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An Astellas Company

targeting mitochondria advancing human health


David Barrett, PhD

Division Head & President, Mitobridge, An Astellas Company, President, Nanna Therapeutics, An Astellas Company

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.

Selva Nataraja, PhD

Site Head, Mitobridge

Selva Nataraja PhD
Selva received his PhD in biochemistry from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. Following a postdoctoral stint at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, he moved to University of Illinois at Chicago as a Research Associate. In 2000 he joined Serono/EMD Serono to start his drug discovery experience. He has supported programs in both small molecule and biotherapeutics and in multiple therapeutic areas, including Women’s health, Oncology and Immunology. In 2013, he spun out a project from EMD Serono to become an entrepreneur and formed Tocopherx to lead optimize of a small molecule. As founder & head of biology, he was instrumental in setting up the strategy for the company and drive the operations with external providers including CROs, academic and clinical investigators to successfully develop two clinical candidates. Selva joined Mitobridge in 2018 as project director and contributed significantly to late-stage programs and providing BD support for evaluating several external assets and technology platforms. As DDRL, he was instrumental in leading the BACH1 project for successful IND submission and supported nonclinical studies for programs in clinic. Selva brings in wealth of experience from a distinguished drug discovery career, in early and late preclinical development and across multiple therapeutic areas. He possesses strong leadership skills and passion to develop novel therapies for patients.

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.

Daniel Hoeppner, PhD

Director, Target ID and Business Development

David Barrett PhD

Dr. Hoeppner (Director, Mitobridge) is Head of Target Identification and Business Development. He manages the Exploratory Biology team aimed at populating the early pipeline. Prior to Mitobridge, he managed computational and bench scientists focused on CNS diseases at the Astellas Research Institute of America (La Jolla, CA). He enjoys finding new opportunities for collaboration both throughout the company, in the local community, and around the world. He was awarded the 2019 We Work For Health (WWFH) Champion award by PhRMA for work on legislative engagement with the pharmaceutical industry. Before joining Astellas, Dr. Hoeppner was an investigator at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development (Johns Hopkins, Baltimore MD), a Staff Scientist at the NIH-NINDS (Bethesda MD), and a graduate student of genetics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (Long Island, NY). Fun fact: Dan was a piano major in college and enjoys making music at any opportunity

Bridget Puffer, PhD

Director, Scientific Programs

Bridget Puffer PhD
Bridget has experience as a bench scientist, R&D Program and Portfolio Manager, Alliance Manager and in Corporate Strategy. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Virology from the University of Pittsburgh and did her postdoctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania. She has supported drug development programs in oncology, autoimmune disease, and rare disease from research initiation through IND, registration, and post marketing activities, working in small biotech and mid-size pharmaceutical companies. Bridget joined Mitobridge in 2022 and manages the research portfolio and cross-functional collaboration between Mitobridge, Astellas and external partners.

Jeffrey Ciavarri, PhD

Director, Medicinal Chemistry

Jeffrey Ciavarri PhD
Jeff received his Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry from the University of Notre Dame followed by post-doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of Prof. Amos B. Smith III.  Prior to joining Mitobridge in 2020, he held positions as a medicinal chemist at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Schering-Plough and Takeda Pharmaceuticals within the Inflammation, Oncology and Immuno-oncology disease areas.  A significant amount of his research in small-molecule drug discovery has focused on targeting the ubiquitin-proteasome system to find new medicines for the treatment of cancer.

Scientific Advisors

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.