Data Science, Drug Discovery, Pharmacology, Engineering and Operations
Thach Mai, PhD
Lead Scientist, Drug Discovery & Platform Development
Dr. Thach Mai joined Juvena Therapeutics in September 2018 as a Stem Cell Biologist and Bioinformatician to lead the validation and discovery of the key rejuvenating protein factors in Juvena Therapeutics’ complex embryonic secretome cocktail and develop and improve Juvena’s HTS platform for protein therapeutic discovery.
Dr. Mai is a trained stem cell biologist and immunologist with a focus on the mechanisms of muscle degeneration and aging. Dr. Mai received his PhD in Molecular Biology and Immunology from UC Irvine and a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. During his fellowship, Dr. Mai used bioinformatics to accurately quantify high-throughput genomics data from multi-nucleated cells (heterokaryons) consisting of human and mouse gene transcripts to discover a novel transcription factor that drives the reprogramming of fibroblasts to pluripotency. Self-taught in ML with a strong passion for rapid biological discovery, he has generated deep learning models that identify muscle-specific aging genotypes as well as a machine learning classifier for the myogenic differentiation state of a single cell with a heterogeneous population.
Dr. Mai has been awarded multiple fellowships including from the National Institute of Health (F32), has three, 1st author publications including in Nature Journals, and is co-author of thirteen publications with one in review.
Joined Juvena Therapeutics: September 24, 2018
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Zhihua Li, PhD
Dr. Li is a biologist with a multidisciplinary background in Biochemistry, Immunology, Cell and Molecular Biology, with 7 years of research experience in academia and 4 years in industry. He joined Juvena Therapeutics in June 2019 as a Protein Engineering Scientist to build protein expression and purification pipelines and to improve Juvena Therapeutics’ pipeline library of rejuvenating proteins for therapeutic purposes.
Following a BS in Biochemistry and Master’s Degree (MS) in genetics from scientific and technical universities in China, and a second MS in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Southern California all during which he conducted research, Dr. Li completed his PhD (2007) and postdoctoral training (2014) in Cell and Molecular Biology from UT Austin, where he studied protein-protein interactions in different ways: first by combining computational predictions with experimental validations to discover 15 new protein factors functioning in the biogenesis of ribosomes; then by combining powerful mass spectrometry with protein fractionation techniques to create protein complex maps for both yeast and human cells. Continuing his exploration of novel protein interactions in his postdoctoral research, Dr. Li elucidated the self-cleavage mechanism of a novel membrane-bound transcription factor that drives oligodendrocyte differentiation. He’s published multiple co-authorships and first authorship studies along the way.
Before joining Juvena, Dr. Li worked in industry and biotech startups as Lead Scientist, Life Science Consultant, Scientific Advisor and R&D director. As Lead Scientist at BMLogic, Dr. Li developed and optimized the protein secretory production system in Pichia, leading to improved protein secretion efficiency and greatly reduced protein degradation.
Besides his passion for science, he enjoys spending time with his kid and exploring nature.
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Hee Ju Kim, MS
Senior Research Associate
Hee Ju joined Juvena Therapeutics in August 2019 as a Research Associate to work on the validation of our pipeline of pro-regenerative lead protein therapeutic candidates in in vivo preclinical models of aging and degenerative diseases caused by aging.
She is originally from Korea and she received her master’s degree in biochemistry from Korea University. Her master’s degree was supported by Brain Korea 21 (BK21). During her masters, she was trained in basic molecular techniques and in vitro experiments. Her master’s thesis was about double stranded DNA repair in yeast ribosomal protein S3.
Before joining Juvena Therapeutics, Hee Ju was trained as a research volunteer in the Peter W. Laird lab, Norris Cancer Center at the University of Southern California (USC). She was involved in the epigenomic projects and she designed the reaction oligo for Mouse MetyLight and some of the primers, which she designed, were published in the paper, Urology.
Hee Ju started improving her in vivo skills in the David J. Anderson’s lab as a research assistant for 5 years at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). She was involved in the projects of anxiety and aggression. After she moved to Austin, she worked with Michael R. Drew as a research associate for 4 years at the Center for Learning and Memory, UT Austin. Then she worked at the KPC lab in Korea for 2 years in preclinical models of neurodegeneration, in particular Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.
In Hee Ju’s free time, she enjoys traveling with family, playing golf, and spending time with her lovely dog Kelly.
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Research Associate II
Han joined Juvena Therapeutics in September 2021 as a Research Associate to contribute to Dr. Li’s research on protein expression, purification pipelines, and to improve Juvena Therapeutics’ pipeline library of rejuvenating proteins for therapeutic purposes.
Han obtained his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of San Diego, with research areas focusing on exploring the enzymatic interactions of malate dehydrogenases and the utilization of defect-formations in the synthesis of metal-organic frameworks.
Before joining Juvena, Han worked as a Scientist III at the startup NovoNutrients for 4 years. He was heavily involved with the upstream and downstream process of gas fermentation using proprietary bioreactors and consortias. In addition to the fermentation work, he developed a novel synthetic biology platform to express high-value biomolecules ranging from enzymes, pharmaceuticals, to carotenoids in various consortia species. Later on, he took on the role of a strain engineer to develop a quick and reliable method to generate genomically-integrated strains of bacteria for industrial processes.
In Han’s free time, he enjoys playing the piano, hiking, and cycling around the Bay Area.
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John Hanley, MS
Senior Data Scientist
John joined Juvena Therapeutics early in 2022 as Senior Data Scientist, to find machine learning solutions that make the PQnet discovery pipeline more powerful and understandable.
He originally trained as an Electrical Engineer and subsequently earned a Masters in Software Engineering from CMU.
After abandoning Wall Street for sunnier climes, John worked on large database systems at Oracle, helping them transition into new headquarters facilities. Early in Yahoo’s exponential growth curve he designed and operated custom DNS infrastructure to quickly send browser requests to nearby servers. Later he spent eight years in Xerox PARC’s machine learning group, finding ways to apply ML / AI techniques to business problems like fraud detection for DARPA and other partners, with award of eight patents along the way.
In his free time John enjoys cycling, skiing, and peering at the future through the lens of science fiction.
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Scientist, in vitro human disease modeling
- Experienced and motivated Scientist with a strong background in stem cell biology, human embryonic stem cell, cell culture, molecular biology, vector construction and analytical techniques, including qPCR, ELISA ,FACS, ICC, and Western blot
- 25+ years proficiency in human embryonic stem cell culture and directed differentiation
- Generating Cardiomyocytes, retinal Hepatocytes and Endothelial Progenitor Cells, from human embryonic stem cells to high purity and success rate.
- Developing models of end-stage liver disease and liver cirrhosis in primary human hepatocytes (PHH) and primary rodent hepatocytes, including 2D and 3D spheroids and co-cultures with myofibroblasts, stellate cells and Kupffer cells.
- Design and execution of high-throughput in vitro plasmid-based miRNA screening for acquired liver disease targets.
- Evaluated the transduction efficiency and long term transgene expression of AAV1 and Adeno virus in endothelial cells
- Generation of iPS cells with different methods (e.g. mRNA, lenti virus, sendai virus, siRNA reprogramming)
- Identified optimal cell condition for Exosome production, purification and characterization
- Developed ELISA assay kit for Exosome quantification
- Experience with molecular biology techniques and protein isolation
- Excellent technical, organizational, and communication skills
- Strong analytical and problem-solving capabilities
- Ability to work both independently and in a team environment
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Research Associate II
Ashil joined Juvena Therapeutics in January 2022 as a Research Associate to contribute to pre-clinical in-vivo research, including the functional and behavioral validation of lead protein therapeutics developed by the in-vitro team.
Ashil obtained his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of California, Riverside. Working in the Nabity Lab, he focused on genetics with the aim to parse out an endosymbiont genome from that of its host, the woolly apple aphid, to elucidate the mechanisms the endosymbiont utilized to fortify the amino-acid poor diet of the aphid.
Realizing his aptitude for dissection and surgery, he began a two-year stint at the Oka Lab at Caltech post-graduating. After beginning by managing and genotyping mouse colonies of up to 55 lines and 400+ animals for the lab, he moved towards behavioral testing and survival intracranial surgery. He worked as a co-author on a project to create an opiate-biosensor, validating in-vitro and ex-vivo results in-vivo by both optimizing and executing intracranial viral injections, and optic fiber implantation in the VTA in the brain. This in conjunction with post-op fiber photometry and DeepLabCut analysis allowed visualization of how the brain processes mu opiates such as fentanyl.
In Ashil’s free time, he is a basketball fanatic, both in playing pickup and following the pros!
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Ben graduated from UC Davis with bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. While at UC Davis, he worked in Dr. Keith Baar’s lab, and was part of several research projects relating to skeletal muscle metabolism and the effects of nutrition and aging on skeletal muscle, and became responsible for performing transfections of both primary and immortal cell lines for various projects going on in the lab. Additionally, Ben worked as a biochemistry intern at Marrone Bio Innovations in Davis where he gained experience with performing and developing high throughput assays, as well as both small and large scale purification of native and recombinant proteins from several prokaryotic species.
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