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Team General Proximity

Edward Morris

Edward completed his undergraduate degree at Canterbury University in New Zealand and his PhD in Pathology and Cell Biology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, working in the lab of Dr. Gregg Gundersen. There he worked on how the cytoskeleton regulates cell migration and invasiveness.

Edward completed his postdoctoral studies in cancer drug development at the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre, working on a novel role for the oncogene Stat3 in mitosis. Edward led a high-throughput screening program based on automated scoring of centrosomes in mitotic cells to identify drug candidates that specifically disrupt the way many cancer cells divide while crucially sparing normal cells. This research program, in collaboration with industry partners, identified a Stat3-targeting compound that specifically inhibits cancer cells with aberrant cell division. Edward is currently working as a scientist on the Biology team at General Proximity where he is identifying new leads to develop into bifunctional molecules. Outside of work, he can be found at the park or in a museum with his 2-year old.

 

Rodrigo Rodriguez

Rodrigo is a synthetic organic chemist with a background in various areas of chemistry. Rodrigo took his PhD from The Scripps Research Institute under the guidance of MacArthur Fellow Prof. Phil S. Baran, specializing in total synthesis with a focus on pyrrole imidazole alkaloids, a complex and notoriously challenging class of natural products. His work also included numerous methodological advancements, leading to the commercialization of various reagents by Sigma-Aldrich, particularly in C-C and C-X bond formation.

 

Rodrigo then transitioned to Novartis, where he completed ResMed medicinal chemistry courses at Drew University and contributed to Novartis drug discovery pipelines. His work involved hit-to-lead and lead optimization phases, impacting the success of several internal drug candidate selection processes. In total, Rodrigo has 22 published research works, of which 7 of them are industry patents. He has worked in multiple disease areas, including anti-infective, respiratory, and oncology programs, as well as in both classic small molecule modality and antibody drug conjugation modality. One of his notable medicinal chemistry achievements includes key contributions to a project resulting in the Best In Class compound of 2015 for Cystic Fibrosis.

 

His journey continued with Singular Genomics, where Rodrigo played a key role in the discovery and development of innovative reversible terminators. Beyond the lab, he helped establish a chemistry process development department, facilitating a successful commercial product launch and IPO exit.

 

Driven by his passion for early-stage discovery innovation, Rodrigo embarked on a journey with the DEL platform team at 1859, Inc. Here, he served as the Chemistry Lead for a cross-functional drug discovery team, directing his focus toward the automation of synthesis processes and integration of medicinal chemistry principles into library design. Furthermore, Rodrigo actively participated in partnership initiatives aimed at enabling hit identification through scaffold hop designs.

 

Today, Rodrigo brings his experience and dedication to GP. His mission is to contribute significantly to the field of induced-proximity medicines and improve human health by expanding accessibility to new druggable space.

 

Craig Westover

Craig Westover completed his PhD at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Physiology, Biophysics, and Systems Biology (PBSB), where he studied and published on a range of topics spanning metagenomics to astronaut health under the guidance of Dr. Christopher Mason, a pioneer known for his groundbreaking work on the NASA Twin Study, among other things. Craig's thesis work focused on mitigating the harsh effects of radiation in space flight via genetic engineering of human cells to express the extremophile tardigrade Damage Suppressor Protein (Dsup). Here, Craig led various assay development and synthetic engineering projects to validate human Dsup expressing cells' radioprotective phenotype, as well as performing systems-level molecular perturbations through large-scale transcriptomic and epigenomic analyses to shed light on the underlying mechanisms governing epigenetic regulation and DNA damage response in this context. This work led to Craig's appearance in a documentary available on Discovery+ and another coming soon to Paramount+ and the Smithsonian Channel. Craig's thesis work, along with his involvement in the NASA Twin Study and work in the Space Omics and Medical Atlas (SOMA) initiative through various SpaceX missions, has helped set groundwork enabling humanity to become a spacefaring civilization.
 

Prior to his work at Weill Cornell, Craig completed a PostBac at the NIH, where he studied the development of novel CNS adenovirus gene therapy delivery systems and helped develop high-throughput cell-based assays for screening neuropeptide libraries for neuroendocrine-related GPCR activation.
 

Craig currently serves as the Lab Manager at General Proximity, where he leads efforts to optimize and operationalize GP’s most important systems, as well as supporting the Biology and Platform teams as a molecular and cell biologist. In his spare time, Craig (a Bay Area native) enjoys activities like hiking, fitness, attending music and art events, venturing into unknown cities, and immersing himself in cultural experiences.

Max Thompson

Max Thompson completed his undergraduate degrees in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Marine Science at the University of Miami. There he performed research in Dr. Alexandra Wilson’s lab as a Research Associate looking at the transfer of plant miRNAs to the small sap-sucking insects, aphids, that feed on them.

In 2019, Max started his PhD at the University of California, San Francisco in Dr. Mark von Zastrow’s lab working on GPCR cell signaling and developing cellular assays to track proteins of interest through their interactions and characterize a new model for signal transduction. Max is a senior research associate at General Proximity continuing his work on protein-protein interactions and helping to design and test new bifunctional molecules for use in clinical applications. Outside the lab, you’ll see Max biking, sailing, or climbing around the bay!

 

Zachary Severance

Zach completed his PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma in the lab of Dr. Anthony W.G. Burgett. His dissertation research employed cutting-edge techniques at the interface of cellular biology, protein biochemistry, and chemical genetics to understand new cellular processes in lipid biology, innate immunity, and cell signaling. This work focused on characterizing the cellular activity of bioactive natural products targeting oxysterol sterol binding proteins (OSBP), a class of proteins emerging as attractive therapeutic targets due to their previously unrecognized roles in various diseases including cancer and viral replication. Utilizing these molecules as biological probes, he discovered critical insights into cancer and antiviral biology, including an unrecognized role in mTORC1 regulation. These insights were leveraged to develop the first OSBP-directed prophylactic broad-spectrum antiviral therapeutic approach. The evolutionarily conserved viral dependence on OSBP as a host factor indicates that this approach may be effective against viruses that have not yet emerged, and could be an important tool for rapidly combating future pandemics. For this work, Zach was awarded the Bullard Dissertation Completion Fellowship which is awarded to the top doctoral dissertations at the University of Oklahoma each year. Zach is also passionate about teaching and scientific communication, resulting in numerous teaching awards during his time at OU, including a 3x awardee of the Provost’s Certificate of Distinction in Teaching. 

After completing his PhD, he joined Dr. Amit Choudhary’s lab at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard as a Postdoctoral Associate and MIT affiliate researcher. His postdoctoral research focused on the development of new classes of bifunctional molecules using DNA-encoded library (DEL) screening. These bifunctional molecules induce synthetic proximity between an effector and target of interest to enable direct protein editing (e.g., phosphorylation), or direct recruitment of immune components to pathogens. During this time, Zach led a team of researchers in a high-impact DARPA project exploring novel proximity-induction mechanisms for targeting multidrug resistance pathogens. Working closely with the Schreiber lab, he implemented a DEL screening platform that led to the discovery of chemical matter against immune and pathogen surface proteins that were previously unamendable to bifunctional recruitment. Secondly, his postdoctoral research focused on the use of CRISPR-Cas based directed evolution to evolve proteins with enhanced functions and study drug resistance to better understand drug resistance development against bifunctional molecules compared to traditional inhibitors.

Zach is now a scientist at General Proximity where he works with the Platform and Biology Teams to help develop next generation proximity-inducing therapeutics. In his free time, Zach enjoys spending time with his family, reading, camping, sports, and horror movies.

 

Veronika Shoba

Veronika Shoba completed her PhD in Chemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln under the supervision of Dr. James Takacs. In her PhD thesis work, Veronika studied oxime-directed catalytic asymmetric transformations and discovered reaction conditions for highly substituted olefins with formation of unprecedented hydroboration and hydrogenation products. After completing her PhD and a brief stint at Genentech, Veronika joined Amit Choudhary's lab at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard as a Damon Runyon Fellow.

While at Broad, Veronika designed and synthesized first-in-class phosphorylation-inducing bifunctional small molecules (PHICS) that enabled kinases to introduce known and novel phosphorylations on the target proteins. These proof-of-concept studies demonstrated that induction of proximity between kinase and protein-of-interest can lead to therapeutically relevant functional outcomes and became the foundation of the bifunctional molecule-focused platform company Photys Therapeutics. Veronika has also collaborated with scientists from Stuart Schreiber, David Liu, Eric Fisher, Benjamin Ebert and Bridget Wagner groups and co-authored several patents and publications focused on reduction of PROTAC off-targets, relocalization of target proteins with small bifunctional molecules, targeted transcriptional regulation, design of prodrugs and Zn-ionophores, as well as development of novel compact protein degradation tags (degrons) via phage-assisted continuous evolution. Discoveries that Veronika contributed to during her work at Broad Instituted are being actively explored to develop novel therapeutics for treatment of cancer, infectious diseases and diabetes   

 

Veronika is now a scientist at General Proximity, supporting chemistry and platform teams, prioritizing targets, and exercising her experience in proximity-induction by designing and testing new bifunctional molecules. In her free time, Veronika likes kayaking, watching stand-up comedy, reading fiction, searching for “the best Ramen place,” and exploring various art exhibits.

Daniela Y. Santiesteban

Daniela Y. Santiesteban is an experienced drug developer who is passionate about advancing novel therapeutics through her scientific and business expertise.

Prior to joining General Proximity, Daniela held various high impact roles at Salarius Pharmaceuticals including Director of Targeted Protein Degradation (TPD) Development, Director of Research & Business Development, and Director of Corporate Development. In her role leading the TPD program she oversaw a cross-functional team culminating in the successful IND activation of SP-3164, Salarius’ first targeted protein degrader, and the identification and advancement of novel deuterated molecular glue degraders. In earlier roles, she led business development activities including search and evaluation, transactions, and alliance management. She was also instrumental in raising over $50M from private and public investors to support the company’s growth. Additionally, Daniela brings clinical strategy and development expertise having assisted in the advancement of seclidemstat, a Phase 1/2 epigenetic drug being evaluated in patients with relapsed/refractory Ewing sarcoma.

Daniela completed her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University where her research focused on the development of nanoparticles for use as cancer diagnostic and targeted therapeutic agents. She received a M.S. at the University of Texas, where she was a Texas Venture Lab Associate involved in helping health and tech startups.

At General Proximity, Daniela is leading partnering efforts and supporting the strategy and development of our internal pipeline, including IND preparation.

 

Corentine Laurin

Corentine M. C. Laurin received her Medicinal Chemistry Masters from Glasgow University, working on the synthesis of mitochondrial prodrugs with Dr. Richard Hartley. She completed her PhD at Oxford University, working on bromodomain inhibitors and assay development in the lab of Dr. Stuart Conway for the treatment of Chagas disease, leading to the publication of multiple papers on the development and optimisation of ligands for various epigenetic targets. Her scientific training included industry experience at Hoffmann-la Roche where she elucidated the SAR of an antiviral series, and at GlaxoSmithKline where she designed and synthesized fluorescent probes for T. cruzi bromodomains.

 

Corentine then went on to perform her postdoctoral studies at Yale in the lab of Dr. Craig Crews, where she led ligand discovery efforts for an undruggable target and worked on the design and synthesis of three separate heterobifunctional modalities (including PROTACs and molecular glue prodrugs). As a scientist at GP, Corentine is in charge of designing new molecules, prioritizing targets, and analyzing biological data. She leads compound optimization (efficacy, PK/PD, etc), and also manages our CRO team remotely. In her spare time, Corentine likes to hike, dance, and learn new languages.

 

Armand B. Cognetta III

Armand began his biotech career at the then early-stage biotech, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, as their first intern, where he helped develop an in vivo RNAi quantification technology still in use over a decade later when Alnylam became the first company to bring an FDA-approved RNAi therapeutic to market.

 

Armand then completed his PhD in Chemical Biology at the Scripps Research Institute under the supervision of Dr. Benjamin Cravatt. There, he co-authored 19 scientific publications in prestigious journals such as Cell, Nature, and Science, as well as multiple patents, including a portion of the foundational IP for Abide Therapeutics (acq. Lundbeck, $250 M) and Vividion Therapeutics (acq. Bayer, $1.5 B).

While in the Cravatt Research Group, Armand also co-authored the development of both the first proteome-wide cholesterol and anandamide lipid binding maps, created the first platform for proteome-wide discovery of protein-protein interaction modulators, discovered a novel class of anti-tubercular drugs, synthesized the first covalent Wnt pathway activator, co-developed a novel class of endocannabinoid-potentiating therapeutics with implications for cancer, analgesia, inflammation, and Alzheimer’s, developed two drugs that reversed aging in C. elegans and mice, led an international investigation of the 2016 Bial clinical trial disaster (data arising from this presented to FDA led to a reversal of their decision to ban clinical trials in this area; in collaboration with Pfizer), and developed/synthesized multiple first-in-class covalent molecules for many previously undrugged proteins such as PNPLA4, ABHD3, CPVL, and PPT1.

Armand then joined the Flagship Pioneering start-up Inzen Therapeutics as one of the first ~five employees, where he single-handedly built the company’s proteomics drug discovery engine: the first platform enabling global mapping of novel cell-death signaling factors. After Inzen, he went through Y Combinator as a solo founder to develop the next generation of induced-proximity medicines at General Proximity, where he currently serves as Founder and CEO. In his free time, he likes to advise other biotechnology start-ups and do Type 2 fun activities like triathlons and ultra-marathons.

Minh Tran

Minh Tran completed his PhD in Chemistry at UCSF under the supervision of Dr. Ian Seiple. He developed a total synthesis platform tailored for the complex sesquiterpene trichothecene family of natural products. Furthermore, in collaboration with the James Fraser lab, Minh elucidated the molecular interactions between verrucarol and diacetylverrucarol with the human cytosolic ribosome's 50S subunit, providing high-resolution data of 2.7 Å. These findings provide insights for structural modifications, facilitating deeper investigations into trichothecene's toxicity and molecular mechanisms.

 

During his PhD, he also played various roles at Lyterian Therapeutics, Nucleate Genesis, and MPM Capital, collaborating closely with industry leaders, contributing to competitive landscape analysis, library designs for high throughput screening, as well as leading diligent processes, formulating innovative company concepts, and gaining insights into licensing, IP strategy, and clinical indication strategy development.

 

At General Proximity, Minh is currently a scientist working with the Platform and Chemistry teams to develop new classes  of proximity inducing therapeutics, as well as spearheading the development of a next-gen extremely high-throughput proximity screening engine. He is excited to leverage his skills and experiences to drive meaningful contributions in therapeutic sciences.

Advisors

Martin Babler

Mr. Babler served as Principia’s Chief Executive Officer from 2011 and as President and Chief Executive Officer from 2019 until Sanofi’s $3.7 billion acquisition in 2020. From 2007 to 2011, Mr. Babler served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Talima Therapeutics. From 1998 to 2007, Mr. Babler held several positions at Genentech, most notably as Vice President, Immunology Sales and Marketing. While at Genentech he also helped to build and led the Commercial Development organization and led the Cardiovascular Marketing organization. From 1991 to 1998, Mr. Babler was employed at Eli Lilly and Company in sales management, global marketing, and business development.

 

Mr. Babler presently serves on the Emerging Companies Section and Health Section Governing Boards of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and on the Board of Directors of Neoleukin Therapeutics. Mr. Babler received a Swiss Federal Diploma in Pharmacy from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and completed the Executive Development Program at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

 

Lawrence G. Hamann, PhD

Larry Hamann is currently Co-Founder, President, and CEO of Interdict Bio, a new venture-backed biotech company based in San Francisco pursuing an innovative small molecule therapeutics platform for addressing historically undruggable targets.  Previously, Larry was Global Head, Drug Discovery Sciences at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, with responsibility for Medicinal & Computational Chemistry, Computational Biology, Omics platforms, Biochemistry and Biophysics, Structural & Chemical Biology, and Compound Management/Screening.  Prior to Takeda, he served as Corporate Vice President and Global Head of Small Molecule Drug Discovery at Celgene, working across all therapeutic areas.  At Celgene, his teams also built a state-of-the-art platform for both molecular glue and heterobifunctional protein degradation therapeutic discovery and development, with several molecules from these efforts, including mezigdomide and golcadomide, now both in advanced stage clinical development.  Prior to Celgene, Larry held senior leadership roles at Novartis, and Bristol-Myers Squibb after beginning his career at Ligand Pharmaceuticals.  In over 30 years of drug discovery, Larry has led or overseen teams responsible for more than 18 clinical stage compounds spanning multiple therapeutic areas, target classes, and modalities (including covalent inhibitors, RNA splicing modulators, molecular glues, PROTACs). Among these are the FDA approved DPP4 inhibitor saxagliptin (Onglyza™) for type II diabetes, and the FDA approved first-in-class HCV NS5A inhibitor daclatasvir (Daklinza™) for hepatitis C.  Larry is a co-inventor on > 70 patents, co-author on > 90 scientific publications, served as a standing member of the NIH SBCB study section, and is an advisor to many biotech companies and VCs.  In 2017, he was awarded the American Chemical Society’s Heroes of Chemistry Award for contributions to the discovery of the combination of the pioneering hepatitis C virus inhibitors, which together demonstrated for the first time that HCV infection could be cured with only orally administered direct-acting antiviral agents.  Larry was awarded the ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry Award and was inducted into the Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame in 2022.  Larry obtained his PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Michigan.

 

© 2023 General Proximity

Nicholas T. Hertz, PhD

Nicholas T. Hertz, PhD, is originally from Santa Monica, California. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 2006, doing research in both a synthetic organic chemistry lab and a biochemistry lab. He then combined his research interests by performing a PhD in chemistry and chemical biology with Drs. Kevan Shokat and Al Burlingame at the University of California, San Francisco, using chemical genetic techniques to elucidate kinase signaling pathways. Dr. Hertz then conducted postdoctoral research with Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne at Stanford, where he identified a novel gene, Rufy3, that controls sensory axon degeneration during development.

During his time in the Shokat Lab, he made the discovery that PINK1 could utilize the N6 modified ATP analog kinetin triphosphate (KTP) more efficiently than ATP. The development of novel activators to treat underactive kinases could represent a new weapon in the fight against diseases that are associated with kinase underactivity. Dr. Hertz is the founder CSO at Mitokinin, which he co-founded to develop novel PINK1 targeting therapies and recently sold to AbbVie.

 

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