Connect & Collaborate Presenters

AUTM Annual Meeting

Lineup of Presenters



Life Sciences Session 1: Physical Sciences Session: Tuesday
Investor Session: Life Sciences Session 2:


Rubén Flores-Saaib
Academic Innovations and Partnerships Lead
​General Inception

Flores-Saaib is a native of Nayarit, México and is the Academic Innovations and Partnerships Lead at General Inception. Throughout his career, he has led and developed academic and corporate teams working on commercialization and partnering programs in life sciences, diagnostics, therapeutics, artificial intelligence, materials, and software. He is also a co-founder, and past President, of the San Diego Innovation Council, a coalition of academic research institutes working together to elevate the profile of the San Diego innovation ecosystem to the world.
Flores-Saaib received his Ph.D. from UCLA’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He began his career as a Scientist at BD Biosciences Pharmigen, later moved to Biosite (now Abbott) as a Clinical Scientist and Agreements Manager, and then joined Chemicon (acquired by Serologicals) to lead the Luminex Multiplex and Diagnostics teams. Flores-Saaib was a founding Director of the Scientific Collaborations and Business Development group started by Millipore following the acquisition of Serologicals and continued in that role when Merck KGaA acquired Millipore. He capped his career in the corporate world as Vice President of Marketing and Product Development at Genway Biotech.

Flores-Saaib's 10-year career in academic technology transfer began as Vice President for Business Development at LA BioMed (now the Lundquist Institute), continued as Director at UC San Diego and most recently as Associate Director of Licensing at the University of Southern California.

Tari Suprapto, Ph.D., RTTP
Director of Search & Evaluation
Novo Nordisk

Tari Suprapto, Ph.D., RTTP is a seasoned technology commercialization professional in the life sciences. She is currently the Director for Search & Evaluation for Western US and Canada for Novo Nordisk, and previously was part of the External Innovation team at Elanco. Tari spent over 15 years commercializing innovations from world-class research institutions such as the Salk Institute, The Rockefeller University, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Tari has extensive experience in licensing, building and managing strategic alliances, and a strong scientific background in a variety of therapeutic areas evidenced by her Ph.D. in cell biology from The Rockefeller University and an Honors B.A. from Swarthmore College. Tari is also a member of BIOCOM’s Capital Development Committee and serves on the boards of the Association for University Technology Managers, the San Diego Innovation Council, and official advisor to Founders Corner Venture Capital in San Diego.
Anurag Agarwal
Osage University Partners


Anurag joined OUP in 2017 as an Associate and focuses on life science investments. He has been involved with OUP’s investment in several portfolio companies, including Dracen Pharmaceuticals, Cyteir Therapeutics, Homology Medicines, Escient Therapeutics, Recode Therapeutics, Q32 Bio, Atsena Therapeutics, Interius Therapeutics, and Sonoma Biotherapeutics. Anurag currently serves as a board observer for Dracen Pharmaceuticals.

Prior to joining OUP, Anurag was a consultant at Boston Consulting Group where he worked with healthcare and private equity companies to advise them on corporate growth strategy, business development, portfolio management, and M&A projects. Anurag’s PhD thesis focused on understanding the regulation of cell death in response to DNA damage. During graduate school, Anurag founded SCIMALS to provide scientific and market due diligence service for life science VCs and angel investors. He also advised biotech start-ups in St. Louis area on market research, competitive intelligence, and asset prioritization.

Anurag holds a PhD from Washington University School of Medicine in Molecular Cell Biology and a B.Tech in Biotechnology from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

Irene Blat
Senior Director of Search & Evaluation

Irene Blat is the Senior Director of Search & Evaluation in Oncology at Servier where she leads scouting and evaluation of novel therapeutics to advance the oncology pipeline. She is also leading the External Innovation efforts in the US at Servier to engage with academics and early-stage companies for potential collaborations. Prior to joining Servier, Irene worked in the Business Development team at Veracyte where she led the search for innovation opportunities for advancing the R&D technology roadmap in Immuno-Oncology and Data Sciences.

She previously spent 6 years at Genuity Science (formerly WuXi NextCODE) in the translational medicine team followed by a transition to the product management and development team. Irene started her career at the Broad Institute before completing her PhD in Genetics at MIT followed by her post-doctoral studies at Massachusetts General Hospital and MIT.  

Chase Bonhag
Co-Founder and CEO,

Chase Bonhag is the co-founder and CEO of FirstIgnite, an AI powered software company built for commercializing research. FirstIgnite allows users to enter a description of their research and are matched to the markets, companies, and contacts best suited for partnership.

FirstIgnite is backed by Y Combinator, Frontier Ventures, Red Cedar Ventures, Connetic Ventures, and the Illini Angels. Prior to FirstIgnite, Chase was on the venture investment team at TechNexus and Illinois Ventures, where he invested in the most promising companies coming out of the University of Illinois system.
Sukla Chandra
Senior Managing Director of Licensing 
GE technologies

Sukla Chandra is Senior Managing Director of Licensing in India responsible for technology transfer and licensing collaborations for GE technologies in India.

Sukla in her last role was responsible for developing and executing multi-generation product & commercialization strategies for GE’s Rural Electrification Platform. Additionally, she drove measurable progress by GE towards electrifying those without basic access to electricity in the world today through GE’s packaged hybrid offering based on customer needs. She is a board member of Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE) based out of Belgium.

In her previous role, Sukla was the General Manager, GE Global Research, Bangalore, where she was responsible for all the operational aspects of a research group of 300+ scientists. She has also served as Director, PACE (Patents and Analytics Centre of Excellence) at the GE John F. Welch Technology Centre. As the Director of PACE, she managed a team of Intellectual Property professionals providing strategic IP support to GE Global Research and several other GE businesses.

Sukla has several patents and is registered with the US Patent & Trademark Office. She also co-led the GE Women’s Network Initiatives for India for past 5 years.

Sukla graduated from Jadavpur University Kolkata with a BS degree in Chemical Engineering. Subsequently, she received her Master’s degree from the US in Chemical Engineering, and worked in Air Products and Chemicals in Attentown, PA, in their process engineering group.

Sukla moved back to India in 1999 and headed the Process Engineering group at British Oxygen. In 2000, she joined GE as a research scientist and took up several leadership roles at John F Welch Technology Center Bangalore India as described above.
Brittany de Kouchkovsky, PhD 
Associate Director
Orange Grove Bio

As an Associate Director at Orange Grove Bio Brittany supports new therapeutic startup creation and operations through search and evaluation, scientific and competitive due diligence, project management, and relationship development with academic leaders and university technology transfer offices. She has diverse experience in biotech as a bench researcher, venture investor, and operations manager.

Originally trained as a cancer immunologist, her expertise lies in immune-oncology, immunology, molecular biology, and genetic models, and she received her PhD in Immunology from Yale University. Prior to that, she worked in academic and industrial laboratories on discovery assay and diagnostic development and molecular biology programs (including Prognosys Bio, San Diego), and obtained her B.S. in Molecular Biology from the University of California, San Diego.
Dinesh Divakaran
Vice President of Partnerships
North America Owkin Inc. 

Dinesh Divakaran is the Vice President of Partnerships, North America with Owkin Inc., a french-american unicorn venture that combines cutting-edge  and biology to advance drug discovery. In his role at Owkin, he leads a team that builds partnerships and collaborations around multi-modal data, AI/ML and federated learning with academic medical centers, healthcare systems and real world data companies across North America. Before joining Owkin, he worked as Vice President of Healthcare Business Development, North America at Sensnye Health plc., a real world data company based out of Oxford, UK.   
Prior to working in the biopharma and health tech industry, Dinesh worked in technology transfer for a decade and a half starting with University of South Florida followed by Texas A&M University System, then North Carolina State University and finally Duke University & Health System, where he eventually served as Director, Digital Innovations with Duke Office for Translation and Commercialization. Dinesh also served as an adjunct faculty at both NC State and USF. While working at Duke and NC State, he served as a reviewer/panelist with the SBIR/STTR grant programs at NIH and NSF. Outside of working in technology transfer, Dinesh had a short stint in venture capital as a fellow with the Alumni Ventures Group. He also served on the boards of three health tech startups and two non-profits. 
Dinesh currently serves as an Executive in Residence at the Duke Institute for Health Innovation. He had also served on the Forbes Business Development Council, advisory board of NC TECH, innovation committee at HIMSS and high tech committee at LES, USA & Canada.  
Sarina El

Sarina supports OneValley’s PassportOS, our proprietary B2B software technology built to support innovation ecosystems across all sectors. PassportOS delivers a multi-stakeholder platform that encourages connection and collaboration across the community, enables easy administrative functions to manage multiple, robust application processes, and allows teams to participate in custom cohort programming. Sarina has a rich history working in innovation- adjacent roles, working directly with startups across all industries. 
 In the last year, Sarina has worked with Universities committed to streamlining the process of transferring technology from the lab to the marketplace. OneValley builds the tech stack behind the world’s leading innovative communities - meaning we enable accelerators to run distributed, asynchronous programs designed to support founders and create new startups. OneValley has worked with notable universities, national labs, international organizations, and fortune 500 companies. Sarina has focused heavily on federal funding as a financial mechanism for universities and accelerators to source funding and has helped organizations win over $1.5M in grant funding in 2023 alone. 
Sarina received her B.S. in Business Administration from the University of California Riverside. She has worked as a commercial real estate broker helping entrepreneurs expand their businesses in the Southern California market. She has worked with WeWork, Carr Enterprises, Regus, and founded her own small business. After working closely with entrepreneurs for her entire career, she is thrilled to be on the software side of supporting these courageous founders, and designing bespoke solutions and programming support for ESOs focused on startup creation through IP activity. 

Mark Fairey
Senior Business Development Officer
STEMCELL Technologies

Mark Fairey works at STEMCELL Technologies as a Senior Business Development Officer, where he is involved in licensing technologies and building lasting relationships. Mark's experience at STEMCELL began in the Research & Development group, and his extensive product knowledge led to further roles in Scientific Sales and Business Operations prior to his current role in the Licensing team - all spanning 17 years at the organization. STEMCELL Technologies is Canada's largest biotech company, and has a global reputation for high quality, innovative reagents and instrumentation, which is largely built on the strong partnerships built with our academic collaborators and our customers. 

Orla Hough
Director of Business Development

Orla has a background in law and genetics and worked in academia for four years as a Business Manager in UCL Business, the technology transfer office of University College London. She recently joined Abcam as a Director of Business Development at their Cambridge site in the United Kingdom.

Gary Latham
Chief Technology Officer

Gary is the Chief Technology Officer at Bio-Techne, an S&P 500 life sciences and diagnostics company. Previously, Gary was Asuragen’s Chief Scientific Officer, having joined the company when it was founded in March 2006. While there, he directed technology and product development, including next-generation assays and tests for genetic diseases and sequencing-based innovations for oncology applications. From 2000 to 2006, he developed commercially successful enzyme tools and research kits as an R&D section head at Ambion. In his career, Gary has led the development of over 30 life science and molecular diagnostic products and is an inventor on 16 US patents. He has also authored over 50 peer-reviewed publications and has been awarded $13M in research grants from the NIH and other funding agencies. Gary received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Vanderbilt University and was an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oregon’s Institute for Molecular Biology.

David Lough
Director of Academic Partnerships
Global Strategy & Corporate Development
Chiesi Group

In his role at Chiesi, David Lough focused on building and developing academic relationships with researchers from leading universities, academic medical centers and research institutes to develop breakthrough therapies and technologies for respiratory diseases, neonatal care and rare diseases. David is responsible for search and evaluation for new therapeutic candidates, and the negotiation of academic transactions such as sponsored research agreements and license agreements.  

Prior to joining Chiesi, David was Director of Life Sciences Business Development in the Office of Technology Development at Boston University.  

David earned both his Bachelor of Science in Evironmental Chemistry and Ph.D. in Bioorganic Chemistry from Edinburgh University. He also earned a Graduate Certificate in Intellectual Property from Northeastern University.  

Justin Mahan 

At the forefront of Technology Partnerships at FedTech, I
am deeply immersed in an ecosystem where innovation and entrepreneurial spirit thrive. My primary focus lies in seamlessly connecting federal laboratories and universities with the marketplace, turning groundbreaking ideas into tangible, real-world applications.

In my role at FedTech, I am driven by the conviction that numerous innovative technologies remain untapped and poised for discovery. I play a pivotal role in the transfer of these cutting-edge technologies from the conceptual stage in laboratories to practical, market-ready solutions.

My work involves close collaboration with federal labs
and academic institutions, utilizing accelerators, startup studios, and a variety of internal innovation strategies to bring these technologies to fruition.

Ayelet Marom
Program Director for BioTools Innovator
MedTech Innovator

Ayelet Marom is the Program Director for BioTools Innovator at MedTech Innovator. She earned her Ph.D. in Cancer Immunology from The Weizmann Institute in Israel, and a Postdoctoral Professional Masters in Bioscience Management from KGI, Claremont alongside her post-doctoral research at City Of Hope. Ayelet is experienced in the innovation ecosystem; prior to MedTech Innovator, she was a senior program manager at Larta Institute, where she managed commercialization programs for science-based Innovations, as well as co-founded and led the product development in a digital health Startup. She is passionate about bringing technology and healthcare closer together to make a real impact on human health. 

Kevin McCreight
Technology Fellow, External Innovation
Eastman Chemical Company

In Kevin’s role at Eastman, he is a Technology Fellow in the Global External Innovation area.  He leads an External Scouting effort charged with identifying and compiling Eastman technology needs and then scouting externally with universities, startups & peer companies for developments that could help address these gaps.  For the last 3 years, he has also served as the Technology Manager for Eastman’s Circular Solutions related to the company’s chemical recycling efforts.
Kevin has a BS in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Tech and a PhD in Polymer Science from the University of Akron. He joined Eastman in 1998 and moved through a variety of individual contributor and leadership assignments across R&D prior to a role as technology liaison to Corporate Development related to assessment, diligence, and integration of Eastman acquisitions.  He spent a number of years in Technology Management for Additives and Functional Products and Corporate Innovation before joining the External Innovation function in 2018.

Dr. Katy Montague
Senior Director
External R&D and Innovations 
AstraZeneca Oncology R&D

Katy manages the Global Collaboration Agreements team in AstraZeneca’s Oncology External R&D and Strategic Alliances group. This multinational team is responsible for facilitating AstraZeneca’s preclinical and nonclinical Oncology collaborations with academics worldwide to support the company’s R&D strategy, and in particular preparing and negotiating the agreements that underpin these partnerships. Katy is based in Cambridge, UK. 

Katy has 15 years’ experience in technology transfer and negotiating industry/academic agreements. Prior to joining AstraZeneca in 2017, Katy managed the commercialisation arm of the Babraham Institute, an academic bioscience research institute. She was responsible for commercialising the Institute's patent portfolio, facilitating collaborations between the Institute and industry, and arranging commercial access to the Institute's scientific services and expertise. 

Katy also previously worked for Health Enterprise East, where she assisted NHS Trusts with protecting and exploiting their intellectual property relating to novel medical technologies. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and biochemistry from the John Innes Centre, and completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Oxford. 

Nelson Mederios 
Associate Director, External Research Collaborations
Novartis Biomedical Research

Nelson Medeiros is a member of the External Research Collaborations group at Novartis, which interfaces with universities and academic medical centers in support of Novartis's external innovation goals.  In this role, Nelson provides business guidance and transactional support to enable scientific partnerships globally.  These partnerships complement and enhance Biomedical Research discovery programs to bring innovative therapeutics to patients. 

Prior to joining Novartis, Nelson spent over 10 years in technology licensing roles at Mass General Brigham and Boston University.  Nelson earned a PhD in Neuroscience from Yale University, MBA in Finance from Boston University, and Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Brown University. 

Steve Pederson
LevelSet Capital

Steve Pedersen works for LevelSet Capital where he oversees all aspects of the Company’s operations. Mr. Pedersen is a lawyer by training with a career that spans over 20 years in wide ranging legal experiences.

Most recently, Mr. Pedersen has worked alongside the Intellectual Property Finance Group at Fortress, managing teams of lawyers in licensing and litigation programs for companies backed by investments from Fortress-managed funds, across a variety of venues in the United States and abroad, including the popular district courts in Texas, Delaware and California, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the U.S. International Trade Commission, and multiple courts in the European Union.

Prior to this work, Mr. Pedersen was a partner at a nationally recognized contingency law firm in Chicago that only represented patentees, and only on a contingency basis. Mr. Pedersen’s practice had a particular focus on the representation of universities in the licensing and enforcement of their patent rights. Earlier in his career, Mr. Pedersen served as a lawyer representing the public interest in trials at the U.S. International Trade Commission and, additionally, worked at a large firm, both in Washington D.C.

Mr. Pedersen’s broad experiences in litigation finance, contingency arrangements, licensing, litigation, trials, and administrative hearings, along with his prior representation of universities in patent matters, brings a unique set of skills and perspective to LevelSet Capital.

Shane Peng
Academic Transactions Lead, AstraZeneca

At AstraZeneca, Shane leads academic transactions for infectious diseases and neuroscience therapy areas and facilitates partnerships across AstraZenca’s Biopharm (non-Oncology) unit.

Shane has a PhD in Chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis. Her research focused on developing PET radiotracers for neuroimaging and cancer imaging.
After doing a postdoc at University of Pennsylvania, she transitioned from academia to technology transfer. Prior to joining AstraZeneca, she worked at Princeton University, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Department of Defense, managing a broad portfolio of inventions and leading transactions with academic partners and industry partners.

Stefan Schweizer
Thermo Fisher

With a PhD in Chemistry from Georg-August University in Germany, Stefan worked for several years in biotech/pharma R&D on medical devices and cancer/infectious diseases drug development. Shifting gears, Stefan entered academic technology transfer, which launched him into an exciting career at the intersection of business and science/technology. The exposure to out-licensing of life science technologies and supporting start up companies for UTRF and USC provided the solid foundation for his current scope of work at Thermo Fisher on sourcing innovative technologies for future products, coordinating and driving due diligence and negotiating the respective financial terms and agreements.

Leah Speser, J.D., Ph.D.
Chair, Board of Directors
Foresight Science & Technology

Leah Speser, J.D,, Ph.D., RT.T.P., N.P.D.P. (New Product Development Professional) is Chair, Board of Directors, Foresight Science & Technology. She has a long track record in commercialization of technology, including commercializing all of her SBIR awards in artificial intelligence. Foresight, which she founded, has helped clients raise over $3 billion in revenues.

She is an Emeritus member of AUTM and a former Board member and VP and was director of the office of technology transfer at the University of Rhode Island. Her book, The Art & Science of Technology Transfer is an oft used textbook for training professionals in the field. Since retiring from day-to-day management duties, she has ben working as a consultant for foreign governments and foundations on setting up and enhancing knowledge transfer systems and the innovation ecosystems in which thy operate. Sher currently is Senior Consultant for the Knowledge Transfer and commercialization for the Research and Innovation Foundation of the Republic of Cyprus. She has a deep love for, and interest in, sustainable agriculture and is founder of the Northwest Natural Resources Group, owned a redwood plantation in Northern California, and is a wildland firefighter and member of the Westen Washington Type Three All-Hazard Incident Management Team.

Hidehiro Suzuki (Tab)
Ono Pharma USA (OPUS)

Hidehiro Suzuki (Tab) is a member of Ono Pharma USA (OPUS), a U.S. subsidiary of Ono Pharma, based in Boston. He is responsible for planning and management of strategic drug-discovery research alliances in close coordination with the research head quarter of Ono Pharma by leading the structuring collaboration scheme. 

Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (Ono Pharma) is a pharmaceutical company based in Japan that is dedicated to first-in-class drug discovery. It is committed to drug discovery activities through open innovation and annually initiate over 30 research collaborations with academia in the US and constantly seeking opportunities to collaborate with outstanding academic researchers. 

John D. Wilson
Academic Liaison
Glaxo Smith Kline

John D. Wilson has a MS Neuroscience with an emphasis in Regulatory Phsyiology. He has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 23 years and has gained a wide breadth of experience in the management of pre-clinical research development assets  and development of collaborative agreements between GSK and external partners..

For more than 8 years he has been an Academic Liaison at GSK based in the  Philadelphia area. His role involves close liaison with several groups outside the Company e.g. Academic Partners, Government Departments, Research, Small Biotechnology Companies and other science-driven organizations. He also sits on the AUTM Planning Committee for the Annual Meeting.
Woj Wrona
Director of Discovery Transactions

Woj Wrona is Director of Discovery Transactions with Merck’s Business Development & Licensing group, supporting collaborations with external parties ranging from academic and not-for-profit organizations to government and commercial entities. Woj earned his Master’s degree in organic chemistry from Boston University and worked at the bench in both smaller biotech companies and larger pharma for 14 years, focusing primarily on the synthesis of small molecule kinase inhibitors in the oncology space.  Woj later obtained his MBA from Babson College and transitioned into a business development function with the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, MA., before joining Merck & Co., Inc.  Woj is passionate about helping Merck investigators with all aspects of navigating scientific and business interactions towards engaging with external innovation and enabling partnerships. 

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