Kevin M. Forrest, Ph.D., Co-Founder, President and CEO
Dr. Forrest was most recently Chief Strategy Officer of Cidara Therapeutics (Nasdaq: CDTX) an infectious disease company he co-founded in 2013 and helped take public as COO/CFO in 2015. At Cidara he was responsible for the acquisition of rezafungin, a preclinical stage novel long acting echinocandin antifungal currently in late stage clinical studies. He is also a co-inventor of the company’s Cloudbreak™ antimicrobial immunotherapy platform. From 2005 to 2014, Dr. Forrest held positions of increasing responsibility at 5AM Ventures, an early stage life science venture capital firm. While at 5AM, Dr. Forrest supported the spin-out of Relypsa (acquired by Galenica) from Ilypsa/Amgen and led or supported investments in Semprus Biosciences (acquired by Teleflex), Marcadia Biotechnologies (acquired by Roche), Flexion Therapeutics (Nasdaq: FLXN), among others. Dr. Forrest serves as a review member of the Princeton University IP Accelerator Fund, and co-leads organization of the rEvolution Symposium, a leading meeting for heads of life science R&D. Dr. Forrest holds a B.S. in biology from Boston College and Ph.D. in molecular biology from Princeton University where he developed novel in vivo imaging tools to examine RNA localization and translational control.
Matthew D. Disney, Ph.D., Scientific Founder
Dr. Disney is currently a full professor in the bi-coastal Department of Chemistry and the Department of Neuroscience at The Scripps Research Institute. His laboratory is focused on understanding RNA-ligand interactions and exploiting this information to rationally design small molecules that modulate RNA function or toxicity from sequence. He has received numerous awards including the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, Blavatnik Young Investigator Award in Chemistry National Finalist, The Tetrahedron Young Investigator Award, Camille & Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award, The Camille & Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the Research Corporation Cottrell Scholar Award, The University at Buffalo Exceptional Scholar Young Investigator Award, the Eli Lily Award in Biological Chemistry from the American Chemical Society, the David W. Robertson Award for Excellence in Medicinal Chemistry from the American Chemical Society, and the David Y. Gin New Investigator Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry from the American Chemical Society. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Dr. Disney received his early schooling in the Baltimore Catholic School System, his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Maryland, College Park, and his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Rochester. As a graduate student, under the guidance of Professor Douglas H. Turner, he studied catalysis of group I introns and developed approaches to determine RNA secondary structure in cells by using a combination of experiment and prediction. Dr. Disney completed postdoctoral training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH; Zürich, Switzerland) in Professor Peter H. Seeberger’s lab, he studied organic synthesis and glycobiology, developing the broadly used carbohydrate microarray platform.
Elliot Ehrich, M.D., Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Ehrich joined Expansion Therapeutics in 2018 as Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Ehrich has spent over 25 years in drug development including the last eighteen years at Alkermes, plc, as Executive Vice President, R&D and Chief Medical Officer. While at Alkermes, he directed the development and successful FDA registration of VIVITROL and ARISTADA and partnered development of RISPERDAL CONSTA and BYDUREON. He established a drug discovery effort at Alkermes which has yielded a broad portfolio of proprietary drug development candidates in psychiatry, neurology, and immuno-oncology. Dr. Ehrich is currently a Venture Partner with 5AM Ventures and serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards of Praxis Precision Medicines, Aileron and Heptares and is a Strategic Advisor to Verge Genomics. Prior to Alkermes, Dr. Ehrich spent seven years at Merck & Co, Inc. working in clinical pharmacology and clinical development.
Dr. Ehrich received a B.A. degree from Princeton University and was a predoctoral fellow in molecular genetics at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany. Following an M.D. degree at Columbia University, he completed a residency in internal medicine, subspecialty training in rheumatology, and a postdoctoral fellowship in immunology at Stanford University.
Joseph P. Vacca, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Drug Discovery
Dr. Vacca earned his B.S. in chemistry in 1977 from St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York, and obtained his Ph.D. degree in Organic Chemistry under Professor Peter T. Lansbury Sr. at the State University of New York at Buffalo (New York). He joined Merck Research Laboratories in 1981 and has made major contributions to several approved drugs including the HIV protease inhibitor CRIXIVAN™ (indinavir sulfate), the HIV integrase inhibitor Isentress™ (raltegravir); HCV protease Inhibitors (Vanihep™, vaniprevir), the combination product Zepatier™ which is a combination of the second generation HCV protease inhibitor grazoprevir and the NS5A protein Inhibitor elbasvir and the recently approved second generation NNRTI inhibitor doravirine. Dr. Vacca retired from Merck in 2011 and took a role as Senior Vice President of Early Success Sharing Partnerships at WuXi AppTec Limited. He left WuXi in Sept. 2015 to work with small companies as a Medicinal Chemistry consultant. Dr. Vacca has over 100 publications and patents and is the holder of many awards including a Merck Directors Award (1998); PhRMA Discoverers Award (1999); Intellectual Property Owners “National Inventor of the year Award” (1997); European Inventor of the Year (non-EU nation) (2007); ACS “Award for Creative Invention” (1999); and was a named a Merck Research Laboratories Presidential Fellow in 2008. He was inducted into to the American Chemical Society Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame (Aug. 2012) and was also named a “Hero of Chemistry” (along with the research team) for his role in the discovery and development of the HIV integrase inhibitor Isentress™.
Tim Blizzard, Ph.D., Vice President, Chemistry
Dr. Blizzard graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.S. in Chemistry and went on to earn his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry at MIT (thesis title: Synthesis of Verrucarins) in the laboratory of Professor Bill Roush. After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Blizzard conducted post-doctoral research in natural products chemistry and organic synthesis with Professor Koji Nakanishi at Columbia University. He then joined the Merck Research Laboratories where he worked as a medicinal chemistry group leader for over 28 years. Dr. Blizzard led the chemistry team that discovered relebactam (MK-7655), a beta-lactamase inhibitor that is currently in Phase III clinical trials in combination with Primaxin™ for the treatment of Gram-negative bacterial infections. He also led the chemistry group that discovered L-786,392, a carbapenem antibiotic with excellent activity against MRSA that advanced to a Phase I multi-dose clinical trial. After leaving Merck in 2013, Dr. Blizzard founded Xpharma Consulting and has consulted for venture capital and law firms in addition to multiple pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Blizzard has authored or co-authored 65 publications in peer-reviewed journals and is an inventor on 22 issued U.S. patents.
Mark Fielden, Ph.D., Vice President, Nonclinical Development
Dr. Fielden received his B.S. Degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Guelph, Canada, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Toxicology from Michigan State University where he studied nuclear receptor biology and endocrine disruptors. Dr. Fielden is a diplomat of the American Board of Toxicology and has over 15 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, including the last 10 years at Amgen as Scientific Director. While at Amgen he led a team of toxicologists and an investigative toxicology lab contributing to the discovery and development of numerous drugs across a variety of indications in the metabolic, cardiovascular, neuroscience and oncology areas. He also led the nonclinical development of PARSABIV (etelcalcetide), a peptide calcimimetic for secondary hyperparathyroidism, which was successfully registered in the US and globally, and omecamtiv mecarbil for heart failure which is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials. Prior to Amgen, Dr. Fielden worked at Roche and Iconix Biosciences focusing on Discovery and Investigative Safety. Dr. Fielden has published over 45 peer reviewed papers and book chapters in the fields of nonclinical development, predictive and mechanistic toxicology, and biomarkers.
Eric Wang, Ph.D., Scientific Advisor
Dr. Wang received his B.A. in Biochemistry from Harvard College and his Ph.D. from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology in Medical Engineering/Medical Physics with a focus on Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics. He performed his graduate work with Christopher Burge and David Housman, developing and applying experimental and computational methods to studying alternative splicing across tissue transcriptomes (cited >2500 times), quantitating RNA processing events, and uncovering a role for Muscleblind-like proteins in regulating RNA localization. Following receipt of an NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, he launched his independent research group at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Center for Neurogenetics and Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Florida. He recently received a Thomas H. Maren Junior Investigator Award, as well as grants from the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation and Biogen Idec. Dr. Wang’s family is affected by myotonic dystrophy, and outside of academic research, Dr. Wang has been involved with the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and serves on the board of the Promise to Kate Foundation, helping these organizations to raise awareness and funding for muscle disease research. Recently, he has co-led and co-organized the Strength, Science and Stories of Inspiration event in Boston, aimed at bringing together all stakeholders for muscle disease and supporting the next generation of young investigators in muscle disease.