.
Eichman co-founded the Vanderbilt Undergraduate Program in Biochemistry and Chemical Biology. He received the Young Investigator Award from the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, the International Award from the Biochemical Society (UK), and the Vanderbilt Chancellor’s Award for Research.
Brian Bizoza, M.D., is a Partner in the Pharmaceuticals group at Deerfield and joined the Firm in 2012. He provides extensive research and analysis on individual companies operating in the healthcare industry. Prior to Deerfield, Dr. Bizoza spent seven years as a Portfolio Manager at S Squared Technology, where he was responsible for investments across the healthcare sector. Before S Squared, Dr. Bizoza was an analyst at Amaranth Advisors, focused on pharmaceuticals and biotechnology stocks. Dr. Bizoza started his career in healthcare research as an equity analyst at both Lehman Brothers and Lazard Frères. He holds a B.A. in Natural Sciences/Public Health from Johns Hopkins University and earned his M.D. from the State University of New York at Syracuse, where he graduated as a member of Alpha Omega Alpha. Dr. Bizoza is a Member of the Advisory Board of The Krieger School of Arts & Sciences at Johns Hopkins University.
Alexander (Alex) Karnal is a Partner and Managing Director at Deerfield and joined the Firm in 2005. He is responsible for portfolio decisions across the Deerfield Funds. Beyond his direct investment activities at the firm, Mr. Karnal helped conceptualize and implement the Cure, Deerfield’s healthcare innovation campus at 345 Park Avenue South. Furthermore, during the COVID-19 global health crisis, Mr. Karnal was appointed by Governor Ned Lamont to the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group to provide counsel on the reopening of the state’s economy, community, and education systems. He is a co-founder, CEO and board chairman of The Institute for Life Changing Medicines, a nonprofit dedicated to saving one million people suffering from life-threatening and devastating diseases around the world with no barriers to access. Mr. Karnal serves on the Boards of the New York Academy of Medicine, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Recovery Centers of America and Discovery Labs, the latter two for which he is a co-founder. He is a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s corporate development committee, focusing on student life initiatives. Prior to Deerfield, he was a member of Merrill Lynch’s Global Equity Linked Products Group and of its Capital Markets team. Mr. Karnal was featured in the April 2020 edition of “The 20 under 40: Inside the next generation of biopharma leaders – Endpoints News.” He holds a B.S. in Finance from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and M.S. in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University.
Laurent Audoly, Ph.D., is a serial biotech entrepreneur and founder and chief executive officer of Parthenon Therapeutics. He has contributed to the identification and development of seven novel medicines addressing unmet medical need across multiple disease areas.
Audoly has also led business and research and development functions in both pharma and biotech (US and EU), developing and operationalizing strategies, modernizing pipelines and business models, bringing forward drug candidates into and through development, and partnering on multiple deals (buy and sell-sides). He also serves as an independent board member in different organizations, including Cytovia Therapeutics and Vanderbilt University.
Audoly was recently at the helm of Kymera Therapeutics as CEO, president and board member where he led the construction of the business, bringing in over $135 million in funding and executing on over one billion dollars in pharma partnerships. Prior to this role, he was head of research and development with Pierre Fabre Pharmaceuticals, where he rebuilt the organization, led the in/out-licensing of multiple clinical stage assets and technologies, and directly contributed to IND entries, POC and LCM studies in oncology, dermatology, and neuropsychiatry.
Earlier in his career, Audoly held positions of increasing leadership responsibilities on the business and science fronts at Pfizer, Merck, MedImmune, and Pieris contributing to the advancement of 21 drug candidates into clinical development across multiple disease areas and modalities. In addition, over the course of his career, Audoly has executed over three billion dollars in pharma/biotech deals. He is also an inventor, has served on NIH study sections, and co-authored over 70 papers and patents.
He earned his Ph.D. in pharmacology and bachelor of science with honors in chemistry at Vanderbilt University and was the recipient of an American Heart Association Fellowship at Duke University.