Tell us about your background.
I grew up in Northeast Ohio and spent several years at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, OH, where I received my BA, MS, and MBA degrees. During my 18 years at the university I spent a lot of time in basic science research, working at the bench and truly getting a deep understanding of research in hematology/oncology, general & vascular surgery, and most notably, mucosal immunology under the guidance of Drs. Alan Levine and Claudio Fiocchi, understanding the inflammatory mechanisms leading to disease in experimental models of colitis. It was in the IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) lab where I started to present my data at national conferences and really get to know the world experts in gastroenterology.
Finishing up at CWRU in the Office of Technology Transfer, I was intent on combining my scientific background with business and jumped into industry, working at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals for nearly eight years in sales. From there I entered into the CRO world at Robarts Clinical Trials (now Alimentiv) where I worked closely with Dr. Brian Feagan in learning how to work as a service and research entity in the world of IBD clinical trials. It is with Dr. Feagan where I developed a multi-centered translational research consortium in Europe and North America, helping to understand how tissue specimens from multiple centers could be centralized for early biomarker analysis. Additionally I helped Jeff Smith and Mike Nicell spearhead the business development department at Alimentiv.
Expanding my horizons in the CRO industry, I worked for a period of time at Therapeutics, Inc., a dermatology CRO where I worked with Dr. Dan Piacquadio as his Director of Business Development, followed by working in business development for W.R. Grace in their Fine Chemical Manufacturing Services where I worked in the small molecule development and manufacturing space under Scott Martin.
In your past few roles, you’ve seen the challenges of drug development and discovery upfront, where do you see room for technology enabled infrastructure to support startup biotechs?
What I never understood is why large clinical trials have had such a slow adaptation to electronic methods of data capture, storage and reporting. I remember in the past seeing rooms full of binders and boxes of paper after a trial was completed. It’s a simple question with a not-so-easy answer. I think we’ve encountered an era of data collection that has far surpassed what the human brain can conceive or remember, and we are starting to abandon these paper trails and rely on cloud-based platforms. The problem with electronic means is standardizing programs across the industry to make data collection, storage, and interpretation easy for everyone. I think developing such a tech-enabled platform for start-up companies will make it easier for them to understand the process of drug development & trials, make it more cost effective with less error prone processes, and a lot less time-consuming for everyone.
What advice do you have for the founding teams of startup biotechs that are new to clinical development?
Do your research! Find out who the experts are in your field, ask for help, and seek out entities who can match you with clinical sites who have a reputation for consistently recruiting patients to clinical trials. Understand the machinery of a CRO and what elements are required to face the FDA with the best possible outcomes prior to working with them. Bigger is not always better. Reputation and good mentorship go a long way, and communication is always key to whatever it is you do.
What led you to join Vial?
I love the entrepreneurial spirit of starting something from the ground up. In scientific research, a hypothesis must be derived from a thought, an idea and then tested, proved or disproved with ultimate outcomes which can teach us something new about life, possibly making it better. The same goes for a great company. It stems from an idea, followed by planning, funding and most importantly people power implementing that idea which aims to make the clinical trials arena a better place, ultimately improving the lives of everyone. Vial is on to something. When I first heard about it, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. Now that I am part of the team, I realize that I wasn’t the only one. There are so many researchers and companies out there who are responding to our mission with excitement I haven’t seen in years. They want to see us succeed in executing clinical trials faster and more efficiently, leading to potentially faster cures. What could be more exciting than being part of that?
What are you most excited about over the next year at Vial?
I’m most excited to be part of a multi-disciplinary team of brilliant individuals who are working hard to succeed in building a CRO that can deliver what it promises. It’s the people I enjoy working with most – seeing how different minds are working together to make something great happen that will ultimately contribute in helping to cure diseases for millions of people.