An Astellas Company

targeting mitochondria advancing human health


David Barrett, PhD

Site Head, Nanna Therapeutics

David Barrett PhD
David has spent most of his career working in Japan with Astellas and the predecessor company, Fujisawa. He is a senior-level leader and drug hunter with extensive expertise in infectious diseases and oncology, project management and has a track record of delivering quality, differentiated development candidates to the pipeline and market. In recent years, he has developed extensive management and leadership experience within Astellas with a focus on scientific excellence, effective global cross-functional interactions, leadership, responsibility, productivity, mentorship and influence. David has extensive experience working with internal and external research programs, Divisional governance, decision-making and reporting processes and interactions with domestic/overseas affiliates and partners, including CROs to help drive creation of innovative product candidates. David received his Ph.D. degree in synthetic organic chemistry from Newcastle University in the UK and carried out post-doctoral research at Stanford University in the laboratory of Professor Barry M. Trost.

Bharat Lagu, PhD

Head of Drug Discovery

Bharat Lagu PhD
Bharat brings to Mitobridge a successful track record of delivering NCEs in pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Prior to joining Mitobridge, Bharat headed External Drug Discovery (EDD) at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR), where he developed effective collaborations with CROs worldwide. Through his effort, he advanced multiple research programs into the clinic in a variety of therapeutic areas. Preceding his role in EDD, Bharat was a Group Leader at NIBR in Global Discovery Chemistry, where he contributed to discovering compounds that have progressed into late stage clinical development in oncology. Previous to NIBR, Bharat was a Team Leader at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical R&D, where his group targeted inflammatory and metabolic diseases. Bharat began his industrial career at the Synaptic Pharmaceutical Corp. where he worked numerous G-protein coupled receptor targets. His work at Synaptic (in collaboration with Merck) and Johnson & Johnson also led to identification of clinical candidates. Bharat received his Ph.D. degree in chemistry from Clemson University and carried out post-doctoral research at Emory University.

Olivier van Till, MD, PhD, PharmMed

Head of Translational Medicine

Olivier Van Till MD PhD PharmMed
Olivier van Till has worked in the pharmaceutical industry since 2009, as a medical director in Pharmacovigilance and Medical & Development at Astellas Europe in Leiden, the Netherlands; and from 2017 to 2021 at Astellas Headquarters in Tokyo Japan, where he helped set up global development capabilities. In his role of Global Medical Lead he conducted drug development projects from preclinical to approval phases in various therapeutic areas, including urology, nephrology, infectious diseases, pain, pediatrics and immunology. Before his work in the pharmaceutical industry he worked as a medical doctor in the fields of general surgery and urology. He received his medical degree and PhD (in immunology/surgery, dissertation: “Attack and Defense, the Immune Response to Secondary Peritonitis”) from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He completed a post-doctoral program Advanced Studies in Pharmaceutical Medicine and Medicines Development at the European Center of Pharmaceutical Medicine at the university of Basel, Switzerland.

Paul Perkins

Controller, Director of Operations

Paul Perkins
Paul Perkins has over 20 years of corporate business management, finance and operations experience; and since 2006 he has held senior-level positions within the biopharmaceutical industry. Currently, he serves as Controller and Director of Operations for Astellas Pharma/Mitobridge, Inc., where he directs the Finance and Operations departments. In this role, Paul oversees the company’s Corporate Compliance and Records Retention processes, and manages select accounting and finance functions, including budgets and managerial reporting. Prior to joining Astellas/Mitobridge, Paul was Controller for Intellia Therapeutics and directed the company’s entire financial operation and managed all corporate finance and accounting functions. Previously, Paul was Senior Director of Finance for Eyegate Pharmaceuticals where he directed all company Finance, Human Resources, and Information Technology operations. Outside of the biopharmaceutical industry Paul has held senior management positions within the finance/accounting functions, including IMO Corp., Masonic Health System, Wellspace, Inc., and Deering Lumber Co. Paul holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Northeastern University.

Heather Halem, PhD

Senior Director, Translational Science

Heather Halem PhD
Heather Halem brings more than 18 years of pharmaceutical experience to Mitobridge with strong expertise in rare diseases, metabolic disorders, oncology, endocrinology and in preclinical pharmacology. A senior, cross-functional project team leader, she has led research programs that have taken molecules from early identification to clinical candidates.  Most recently, Heather served as vice president of research at Tiburio Therapeutics, a clinical stage biotech dedicated to advancing treatments for neuroendocrine disorders. Prior to that she spent 15 years at Ipsen Bioscience, serving as director, endocrine modeling. In the role, she led research project teams from early-stage target identification and concept assessment through lead optimization and into the clinic. She also led the research group focused on developing and utilizing models, both for the elucidation of disease mechanisms and for the screening and optimization of therapeutic compounds. Heather received her post-doctoral training at Massachusetts General Hospital where she researched drug resistance mutations in HIV. She received her Ph.D. in Neuroendocrinology from Boston University and her B.A. in Biology from Macalester College.

Amit Galande

Senior Director of Strategy and Partnering

Amit Galande
At Mitobridge, Amit is responsible for strategically positioning the team to most effectively utilize external partnerships and internal resources. Amit has worked across the healthcare value chain with expertise in strategy & operations with emphasis on innovation, cultural transformations, and drug hunting. At Astellas, he worked with Corporate Strategy division to identify gaps and opportunities in organization innovation. He also worked with M&D Strategy & Operations’ business informatics team. Prior to joining Astellas, Amit worked in PwC’s Pharma Consulting team where he worked with Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb on projects involving operational improvements. Amit received PHD in organic chemistry from University of Louisville in collaboration with Eli Lilly in 2003 and subsequently completed his postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School.

Scientific Advisory Board

Johan Auwerx, MD, PhD

Scientific Founder

Johan Auwerx MD PhD
Johan Auwerx is Professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he occupies the Nestle Chair in Energy Metabolism. Dr. Auwerx has been using molecular physiology and systems genetics to understand metabolism in health, aging and disease. Much of his work focused on understanding how diet, exercise and hormones control metabolism through changing the expression of genes by altering the activity of transcription factors and their associated cofactors. His work was instrumental for the development of agonists of nuclear receptors - a particular class of transcription factors - into drugs, which now are used to treat high blood lipid levels, fatty liver, and type 2 diabetes. Dr. Auwerx was amongst the first to recognize that transcriptional cofactors, which fine-tune the activity of transcription factors, act as energy sensors/effectors that influence metabolic homeostasis. His research validated these cofactors as novel targets to treat metabolic diseases, and spurred the clinical use of natural compounds, such as resveratrol, as modulators of these cofactor pathways. Johan Auwerx was elected as a member of EMBO in 2003 and has received many international scientific prizes. Dr. Auwerx received both his MD and PhD in Molecular Endocrinology at the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium. He was a post-doctoral research fellow in the Departments of Medicine and Genetics of the University of Washington in Seattle.

Andrew Dillin, PhD

Scientific Founder

Andrew Dillin PhD
Andrew Dillin is Professor of Genetics, Genomics and Development at University of California, Berkeley where he holds the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Distinguished Chair in Stem Cell Research. Dr. Dillin’s laboratory works on the genetic and molecular mechanisms that regulate aging and aging-related disease. The Dillin lab is particularly interested in understanding why an organism begins to lose control over the quality and integrity of its proteins as it ages, and how the recognition of protein misfolding stress is communicated to distal tissues and organs. Dr. Dillin earned his BS in Biochemistry from the University of Nevada. He then moved to study Genetics at UC Berkeley with Dr. Jasper Rine, working on epigenetic regulation of transcription and cell cycle progression. He changed fields for his post-doctoral training and worked with Dr. Cynthia Kenyon at UCSF untangling the genetics of aging. After establishing his lab, he moved into mitochondrial dynamics and proteotoxicity in both worms and mice. He began to ask fundamental questions about proteome maintenance and mitochondrial function in human stem cells. Rising through the ranks to full Professor, Dr. Dillin became an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2008 and is one of the very few full-time biogerontologists to receive the honor. Dr. Dillin cofounded Proteostasis Therapeutics in 2008 and remains an active SAB member of the company. In 2012, he moved his lab to newly opened Li Ka Shing stem cell building on the UC Berkeley campus.

Ron Evans, PhD

Scientific Founder

Ron Evans PhD
Ronald M. Evans is Professor and Director in the Gene Expression Laboratory and the March of Dimes Chair in Developmental and Molecular Biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Dr. Evans is an authority on hormones, both their normal activities and their roles in disease. A major achievement in Evans' lab was the discovery of a large family of molecules, named receptors that respond to various steroid hormones, vitamin A and thyroid hormones. These hormones help control sugar, salt, calcium and fat metabolism; thus, they impact on our daily health as well as treatment of disease. The receptors that Dr. Evans’ lab discovered are primary targets in the treatment of breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and leukemia, as well as osteoporosis and asthma. In addition, Dr. Evans' studies led to the discovery of a hormone that may aid in the treatment of obesity and diabetes. Dr. Evans is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was awarded the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award in 2004 and the Wolf Prize in Medicine in 2012. Dr. Evans received his BS and PhD from UCLA, followed by postdoctoral training at Rockefeller University with James E. Darnell.

H. Robert Horvitz, PhD

Scientific Founder

H Robert Horvitz PhD
Dr. Horvitz is the David H. Koch Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a member of the MIT Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and a member of the MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research. Dr. Horvitz is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the US Institute of Medicine. He is a recipient of the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation, the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience. Dr. Horvitz received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering and characterizing genes that control programmed cell death (apoptosis) in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, findings that have provided the basis for understanding many aspects of human biology and disease, including cancer. Dr. Horvitz is a member of the SAB of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Science and is chair of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board of MPM Capital. Dr. Horvitz has co-founded five biotechnology companies including, Idun Pharmaceuticals and Epizyme, and has served on the scientific advisory boards of 11 biotechnology companies. He received his PhD in Biology from Harvard University working with Drs. James Watson and Walter Gilbert and did his postdoctoral training with Dr. Sydney Brenner at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.

Jodi Nunnari, PhD

Jodi Nunnari PhD
Dr. Nunnari is currently Professor and former Chair in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of California, Davis. Her research is focused on understanding the mechanisms and functions of mitochondrial behaviors in cells. Specifically, the lab is focused on two fundamental problems. The first is how the structure of mitochondria is established and maintained within cells. Dr. Nunnari is elucidating the molecular mechanisms that underlie mitochondrial division and fusion. The second area of interest is on understanding how the mitochondrial genome is organized and faithfully segregated within the organelle. Defects in mitochondrial structure and mtDNA maintenance are associated with an increasing number of human diseases. Dr. Nunnari is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Max Plank Institute for Biology of Ageing, the American Society for Cell Biology Public Policy Committee, and on the Editorial Boards of eLife, Traffic and is a Senior Editor at the Journal of Cell Biology. Her work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the American Heart Association. Dr. Nunnari received her BS with honors in Chemistry from the College of Wooster. She performed her graduate work at Vanderbilt University in Pharmacology and her postdoctoral research at UCSF in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics with Dr. Peter Walter.

Mason Freeman, MD

Mason Freeman MD

Mason W. Freeman, MD is Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and serves as Chief of the Lipid Metabolism Unit and Director of Translational Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Trained in internal medicine and endocrinology, Dr. Freeman has spent twenty years studying the trafficking of cholesterol into and out of macrophages. From 2005-2007, while on a leave of absence from MGH/Harvard, he served as a head of the Novartis Translational Medicine program for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases as well as the company’s Global Head of Biomarker Development. Dr. Freeman is a Venture Partner at 5 AM Ventures, an early-stage life science venture firm, and in that role he has served as a consultant to multiple life science startup companies. He has contributed to the creation of over 29 companies since 2007, serving on the board of Envoy Therapeutics, a neuroscience company acquired by Takeda in 2012, as well as playing a key medical advisor role at Relypsa, which developed the first chronic oral therapy for hyperkalemia. Dr. Freeman is the editor of the Adult Primary Care lipid section of a leading medical textbook, UpToDate. He graduated from Harvard and received his MD at the University of California, San Francisco. He served as an intern, resident, endocrinology fellow, and Chief Resident in Medicine in the Department of Medicine at MGH. He trained as a post-doctoral research fellow in the Biology Department at MIT where he cloned the first macrophage scavenger receptor to be molecularly identified.