Meet the visionary leaders who are here to partner with you in forging an exciting future in drug discovery and development and realize the potential of your science.
Thomas Novak, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Dr. Tom Novak is the Chief Scientific Officer of Autobahn Labs. Prior to joining Autobahn Labs, he was Vice President of Life Sciences Business Development at Cellular Dynamics International (CDI), the world’s leading supplier of stem cell-derived, terminally differentiated cells. In addition, he was the Principal Investigator on CDI’s $16MM grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to reprogram samples from 3000 patients with a variety of multigenic disorders. As part of CIRM’s “Human iPSC Initiative” he was also the PI on CDI’s $6.3MM subcontract with the Coriell Institute for Medical Research to provide stocks of iPSC clones for commercial sale. Prior to joining CDI in 2012, Dr. Novak was Senior Vice President of Research and Development at Fate Therapeutics, a San Diego-based biotech developing small molecules and biologics to induce proliferation and differentiation of adult stem cells to replace tissue lost to aging or disease. From 2001 to 2010, Dr. Novak held a number of positions at Roche Palo Alto, including Senior Director and Head of Discovery Technologies wherein he led a group of >60 scientists with responsibility for all compound screening, cell culture, molecular biology, protein production, and crystallography at that site. In 2009, he was chosen to lead a global team of scientists to evaluate opportunities to utilize stem cells as research tools. This ultimately led to the initiation of three collaborations (CDI, iSTEM, and Harvard Stem Cell Institute) centered around nonclinical safety, neuroscience, and cardiovascular diseases, respectively.
Dr. Novak earned an AB in biology and chemistry, magna cum laude, from Amherst College (Amherst, MA) and received his PhD in molecular biology and immunology from Caltech (Pasadena, CA). After completing post-doctoral training in immunobiology at Yale University, he began his pharmaceutical career in 1994 as a research scientist at Wyeth-Ayerst in Princeton, NJ.
Michelle Kim-Danely, PhD
Dr. Michelle Kim-Danely is Senior Vice President of Operations at Autobahn Labs. Over the past 15 years, she has held business and scientific roles that span the life sciences early value creation chain within both academic and industrial settings. Prior to joining Autobahn Labs, she served as a consultant to venture capitalists and early stage biotech companies, advising on a range of topics from opportunity sourcing and scientific diligence to business / corporate development and negotiations. Dr. Kim-Danely has held operational roles in Series A and B venture-backed drug discovery platform companies, first as Vice President of Business Development at Vium where she managed strategic partnerships with both large pharma and startup companies, followed by management of the BD, sales and marketing team as Vice President of Business Development at Biodesy.
Prior to her startup experience, Dr. Kim-Danely held positions that focused on evaluating and developing the commercialization potential of academic research. Within the UCSF community, she supported efforts at QB3 and Mission Bay Capital to diligence investment opportunities and develop scientific projects of various faculty members. In addition, she worked within the technology transfer office to assess patentability and to market technology assets to commercial partners. Subsequently, she was the Portfolio Manager at Breakout Labs, a program operating out of Peter Thiel’s non-profit foundation that funds and supports academic spinout companies at the intersection of biology and technology. She managed a portfolio of 22 companies, advising management teams on Proof-of-Concept and prototype development, go-to-market strategy, partnering, and fundraising efforts from company inception to Series A financing.
Dr. Kim-Danely holds an AB in Biological Sciences from Cornell University, and a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from Columbia University, where she conducted her dissertation research in the laboratory of Richard Axel, MD (2004 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine). She completed her postdoctoral work in the Neuroscience group at Roche Palo Alto, followed by several years of drug discovery research as a Scientist at FibroGen.
Rich Van Doren
Chief Financial Officer
Rich Van Doren brings more than 15 years of alternative investment experience to Samsara BioCapital and Autobahn Labs. As Chief Financial Officer, he is responsible for the Firm’s financial & back office operations, business management, compliance and investor relations. From 2014 – 2016, Mr. Van Doren was Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Pacific Grove Capital. Prior to Pacific Grove, he served as Chief Financial Officer of Marcato Capital Management where he was responsible for building out the front and back office, accounting & finance, trade operations, firm compliance program and was an instrumental team member in the successful growth of AUM to $2.6 billion. From 2002 – 2010, Mr. Van Doren was the Chief Financial Officer of Cannell Capital overseeing multi-state business operations, finance, compliance and investor relations.
He graduated from the University of San Francisco with a BS in Finance and has earned a Graduate Certificate in Tax from Golden Gate University. He serves on the Board of Regents at Father Junipero Serra High School and is a member of the Dean’s Circle at the University of San Francisco School of Business Management.
Yuxi Lin, PhD
Associate Director of Project Management
Yuxi is currently the Associate Director of Project Management at Autobahn Labs. Previously she was an Alliances and Business Development Manager at the UCSF’s Office of Strategic Alliances, where she was managed large drug discovery partnerships with industry. Yuxi was also the VP of Diligence at Biotech Connection Bay Area, training and managing teams to assess the scientific and market value of biotech startups for VC firms. Yuxi also worked as an intern at Columbia University’s tech transfer office, Columbia Technology Ventures.
She holds an A.B in biological sciences with honors from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D in biomedical sciences from Columbia University. Yuxi completed her scientific training as a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF, studying metabolic disease, and GI disorders.
Iva Toudjarska, PhD, MBA
Dr. Iva Toudjarska is a Senior Vice President at Evotec and part of the Evotec BRIDGEs team responsible for the growing portfolio of academic and strategic partnerships aiming to de-risk early stage breakthrough science and create investments into NewCos. Prior to joining Evotec, Dr. Toudjarska spent 6 years in Biopharma strategy consulting. She led Halloran Consulting’s Development Strategy and Due Diligence practice, where working with clinical and regulatory experts she enabled biotech clients to develop strategic insights and decisions pertaining to new therapeutics development and enabling investment clients perform sound due diligence for buy-side and sell-side opportunities across wide array of therapeutic areas and technologies. As part of the Putnam Associates, a leading boutique commercial strategy firm, she enabled her Pharma clients to develop comprehensive strategy for product development and portfolio prioritization, clinical development, commercial opportunity assessments. Previously, she was a founding employee at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, the leader in RNAi therapeutics. During her 9-year tenure at Alnylam, as part of a multi-disciplinary team she advanced several programs to clinic, most notably ALN-RSV (a virology program) and ALN-VSP (an oncology program). She led the initiation of two hematology programs ALN-AT3 for the treatment of hemophilia (which reached Phase 3) and ALN-TMP for the treatment of beta-thalassemia.
Dr. Toudjarska earned a Doctor of Philosophy from Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Molecular Genetics and a Masters of Business Administration from F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College.
She is currently part of the Fred Hutch Evergreen translational fund advisory board and Harvard Medical School Initiative for RNA Medicine Business Advisory Board. Dr. Toudjarska has continuously mentored in the Biopharma and tech ecosystem- through the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Boston, MassConnect, and the Social Innovation Lab at John Hopkins.
Steve Shuttleworth, PhD
Dr. Steve Shuttleworth is a Venture Partner at Samsara BioCapital, having joined in 2019. From 2008-2019 he was CSO at Karus Therapeutics, and from 2017-2019 joint COO/CSO. He was the founding scientist of Karus’s PI3K and HDAC6 programs and designed and directed the research and preclinical development of the two small molecule cancer therapeutics, KA2237 and KA2507, from concept to Phase I clinical trials. Previously, Steve held R&D leadership positions in UK and North American biotech, working in several disease areas across multiple therapeutic targets, notably at Chiroscience, BiochemPharma, Tularik, CRUK and Piramed. At Piramed, he directed the PI3K research programs, designing and leading the preclinical development of Pictilisib, partnered with Genentech, and subsequently taken into Phase II by Roche, who acquired Piramed for $160M in 2008. Steve obtained his BSc (Hons) and PhD in Chemistry from the University of Liverpool, and in 2007 he was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Donnie McCarthy, PhD
Dr. Donnie McCarthy holds a PhD in immunology and biochemistry from the State University of New York in Albany. He did his postdoctoral fellowship at the Cardiovascular Research Institute at UCSF. Following his fellowship, Dr. McCarthy co-founded Empire Biotechnologies, a GI therapeutics company, and AMP Biotech Research, a research group providing diligence to public investors. He was also a Senior Fellow in Entrepreneurship at Life Science Angels where he helped source and evaluate new deals. He is currently Managing Director at Panorama Research, where he oversees the strategy and development of several wholly owned subsidiaries. In addition, he is an Advisor to KCK Group, where he provides diligence for potential investments in therapeutics companies.
Ana Mariategue is an Executive Assistant for Samsara BioCapital and Autobahn Labs, providing administrative and operational support for the team. Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Mariategue was the Executive Assistant to the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of First Republic Bank. Before entering the corporate environment, she was a preschool teacher for Head Start, an early childhood education program for low income families. Ms. Mariategue earned her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from San Francisco State University.
Executive Board Chair
Perry Karsen brings decades of successful executive leadership and board experience to his role as Executive Chair of Autobahn Labs and Venture Partner at Samsara BioCapital. Mr. Karsen currently serves as a member of the Board for Intellia Therapeutics, the privately held company E-Scape, the Gladstone Foundation and the Sonoma Land Trust. He also is chairman of the Board of Directors for Jounce Therapeutics. In 2020, Mr. Karsen was appointed as a Fellow in the Stanford University Distinguished Careers Institute. He also has been a board member and a member of the Executive Committee of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM).
Mr. Karsen served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Celgene Cellular Therapeutics division (CCT) of Celgene Corporation, a global biopharmaceutical company. Mr. Karsen was also President and Chief Executive Officer of Pearl Therapeutics, Inc., a privately held biotechnology company subsequently acquired by AstraZeneca plc. Mr. Karsen also has held executive positions at Human Genome Sciences, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company subsequently acquired by GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Genentech, Inc. (a member of the Roche Group) and Abbott Laboratories. He previously served as a general partner at Pequot Ventures, a venture capital firm.
Mr. Karsen earned a MIM from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, an MA in the teaching of Biology from Duke University and a BS in Biological Sciences from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Srinivas Akkaraju, MD, PhD
Dr. Srinivas Akkaraju is Founder and Managing General Partner of Samsara BioCapital, a biotech investment fund focused on translating cutting-edge biology into new therapies to treat patients with unmet medical needs. He serves as Director of Seattle Genetics, Intercept Pharmaceuticals, and Syros Pharmaceuticals and previously served as Director on the boards of Principia Biopharma, Barrier Therapeutics, Eyetech Pharmaceuticals, ZS Pharma, Synageva Biopharma Corp., aTyr Pharma, and Amarin. Before starting Samsara, Dr. Akkaraju was General Partner of Sofinnova Ventures and previously held managing director roles at New Leaf Venture Partners and Panorama Capital LLC., a firm he co-founded. He was a partner at JP Morgan Partners. And from 1998 to 2001, was in Business and Corporate Development at Genentech, Inc., now a wholly owned member of The Roche Group.
Dr. Akkaraju received his MD and a PhD in Immunology from Stanford University and received undergraduate degrees in Biochemistry and Computer Science from Rice University.
Thomas Hanke, PhD
Dr. Thomas Hanke is Executive Vice President and Head of Academic Partnerships at Evotec, where he is responsible for growing and guiding a portfolio of strategic academic partnerships, pre-seed incubators and investments into spin-out companies. He has more than 25 years of experience in research and drug discovery fostering innovation and continuous improvement across academia, biotech and pharma. From 2013 to 2016, Dr. Hanke oversaw Evotec’s drug discovery portfolio in inflammation and immuno-oncology, generating and building on high-value, performance-based alliances with academia and pharma. Prior to that time, he served as Sourcing Director at the Biopharmaceuticals Research Unit of Novo Nordisk where he identified, evaluated and initiated global partnering opportunities for first-in-class therapeutics within haemophilia, autoimmune/inflammatory diseases, growth disorders and protein technologies. Dr. Hanke also was co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of TeGenero, a post he held for seven years, heading the company’s R&D efforts to develop first-in-class immunomodulatory monoclonal antibodies. Before starting TeGenero, Dr. Hanke was group leader and Assistant Professor for Immunobiology at the University of Würzburg following a PostDoc at the University of California in Berkeley where he studied the immune response of lymphocytes. Dr. Hanke received his PhD in Biology from the University of Würzburg in 1995.
Nety Krishna, PhD
Dr. Nety Krishna is a member of the KCK family office and leads their investments in Biotech and Industrial and Emerging Technologies, with the goal of building large enterprises through long-term planning and patient capital infusion. Dr. Krishna spent several years at Redpoint Ventures as an investment partner and worked with early stage companies in the Energy Technology sector. He joined Redpoint from Applied Materials where he spent 14 years in Technology, Strategy, Customer Success and New Initiatives.
Dr. Krishna has a PhD in Particle Physics and he spent 7 years as a researcher on the SLD experiment at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Krishna completed his education in India and earned an M.Sc. in Physics from IIT, Kanpur. At Autobahn Labs, Dr. Krishna hopes to bring his energy and work ethic to support early stage academic research that can be transformed into therapies for debilitating conditions. Knowing that scientific progress is uncertain, non-linear and driven by individual grit will help him in guiding these nascent efforts.
Abraham Bassan, MS
Abe Bassan is a Vice President at Samsara BioCapital. Prior to Samsara, Abe was Director of Program Biology at Revolution Medicines, where he co-led the company’s 4EBP1/mTORC1 cancer program through early preclinical development. Prior to that, Abe was at bluebird bio (BLUE), where he drove project management for gene therapy programs focused on β-Thalassemia, Sickle Cell Anemia, and Childhood Cerebral ALD. Before joining bluebird, Abe was an Associate at Third Rock Ventures, where he focused on technical diligence for the firm’s investment in bluebird bio, and played a central role in developing the company concept for Blueprint Medicines (BPMC), a precision medicine oncology company. Abe was also the founder of Aurora Medical, which focused on international commercialization of molecular diagnostics testing services. Abe received an AB in Molecular Biology from Princeton University, and an MS in Developmental Biology from Stanford University.
John Curnutte, MD, PhD
Dr. Curnutte served as Executive Vice President of Research and Development at Portola Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company developing product candidates for thrombosis and other hematologic diseases from 2011 until his retirement in May 2019. Dr. Curnutte previously was Chief Executive Officer of 3-V Biosciences, Inc., a biotechnology company focused on host-directed antiviral medicines. Prior to that, from 2000 to 2008, he served as CEO of DNAX and President of Schering-Plough Biopharma, a biopharmaceutical subsidiary of Schering-Plough Corporation and was also Senior Vice President of Discovery Research at Schering Plough Research Institute, a pharmaceutical and healthcare company. From 1993 to 2000, Dr. Curnutte was the Head of Immunology at Genentech, Inc., a leading biotechnology company. Before joining Genentech, Dr. Curnutte was a tenured faculty member at The Scripps Research Institute, pursuing basic and clinical research in inflammation biochemistry and the molecular genetics of congenital immune deficiencies. He was an adjunct clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine and a member of the medical staff from 1993 to 2013. He currently serves on the Board of Pliant Therapeutics, Inc., a human therapeutics company developing novel therapies for the treatment of fibrosis, and has served as on the boards of Orchard Therapeutics, focused on ex vivo autologous bone marrow gene therapy, and Diadexus, Inc., a cardiovascular diagnostics company.
Dr. Curnutte holds an MD and a PhD in Biological Chemistry from Harvard Medical School and an A.B. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Harvard University.
Steve Kelsey, MD
Dr. Steve Kelsey is President of Research and Development at Revolution Medicines, a precision oncology company based in Redwood City, California. Dr. Kelsey has more than 20 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, working with conventional small molecules, beyond rule of five molecules, antibodies, antibody-drug conjugates, DNA oligonucleotides and mRNA platforms, and has driven multiple industry and industry-academia collaborations to provide better drugs for patients with cancer. Prior to joining Revolution Medicines, he was President of Onkaido Therapeutics, a Moderna Venture focused on the discovery and development of mRNA therapeutics for cancer. Dr. Kelsey is the former Head of Research and Development and Chief Medical Officer of Geron, where he led the development of imetelstat, a first-in-class telomerase inhibitor for hematologic myeloid malignancies. He previously served as Vice President of Hematology/Oncology at Genentech where he played a significant role in the development of key products including Perjeta®, Kadcyla® and Erivedge® as well as other molecules in the company’s oncology portfolio; and led clinical development for Pharmacia/SUGEN’s Sutent®.
Kelsey graduated with a bachelor of medicine and a bachelor of surgery degrees (MB ChB), as well as a doctorate of medicine (MD) from the University of Birmingham, U.K. He is a fellow of both the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP) of London and the Royal College of Pathologists (FRCPath), U.K. He has over 100 peer-reviewed publications spanning cell biology, drug discovery, drug development and patient care, and is a named inventor on several patents.
James Larrick, MD, PhD
Dr. James Larrick is a biomedical entrepreneur with an international reputation in biotechnology, including areas in cytokines, therapeutic antibodies, molecular biology and pharmaceutical drug development. He has written or co‑authored nine books, more than 300 papers/chapters and more than 50 patents in his 25-year career. In 1991, Dr. Larrick founded the biopharmaceutical incubator Panorama Research Institute (PRI). Dr. Larrick’s PRI team has discovered and initiated development of a diverse and innovative portfolio of pharmaceutical molecules addressing major unmet needs in cancer, infectious, autoimmune, cardiovascular, neurological and metabolic diseases. PRI has incubated more than 30 life science projects/companies, which include legacy start-ups such as Kalobios Inc., NuGen Technology Inc., Adamas Inc., Absalus Inc. (now Teva), and more. Two companies were co-founded in Europe, including PanGenetics b.v. (Abbvie) and TargetQuest b.v. (Dyax). To date, PRI-initiated projects and/or companies have led to seven IPOs/exits. Recent work at PRI has focused on Applied Healthspan Engineering — the utilization of advances in molecular medicine to preserve well-being as we age. In addition, he serves as a Managing Director and Chief Medical Officer of Presidio Partners-funded Velocity Pharmaceutical Development LLC, based in San Francisco.
Dr. Larrick received his MD and PhD degrees from Duke as a Medical Scientist Training Program scholar. After medical house-staff training at Stanford, he completed a post‑doctoral fellowship in the Stanford Cancer Biology Research Labs working on therapeutic human monoclonal antibodies for cancer and infectious diseases.
Bob Stein, MD, PhD
Dr. Robert Stein has more than 35 years of experience and accomplishments in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. Over the course of his career, Dr. Stein has played a significant role in the discovery and development of eight marketed drugs, including Sustiva®, Fablyn®, Viviant®, PanRetin®, TargRetin®, Promacta®, & Eliquis®. He previously served as President of Research and Development for Agenus, Inc., and has held a number of progressively responsible senior management positions including Head of Pharmacology for Merck & Co., CSO & SVP of Research for Ligand Pharmaceuticals, EVP of Research & Preclinical Development for Dupont Merck, President and CSO for Incyte Pharmaceuticals, President of Roche Palo Alto, and CEO of KineMed.
Dr. Stein spent the early part of his career at Merck, Sharp and Dohme Research Laboratories. He holds an MD and a PhD in Physiology & Pharmacology from Duke University.