Drug Discovery

Thach Mai, PhD

Principal Scientist, Drug Discovery & Platform Development
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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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Clarence Dunn, PHD

Principal Scientist, Drug Discovery
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Clay Dunn joined Juvena Therapeutics in October 2022 as a Principal Scientist on the in vitro drug discovery team.

Clay received a MPH degree in epidemiology from George Washington University where he worked with Andrew Friedman at the Genetic Epidemiology Branch, NCI, on a study characterizing the clinical features of von Hippel Lindau disease. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington, where he was trained in epithelial cell biology in the lab of William Carter, Ph.D.. He focused on studying the elements of outside→in signaling mechanisms in both activated and quiescent keratinocyte cell populations.

Clay completed his post-doctoral training in the lab of Paul Lampe, Ph.D. at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in Seattle, WA.. In the Lampe Lab, Clay investigated the biology connecting connexin proteins and Gap Junctional Intercellular Communication (GJIC) to several key cellular functions. His focus was on the kinases and pathways that regulate gap junction function during epidermal wounding and cardiac ischemia.

Clay has spent nearly 10 years in the Bay Area biotech industry developing assays and complex cellular models to support pre-clinical drug development. In five years at Amgen, Clay leveraged high throughput imaging and analysis to conduct IND-enabling studies supporting the development of several assets in Amgen’s pipeline. At Encoded Therapeutics, Clay worked to develop novel bioanalytical assays for the company’s gene therapies, which aim to treat pediatric epileptic seizure syndromes.

 

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Mohammad Hassanipour

Scientist, In vitro Human Disease Modeling
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  • 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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Jyoti Ahlawat, PHD

Associate Scientist
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Dr. Ahlawat joined Juvena Therapeutics in September 2022 as an Associate Scientist: Drug Discovery. She holds a Master’s degree in Biotechnology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (IITR), and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). She is a recipient of Academic and Research Excellence award from the College of Science (UTEP). Her dissertation research involved developing materials and testing them in-vitro to develop therapeutics against the gravest of human diseases such as Alzheimer’s (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Dr. Ahlawat has published more than 18 articles and book chapters in international, peer-reviewed, reputed journals. She is a recipient of the title “Rising Star in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology” at the 10th IEE International Conference on nanomaterials and applications (IEEE-NAP 2020). She has won Best presentation awards at the Equniox (2022), 26th Annual BioEnvironmental Polymer Society (BEPS-2019), Graduate Expo (2018), and 8th International conference on smart materials, structure, and systems (ISSS-2017). In addition, she has won various travel awards (2018-2020), four research awards (2019-2021), and graduate scholarships (2019-2020). She is an Editorial board member of the Journal Future Trends in Nanotechnology and is serving as a Guest Editor for Science Progress (SAGE Journal).

She has served as Vice president of Graduate Student Assembly (2018), and as President of BioChem graduate student chapter (2021). She recently received honorarium from Society for Science for serving as a Science Talent Search Evaluator in 2021. She received Certificate of Appreciation from the Graduate School for her contribution to Undergraduate Learning in 2021. She has served as science judge for the Sun Country Science & Engineering fair (2021), Regeneron International Science & Engineering fair (2021) and at 2nd annual El Paso STEM expo competition (2019). She worked as an intern for eight months with a medical device company where she participated and led international projects which included renewal and registration of ophthalmic lenses in Mexico, Creating Instructions for Use (IFUs) and technical files, and Translation of IFUs into European languages.

Dr. Ahlawat serves as a peer-reviewer for journals such as Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics, Nanotechnology for Environmental Engineering, Environmental Science, Journal for Drug Delivery, and technology, and Phytotherapy. She delivered four invited scientific talks at International Conferences in 2021-2022.

 

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Benjamin Tucker

Research Associate II
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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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Pharmacology

Mo (Mohammad) Tabrizi PhD

VP of Preclinical & Nonclinical Development
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Mo (Mohammad) Tabrizi PhD joined Juvena Therapeutics in 2022, bringing over 25 years’ experience in basic research, integrative pharmacology, translational sciences, and development of protein-based biologics. Prior to Joining  Juvena Therapeutics, Dr. Tabrizi served in positions with increasing responsibilities at Large companies such as Merck Research Laboratories, AstraZeneca/Medimmune, and biotech companies such as Soteria Biotherapeutics, Acendis pharma and Abgenix. His product development experience spans many therapeutic areas including oncology, immune-oncology, and inflammatory diseases.

He has been an author or co-inventor on more than 50 original papers, reviews articles, published books and patents.  Dr. Tabrizi has been an invited speaker to numerous national and international conferences. Dr. Tabrizi received his bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from University of Houston (Summa Cum Laude) and his PhD from University at Buffalo, State University of New York (SUNY) in Pharmaceutical Sciences. He completed a postdoctoral training in pharmacology at University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY) with a focus on therapeutics.

 

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Pallavi Kompella, PhD

Scientist II, In vivo Pharmacology
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Dr. Kompella joined Juvena Therapeutics in July 2022 to support the validation and lead optimization of protein-based therapies in vivo and new mouse model development.

As a trained pharmacologist, Dr. Kompella has extensive experience in contributing to early-stage drug discovery. She has designed and managed several hypothesis-driven mechanistic studies and established preclinical mouse models for lead optimization and toxicological risk assessment of potential small molecule drugs across several therapeutic areas.

After receiving her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Biotechnology from India, she worked for 8 years at various drug discovery organizations in India and the U.S. Dr. Kompella received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) where she investigated the underlying molecular mechanisms of how diet-induced obesity influences DNA damage and repair and contributes to cancer development. Dr. Kompella has been awarded multiple graduate fellowships from UT Austin and the American College of Toxicology. She is also the recipient of an American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education (AFPE) pre-doctoral research fellowship. 

Before joining Juvena Therapeutics, Dr. Kompella was a Fulbright U.S. Postdoctoral Scholar at the Biomedical Research Institute of Malaga (IBIMA) in Malaga Spain. At IBIMA, she studied the role of obesity-mediated epigenetic modification of DNA damage repair protein OGG1 in visceral adipose tissue from patients with obesity.


Besides research, she loves doing science outreach and going on hikes with friends and family.

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Hee Ju Kim, MS

Associate Scientist
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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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Ashil Koranne

Research Associate II
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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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Protein Science

Fengling Liu, PhD

Director of Protein Science
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Dr. Fengling Liu joined Juvena as a Director of Protein Science in July 2022. Dr. Liu brings over 10 years of industry experience developing multiple biologics. Since 2010 she served as the Protein Biochemistry lead or group lead of Protein Science in multiple biotechs in the bay area including Medimmune (AstraZeneca), Relypsa, Atreca and Arcus Biosciences.

Her protein science-focused research spanned target identification/confirmation, lead optimization, protein purification and engineering to support vaccine development, small molecule and antibody drug discovery in infectious disease and Immuno-Oncology. She was trained in Biochemistry and Structure Biology during her PhD at Georgia State University. She studied the molecular basis of HIV protease drug resistance through enzyme kinetics and X-ray crystal structures.  She solved over a dozen super high resolution crystal structures of HIV/drug complexes and discovered a novel drug resistance mechanism.

During her postdoc in the lab of Professor Ted Jardetzky in the Structural Biology Department at Stanford Medical School, Dr. Liu studied human viral glycoprotein interactions to discover viral entry inhibitors.

Besides her passion for science and technology, Fengling also enjoys gardening and hiking with family and friends.

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Zhihua Li, PhD

Principal Protein Engineer

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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Han Song

Senior Research Associate
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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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Sarah Tang

Senior Research Associate
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Sarah joined Juvena Therapeutics in October 2022 as a Senior Research Associate to contribute to Dr. Fengling Liu’s research on protein expression and purification.

She obtained her bachelor’s degree in molecular and cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Before joining Juvena Therapeutics, Sarah worked as a Research Associate in the antibody discovery field, where she attained hybridoma sequences, antibody transient expression, and hit identification. Prior to transitioning to research, Sarah worked in the clinical diagnostics field as a Lab Administrative Manager. She managed lab operations while staying active on the bench.

In Sarah’s free time, she enjoys creating content for her cat’s social media, gaming with friends, and attending ballet performances.

 

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Data Science

Eddie Moler, PhD

Head of Data Science
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Eddie Moler joined Juvena Therapeutics in June 2022, bringing over 20 years of experience leading pharmaceutical and clinical diagnostics R&D, data-science/algorithm/software intensive platform development, gene-target and biomarker discovery and validation, establishing and scaling high-performing data-science & software teams, and collaboration management.

Previously, Eddie led Quest Diagnostics’ Bioinformatics organization, leading the development and launch of dozens of advanced clinical genomic diagnostic tests while more than quadrupling the size of the team across multiple sites. He has led clinical/biological research projects and the development of production-scale clinical and research platforms at Quest Diagnostics, GE Healthcare, Tethys Bioscience, Novartis, and the US Department of Energy.

He has published over 50 peer-reviewed papers including clinical and molecular medicine, population health, and health economics, and has 7 issued patents on clinical risk algorithms, biomarkers, automated histopathology image analysis, drug targets, and discovery technology. Eddie received a PhD in Chemistry from UC Berkeley and a BS in Chemistry from Texas A&M University.

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Tejaswini Ganapathi

Principal Machine Learning Engineer
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Tejaswini Ganapathi joined Juvena Therapeutics in October 2022. She is working on development of AI models that power Juvena’s protein discovery for targeted in vitro screening, and will be exploring the application of AI to other aspects of the company’s drug pipeline as well. 

Tejaswini has extensive experience in machine learning algorithm development both in research and production and towards building end to end ML systems. Her industry experience spans various domains such as healthcare, medical imaging, finance and wireless networks. She has been an early employee at 2 startups with successful exits and holds ~10 patents. She pursued her graduate studies at University of Toronto and University of Texas at Austin, both specializing in machine learning. 

Outside of AI and work, Tejaswini is a RYT200 Yoga instructor, is trained in Indian Classical music and tries to contribute her time to animal rescues.

 

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Rohit Jadhav, PHD

Computational Biologist
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Dr. Rohit Jadhav joined Juvena Therapeutics in August 2022, bringing more than 12 years of cross disciplinary experience encompassing the fields of oncology, immune aging and auto-immune  diseases. He has extensive experience in algorithm development for diagnostic and prognostic  biomarker discovery dealing with diverse datasets investigating the Transcriptome, Epigenome and DNA mutations in clinical cohorts.

Dr. Jadhav earned his B.Tech. in Bioinformatics from India, a M.S. in Bioinformatics from Indiana  University, Indianapolis, a PhD in Molecular Medicine from UT Health, San Antonio as a CPRIT  pre-doctoral fellow, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in Immunology at Stanford School of  Medicine and Mayo Clinic.

Masters & PhD (2009-2016) 

Dr. Jadhav worked on identifying epigenetic biomarkers investigating alterations in DNA  methylation across different cancer types including breast, ovarian, endometrial, oral and  prostate. He was awarded a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Predoctoral Fellowship, which enabled him to be involved in collaborative projects focusing on  non-invasive approaches for biomarker discovery. One such project involved use of single-cell  RNA sequencing to study circulating tumor cells and another involved studying DNA methylation  in cell free DNA, both from peripheral blood. As a lead bioinformatician for these studies, he  implemented classification-based prediction methods to enable identification of a panel of  biomarkers to be used in determining treatment approaches for prostate cancer patients  belonging to different subtypes. These studies have led to 3 approved patents from his mentor  Dr. Tim Huang. During this time, Dr. Jadhav was also a lead author on the study that identified  DNA methylation biomarkers capable of identifying predisposition to breast cancer after prenatal  exposure to the compound bisphenol A and preventive effects of genistein. 

Postdoctoral Fellowship (2017-2022) 

Dr. Jadhav’s work at Stanford University and Mayo Clinic with Dr. Jorg Goronzy who is a leading  expert in immune aging and auto-immunity, focused on epigenetics in the context of chromatin  accessibility and specifically alterations in the immune cell types like CD4 and CD8 T cells during  aging and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. He was also a lead author studying epigenetic alterations in exhausted T-cells post checkpoint blockade therapies in collaboration  with Dr. Rafi Ahmed from Emory University. During this time Dr. Jadhav built pipelines deployed in on-prem clusters and in the cloud for analyzing and visualizing data from RNA-seq, ATAC-seq,  TCR-seq, single cell multiome (RNA+ATAC) , single cell Cite-seq (RNA+Protein) among others.

Dr. Jadhav has published over 30 peer-reviewed papers with over a thousand citations. 

 

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Munir Yousef, MS

Bioinformatics Analyst
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Munir Yousef joined Juvena Therapeutics in July 2022 as a bioinformatics analyst to contribute to Juvena’s growing platform by developing robust data analysis pipelines for their in silico protein drug discovery platform.

After realizing his passion for data-driven discovery of solutions to real world problems, Munir obtained his Masters degree in Applied Data Science from Syracuse University.

Before officially joining the team, Munir worked as a data science consultant and helped develop internal data analysis and visualization tools to support Juvena’s growing R&D platforms.

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