Team General Proximity
Armand B. Cognetta III
Armand 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.
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 General Proximity, 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.
Ernesto Diaz-Flores, a cancer biologist and biochemist from the University Complutense (Madrid), completed his PhD in Molecular Biology at Universidad Autonoma (Madrid) where he studied the signaling role of protein kinase C in T cell activation. He then moved to San Francisco to pursue a postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. K. Shannon at UCSF, where he performed extensive multiparametric flow cytometry studies to study the signaling rewiring induced by mutant KrasG12D and NF1 in Acute Myeloid leukemia. His studies were instrumental in identifying druggable vulnerabilities with therapeutic potential, an achievement recognized by the Children’s Tumor Foundation who awarded him the Young Investigator Award. He then joined Dr. M. Loh for further postdoctoral training in childhood B cell leukemia. In 2013, he and his team published a seminal publication in Nature Genetics where he led the discovery of inherited mutations in TP53, including new variants*,* in hypodiploid leukemia, which is now used in the clinic to screen relatives of these patients in search of Li-Fraumeni syndrome. These findings demonstrating the role of mutant p53 as initiating event at diagnosis in the absence of concurrent mutations shed new light into the oncogenic relevance of this gene in cancer.
In 2014 Ernesto obtained a faculty position as an Assistant Professor in the UCSF Pediatrics Department. As a professor, Ernesto’s work focused on elucidating how genetic alterations associated with poor prognosis in cancer patients (such as TP53 and NRAS mutations and/or CDKN2A/B and IKZF2 deletions) hijack the BCL-2 survival pathway to confer therapy resistance. His lab was supported by several funding agencies such as the Leukemia Research Foundation (LRF), American Cancer Society (ACS), the Hughes foundation, Team Connor (TCCF), Cookies for Kids (C4K), and Elsa U. Pardee among others. He was an invited lecturer at multiple institutions around the US and Europe including American Society of Hematology, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), Temple University, Centro Nacional de Biotechnology (CNB-CSIC), and others. A prolific mentor and teacher, he currently serves as a panel member for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) and as a member of the Editorial board of “Frontiers Cell and Development Journal”. His work has been recognized by numerous awards such as American Cancer Society Individual Research award two years in a row, the UCSF Chancellor's Faculty Resource Award, and the UCSF Faculty Learning and Development Award.
In 2019, Ernesto published a pioneering research work combining next-gen genomic sequencing and protein profiling paired with combinatorial drug screening, which demonstrated exceptional preclinical efficacy of Venetoclax in hypodiploid B-ALL patients. This led to the opening of the first clinical trial of this targeted therapy sponsored by AbbVie in the underserved patient population of children with high-risk B-cell leukemia.
In 2022, Ernesto and his team reported the identification of the first biomarker of response to Inotuzumab in relapse/refractory leukemia patients through the combination of mass cytometry and machine learning in longitudinal samples collected during the clinical trial, work that has also led to the early opening steps of another clinical trial sponsored by Pfizer for children with Relapse/Refractory B-ALL leukemia. The publication of this work was followed shortly by his promotion to Associate Professor.
Ernesto is now a Senior Principal Scientist at General Proximity where he leads Biology Team in their efforts to advance pre-clinical assets towards the clinic.
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 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. Veronika is now a scientist at General Proximity, supporting the platform team, prioritizing targets, and exercising her experience in proximity-induction by designing and testing new 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.
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 in 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.
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 of lab, you’ll see Max biking, sailing, or climbing around the bay!
Lachlan W Richardson completed his Bachelor’s degree in Medicinal Chemistry at Monash University, Melbourne, before completing his Honours research degree with Prof Alan Cowman and Dr Brad Sleebs in the Chemical Biology Division, WEHI. Here he utilized medicinal chemistry and biochemistry to investigate drug targets of the Malaria causing parasite, P. falciparum. Lachlan then joined the Ubiquitin Signalling Division, WEHI, as a Research Associate under Prof David Komander and Dr Bernhard Lechtenberg to initiate a drug discovery project exploiting novel E3 ligases for the development of targeted protein degrader therapeutics. He developed a small molecule screening platform for candidate E3s as well as numerous biophysical, structural and computational methods enabling hit validation and small molecule hit-to-lead. Additionally, he contributed to large-scale drug discovery efforts to identify antiviral compounds targeting the SARS-CoV-2 papain-like protease, PLpro. Throughout this time he has co-authored 6 publications and contributed to the development of a phase I clinical candidate. Lachlan is a Senior Research Associate at General Proximity, investigating molecular interactions for bifunctional target engagement and validation. In Lachlan’s free time he enjoys searching for good coffee, running, cycling, hiking and skiing, or otherwise taking in the outdoors.
Steven Spivak received his undergraduate degree in Biotechnology at the University of California, Davis. At UC Davis, Steven worked under multiple professors as a Research Associate, including Dr. Dan Putnam, Dr. Mark Lundy, and Dr. Charlie Brummer. During his time there, Steven helped with setting up and managing field trials for multiple crop species. Steven then went on to get a Master’s Degree in Plant Genetics under Dr. Charlie Brummer where he worked on identifying the genetic components for day length sensitivity for flower development in hemp plants. Steven is a research associate at General Proximity where he is aiding in the development of phenotypic screening methods to find leads to develop new bifunctional molecules. Outside of work, you can find Steven cooking new and exciting dishes and listening to his favorite audiobooks.
Jerome Timbol completed his BSc in Biological Sciences in Canada at the University of Calgary. During his undergrad, Jerome trained under and performed research for multiple professionals including Dr. Robert Newton, Dr. Jiami Guo and Dr. Antoine Dufour. Jerome's research projects included investigating the role of kinase inhibitors and their effect on the Nf-kB inflammatory pathway found in airway inflammation (Newton Lab), utilizing a high-throughput drug screen to identify the morphology and calcium functionality of hypothalamic primary cilia (Guo Lab), and characterizing the effects of potential anti-inflammatory drugs on THP-1 cancer cells using quantitative proteomics (Dufour Lab). Jerome is now a research associate on the biology team at General Proximity where he assists in phenotypic screening of new compounds that can be translated into clinical applications. In Jerome’s free time he enjoys snowboarding, trying new things, and staying active inside and out.