Translational Sciences

Translational Sciences invests in and supports the development and commercialization of cutting-edge diagnostics and therapeutics. It is one of the two focus areas at UPMC Enterprises.

Investing in the Future of Health Care

The Translational Sciences team combines scientific, clinical, and investment expertise to optimize the commercialization path for products and solutions addressing diseases with high unmet medical need. Our internal focus is to support the commercialization of cutting-edge research by launching early-stage companies. We are also looking for opportunities to invest in external companies at all stages that are developing innovative products to improve health care.

Supporting UPMC’s Immunotherapy Efforts

A top priority of Translational Sciences is to become a world leader in delivering new models of care to harness the human immune system to treat disease. UPMC committed $200 million to the Immune Transplant and Therapy Center (ITTC) in 2017 for investment in the areas of: cancer immunotherapy, transplantation, aging, and chronic diseases.

The team at UPMC Enterprises supports this immunotherapy effort by commercializing novel diagnostics and therapeutics in a select number of focus areas.

Combining VC Rigor with Research Expertise

We take a disciplined approach to conducting diligence, forming new companies, and investing in existing entities.

Our team includes seasoned individuals with several decades of venture capital experience, who have invested in life science companies that developed and commercialized products that led to successful exits. They are complemented by clinical, scientific, and operational advisors.

Importantly, we have access to research expertise at the University of Pittsburgh, which has been awarded more than $528 million in NIH funding in 2018. We also utilize the clinical acumen of UPMC physicians, and payer perspectives from the UPMC Health Plan. These resources allow us to monitor emerging trends in health care and to identify, support, and commercialize scientific breakthroughs that translate into meaningful improvements in medical care.

Expanding Our Scope

To enhance our commercialization efforts, we expanded our scope in 2018 to encompass areas beyond ITTC’s charter, including therapeutics, diagnostics, and devices. Our mission is to work with scientists and clinicians at UPMC to create successful startup companies, and to invest alongside top investors in external companies that complement our strategic focus.

Investment Approach

Backed by the clinical and financial strength of UPMC, we have the flexibility to invest in a broad range of opportunities, whether generated at the University of Pittsburgh or externally through a syndicate.

We work closely with researchers and scientific founders to expedite commercialization of their projects, and we are actively seeking partnerships with external investors to complement our internal efforts.

We can tailor the size of an investment to the situation and are looking for opportunities that fall within our current strategic priorities.

Current Investment Themes

The Translational Sciences team focuses our commercialization efforts in four distinct areas:

Cancer Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a new wave of cancer therapy that uses the individual's own immune system to fight cancer. We’re finding new ways to stimulate and harness the immune system to work harder and smarter for cures.

Transplantation

UPMC is one of the most experienced organ and bone marrow transplant centers in in the world. We’re now discovering innovative ways to help improve the lifespan of the transplanted organ with new trials, techniques, and therapies.

Aging & Chronic Diseases

As the aging population grows, it is imperative that we develop new therapies and treatments to help us live a longer, healthier life. We also want to address chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and neurological and autoimmune disorders that can often be controlled but not cured.

Enabling Technologies

Translating advances in research into improved medical care is facilitated by new technologies that make it possible to detect disease earlier, to understand underlying disease processes better and to develop improved treatments. We are excited about companies that develop these technologies and/or incorporate them in their research and discovery efforts.

  • Role:
  • All
  • leadership
  • advisors
  • team
Alex Anetakis, MD, MBA
Alex Anetakis, MD, MBA

Senior Advisor

Read Bio

Senior Advisor

Alex Anetakis, MD, MBA, joined UPMC Enterprises in March 2018, and serves as a physician advisor to the Translational Sciences team at UPMC Enterprises, with focus on ophthalmology-related investments. Dr. Anetakis is a vitreo-retinal surgeon who completed his training in 2006 and was initially in private practice in South Carolina for two years prior to joining UPMC’s Department of Ophthalmology in 2008. He has special interests in age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and diseases of the vitreo-retinal interface. Dr. Anetakis graduated from Northeastern Ohio, College of Medicine and completed his MBA at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.

Jeanne Cunicelli, MBA
Jeanne Cunicelli, MBA

Executive Vice President

Read Bio

Executive Vice President

Jeanne Cunicelli is Executive Vice President of UPMC Enterprises and has more than two decades of experience as a life science venture capital investor and advisor. Leveraging the multifaceted resources of UPMC, a $20 billion world-renowned health care provider and insurer, Jeanne leads investments related to UPMC’s $200 million initial commitment to invest in innovative therapies and diagnostic products. Jeanne’s team collaborates closely with scientist-entrepreneurs to invest in creation of new companies, as well as in building companies at all stages, with a focus on immunotherapy for cancer, transplantation, diseases related to aging and other chronic illnesses. She serves on the boards of three UPMC Enterprises portfolio companies, BlueSphere Bio, Generian, and Humonic, Inc., and is a member of the executive committee of the UPMC Genome Center. Prior to joining UPMC, she was a Managing Director and Investment Partner at Bay City Capital, where she focused on medical device, drug delivery and drug development companies. She has served on the Boards of Directors of IDev Technologies, Protez Pharmaceuticals, NuPathe, Inc., and Calypso Medical, and as a board observer for Oculex and Syntonix Pharmaceuticals. Previously, she managed the Ernst & Young International Life Sciences Group’s industry-leading annual biotechnology report. Jeanne is a member of the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Mellon University, serving on the executive, compensation, advancement and audit committees. She received an MBA in Finance from the University of San Francisco and holds a BA in Cognitive Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University.

Molly Curran, MEM
Molly Curran, MEM

Manager

Read Bio

Manager

At UPMC Enterprises, Molly Curran is a Program Manager focused on partnering with UPMC clinicians to advance promising internal drug/device discoveries. Prior to UPMC Ms. Curran worked in Boston as a Venture Capital analyst and strategy consultant. After returning to her native Pittsburgh in 2011, she joined ZOLL LifeVest where she supported product innovation and international growth. Molly executes and synthesizes market research to drive product roadmap design and competitive product positioning. Ms. Curran has an ScB in Materials Engineering from Brown University and a Master of Engineering Management from Dartmouth College.

Ketaki Desai phd
Ketaki Desai, PhD
Ketaki Desai, PhD

Director

Read Bio

Director

Ketaki Desai, PhD, serves as the strategic advisor to the EVP of Translational Sciences in her role as Director of Strategy. She also teaches Innovation and Commercialization as an Adjunct Professor at Chatham University. Before UPMC, she was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Pittsburgh and consulted with regional startups, small businesses and economic development organizations. She was most recently the Executive Director of the LindenPointe Development Corporation which ran a startup incubator and a high-school entrepreneurship program. In 2019, Dr. Desai was invited as a mentor and judge by the American Association for Advancement of Science and U.S. Dept. of State for the GIST-TechI Competition at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Bahrain. Dr. Desai has a Doctorate in Biomedical Sciences from Texas A&M University and Master’s in Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Dillan DiNardo, MBA
Dillan DiNardo, MBA

Manager

Read Bio

Manager

Dillan DiNardo, MBA, is a manager of business development and has been responsible for evaluation, due diligence, and execution of external investments, as well as management of exits and other strategic initiatives for portfolio companies. In addition, he assists with market research, business model development, and coordination of internal spinouts. Prior to Enterprises, he spent six years as a transaction-focused consultant and CPA working on the evaluation, structuring, execution, and integration of dozens of transactions including fundraising, investments, strategic acquisitions, restructurings, and divestitures. His clients ranged from startups to Fortune 500 corporations in a variety of industries. Mr. DiNardo graduated from Robert Morris University with a BSBA in finance and accounting as well as an MBA.

Judson Englert, MD, PhD
Judson Englert, MD, PhD

Senior Director

Read Bio

Senior Director

Judd Englert, MD, PhD, is a physician-scientist and medical oncologist with a proven track record in drug development both in academia and the biotechnology industry. He joined UPMC Enterprises from MedImmune/AstraZeneca where he was a Director of Clinical Development and led multiple early stage oncology programs, including oleclumab, from IND enabling studies through phase 2. Prior to his jump to industry, he completed his post-doctoral studies in immunotherapy and immunometabolism that culminated in the licensing of a novel glutamine antagonist by Dracen Pharma for oncologic development. He is board-certified in both internal medicine and medical oncology and trained at Harvard (Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and Johns Hopkins, respectively. Prior to that, he received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. In his free time, he enjoys spending time his wife and two young children and traveling.

Bill Gerber, MD
Bill Gerber, MD

Senior Advisor

Read Bio

Senior Advisor

Bill Gerber, MD, is an Advisor to the Translational Sciences program at UPMC Enterprises. Dr. Gerber received his medical training at the University of California, San Francisco, and completed a Family Practice Residency at San Francisco General Hospital. After practicing family and emergency medicine, he pursued a career in the biotechnology industry, holding senior positions at Cetus, Chiron, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, and Epoch Biosciences. Dr. Gerber then joined Bay City Capital, a venture capital firm investing in life science companies, as a venture partner and served on multiple boards over the next ten years. He currently serves as a consultant to the biotechnology industry.

rob hartman phd
Rob Hartman, PhD
Rob Hartman, PhD

Director

Read Bio

Director

Rob Hartman, PhD, has over 10 years of healthcare and commercialization experience. He is currently a Director of Translational Science at UPMC Enterprises, where he leads strategy and operational support for portfolio companies, supports investment strategy and diligence, and serves as a connector of teams and opportunities spanning life sciences and digital health technology. Before moving to Translational Science, Dr. Hartman led the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance, a program that enables UPMC to support and commercialize potentially disruptive innovation in healthcare with multi-million-dollar annual investments in health-related, data-intensive, local, academic research. Prior to working with UPMC, he was an innovation and commercialization consultant within the University of Pittsburgh where he received his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees in bioengineering.

Arjun Hattiangadi, MBA, MS
Arjun Hattiangadi, MBA, MS

Senior Manager

Read Bio

Senior Manager

Arjun Hattiangadi, MBA, as a senior manager of business analytics brings a background in healthcare strategic investment, product management, and software. At UPMC Enterprises, Mr. Hattiangadi is driving the creation and management of NewCos and opportunities while keeping an eye out for new technologies. Before Enterprises, Arjun was the Director of Portfolio Development and Management within the International and Commercial Services Division at UPMC. There he worked to create, develop, and grow new ventures and strategies in precision medicine, IT and international operations. He also took on leadership roles in portfolio companies, managed the investment portfolio and engaged in transactions. Before entering healthcare, Mr. Hattiangadi worked in software with a focus on data mining, databases and imaging as a Defense contractor. Educationally, he earned an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University, an MS and BS in Computer Science from WVU and a BS in Chemistry from the University of Charleston.

Matthias Kleinz, PhD, DVM
Matthias Kleinz, PhD, DVM

Vice President

Read Bio

Vice President

Matthias Kleinz, PhD, DVM, is Vice President, Translational Programs at UPMC Enterprises. Dr. Kleinz joined UPMC Enterprises in July 2017 to help the ITTC invest and commercialize innovative translational science by defining the true potential of new life science technologies, exploring optimal business models and strategies, and helping to form companies with a clear path to success. Prior to UPMC Enterprises, Dr. Kleinz spent nine years in management consulting at L.E.K. Consulting in its life sciences practice in Boston and London leading teams on over 70 strategic assignments for clients in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Dr. Kleinz completed his Ph.D. in the Clinical Pharmacology Unit of the University of Cambridge (UK), working on early stage discovery of G-protein-coupled receptor targets for hypertension, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome and graduated from Justus Liebig University in Giessen (GER) with a doctorate in clinical veterinary medicine.

Adrian Lee, PhD
Adrian Lee, PhD

Senior Advisor

Read Bio

Senior Advisor

Adrian Lee, PhD, is a Professor of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology, and Professor of Human Genetics. He serves as Director of the Institute for Precision Medicine (IPM), a joint effort by UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Lee has a key role in shaping precision medicine research. An example is the successful implementation of clinical pharmacogenomics, and development of computational systems and architecture for sharing of clinical and genomic data both at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC. Dr. Lee has published over 160 peer reviewed research articles. His laboratory is supported by funding from the Department of Defense, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and other sources. Dr. Lee serves on numerous national peer-review committees, and is on the Editorial Boards of several journals. Dr. Lee received his PhD in Oncology and Cancer Biology from the University of Surrey.

Rob Lin, PhD, CFA
Rob Lin, PhD, CFA

Vice President

Read Bio

Vice President

Rob Lin, PhD, CFA, is Vice President of Translational Programs at UPMC Enterprises. Dr. Lin joined the ITTC team in October 2017 to help commercialize UPMC’s immunotherapy research. Before UPMC, Dr. Lin worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, leading the finance and strategy activities for the Global Health Program. Dr. Lin earned a PhD in Genetics at Harvard University and then transitioned into business and corporate development at Millennium Pharmaceuticals (now Takeda Oncology).

Michael Lotze, MD
Michael Lotze, MD

Senior Advisor

Read Bio

Senior Advisor

Michael T. Lotze, MD, serves as Senior Advisor to the Translational Sciences program at UPMC Enterprises. Dr. Lotze is a Professor of Surgery, Immunology, and Bioengineering; Vice Chair of Research within the Department of Surgery; and Director of the DAMP/Thoracic Oncology Laboratories at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. His research work includes modern immunotherapy and gene therapy, dendritic and T cell/cytokine therapies, and investigation of the role of mitochondria, metabolism, and unscheduled cell death in cancer. Dr. Lotze is a clinician scientist who has spent the last decade assembling a team to work on pancreatic, lung, and renal cancer. Dr. Lotze is the co-inventor of 10 patents in dendritic cell vaccines, TIL production, and antigen discovery and serves as associate editor of the Journal of Immunotherapy. He is also an award-winning NCI-trained scientist, the inaugural Director of Surgical Oncology at Pitt, past president of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, former Vice President of High Throughput Biology at GlaxoSmithKline, founding director of the UPCI Academy, former Chief Scientific Officer at Lion/Iovance Biotherapeutics and innovative educator. He is a prolific scientist/tumor immunologist/surgical oncologist with over 500 publications and editor of several books. Dr. Lotze received his MD in Surgical Oncology and Tumor Immunology from Northwestern University.

Anna Mamo, MBA, MS
Anna Mamo, MBA, MS

Senior Manager

Read Bio

Senior Manager

Anna Mamo has a broad background in the biological sciences and experience in business case development to support the UPMC Enterprises Translational Sciences team. Ms. Mamo’s early career focused on research, with time spent in academic labs focusing in genetics and immunology. She has previous experience with a Pittsburgh-based start-up company, Carmell Therapeutics, which developed regenerative bone and tendon therapies. After developing an interest in the business side of science, she went back to school for her MBA at the Katz Graduate School of Business. After graduating, Ms. Mamo worked on commercializing health care-related technologies that spun out of Pittsburgh universities. She spent time with the Coulter Foundation, Idea Foundry, and Highmark Health, in their innovation and strategic partnership departments. After helping to launch an enterprise-wide technology commercialization process (VITAL) at Highmark, she left for UPMC Health Plan, where she led a team developing business cases for consumer-facing digital technologies. Ms. Mamo graduated from Grove City College with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and French and followed her undergraduate education with a Master’s degree in Microbiology and Infectious Disease from the Pitt Graduate School of Public Health.

Peter Nelson
Peter Nelson

Senior Analyst

Read Bio

Senior Analyst

Peter Nelson is the senior business analyst with Translational Sciences at UPMC Enterprises. Mr. Nelson is a skilled pharma and biotech market analyst with experiences in management & strategic consulting through his roles at Bionest Partners and The Dedham Group, where he provided unique insights for companies ranging from small biotech startups to big pharma manufacturers. With a background in biomedical engineering and business analytics, Mr. Nelson provides strategic understanding for emerging medical technologies, specialty therapeutics, and orphan & rare diseases. After moving to Pittsburgh in 2018, he joined UPMC Enterprises and provides strategic support for projects within Translational Sciences, specifically focusing on market analysis, financial & budget planning, and data analytics. Mr. Nelson holds a BS in Biomedical Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University, where he focused on cell & tissue engineering, and worked extensively within pharmacology & oncology through his research and computational modeling experiences.

Bruce Pitt, MD, PhD
Bruce Pitt, MD, PhD

Senior Advisor

Read Bio

Senior Advisor

Bruce Pitt, MD, PhD, is a physician advisor to Translational Sciences team at UPMC Enterprises. Dr. Pitt is now Professor of EOH, Pharmacology and Bioengineering at University of Pittsburgh Graduate School Public Health and School of Medicine. Prior to this, Dr. Pitt was Chairman of Environmental and Occupational Health, and he has been continuously funded from the NIH for almost 40 years for studies on the role of partially reduced oxygen and nitrogen species and metal ion homeostasis in pulmonary endothelium in acute lung injury and pulmonary hypertension. He was the recipient of an NIH MERIT award and Established Investigator from American Heart Association and has served on numerous review panels including chairing NIH Lung Biology Pathology, California Tobacco Related Disease Program and American Lung Association. He was Chair of Assemblies of Pulmonary Circulation and Molecular Respiratory Cell Biology (American Thoracic Society) and Respiratory Physiology (American Physiologic Society). He has been on scientific advisory board of iNO Therapeutics, Gilead Pharmaceuticals and Parker B Francis Foundation. Dr. Pitt received his BA from Brown University and PhD in environmental physiology from The Johns Hopkins University and M.D. at Yale University School of Medicine.

Hank Safferstein, PhD, JD, MBA
Hank Safferstein, PhD, JD, MBA

Senior Advisor

Read Bio

Senior Advisor

Hank Safferstein, PhD, JD, MBA, currently serves as a Senior Advisor, UPMC Enterprises, Senior Vice President of Cognition Therapeutics, a clinical stage, small molecule, Alzheimer’s disease company, Board Director, Ariel Precision Medicine and Adjunct Professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He was Founder and CEO of Cognition Therapeutics and Complexa, Inc., a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on fibrosis and inflammation for orphan disease indications. Dr. Safferstein served as Vice President, Business Development, for Omrix Biopharmaceuticals, a commercial-stage company that develops and markets biosurgical and passive immunotherapy products (acquired by J&J) and was Vice President, Business Development for Acorda Therapeutics, a central nervous system drug development and marketing company. Prior to joining Acorda Therapeutics, Dr. Safferstein served in various business development and marketing positions with Bristol-Myers Squibb. From 1991-1997, he was Director, Technology Transfer at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Cooperative Venture Manager for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health. Dr. Safferstein was an NIH Post-Doctoral Fellow and Fellow of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Dr. Safferstein received a BA in Biochemistry from Rutgers University, a PhD in Human Anatomy and Neurobiology from the University of Louisville, a JD from the American University, Washington College of Law and an MBA from Columbia University. He is a member of the Maryland Bar.

Mariel Shlomchik
Mariel Shlomchik

Analyst

Read Bio

Analyst

Mariel Shlomchik joined UPMC Enterprises in August 2017 as a Business Analyst to help the ITTC invest in, partner with, and commercialize innovative translational science. Mariel assists with scientific and commercial assessments of internal and external opportunities, facilitation of NewCo development and formation, and execution of market research to support the former. Mariel holds a BA in Biology with a specialization in Endocrinology from University of Chicago.

Harinder Singh, PhD
Harinder Singh, PhD

Senior Advisor

Read Bio

Senior Advisor

Harinder Singh obtained his Ph.D. at Northwestern University mentored by Dr. Lawrence Dumas (1979-84) and was a Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral fellow at MIT mentored by Drs. Phillip Sharp and David Baltimore (1984-88). He was a member of the faculty of the University of Chicago from 1989-2009, becoming a Louis Block Professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In January 2019, Harinder accepted a position as the Director at the Center for Systems Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh. He previously served as Senior Director of Discovery Immunology and as a Staff Scientist at Genentech from 2009-2013. From 2013-2018, he was on the faculty of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center as Director of the Division of Immunobiology and the Center for Systems Immunology. He has served as an Editor of the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Biology and as a Chair of the Board of Scientific Counselors (Basic Research) of the National Cancer Institute.

He has had a longstanding interest in the analysis of transcription factors and gene regulatory networks that regulate the development and functioning of innate and adaptive cells of the immune system. His lab discovered that the Ets family member PU.1 is required for the development of multiple lineages of the innate and adaptive immune system and that graded levels of PU.1 are used to orchestrate innate versus adaptive immune cell fates. The Singh lab has been particularly interested in gene regulatory networks that orchestrate B cell fate specification, pre-B cell differentiation, B cell activation and plasma cell generation. Molecular biology and genomic approaches along with mathematical modeling have been used to assemble and analyze such networks. This conceptual and experimental framework is being extended to enable analysis of antigen-specific B as well as T cell responses in the context of vaccination, infection or autoimmune diseases in humans.

Peter Wipf, PhD
Peter Wipf, PhD

Senior Advisor

Read Bio

Senior Advisor

Peter Wipf, PhD, is the Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He directs the Center for Chemical Methodologies and Library Development, and he is a member of the board of several companies, journals, and societies. Dr. Wipf is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Royal Society of Chemistry. His research contributions include the total synthesis of natural products, organometallic and heterocyclic chemistry, medicinal and computational chemistry. He has coauthored over 600 journal articles, books and patents.

JoAnn Lucibello
JoAnn Lucibello
JoAnn Lucibello

Project Administrator

Read Bio

Project Administrator

JoAnn works with the Translational Sciences Team as Project Coordinator to assist with planning, development, and execution of its commercialization efforts. She has extensive experience in the life sciences industry and has been with UPMC since 2017.

Kathy Griffin
Kathy Griffin
Kathy Griffin

Executive Assistant

Read Bio

Executive Assistant

Kathy works with the Translational Sciences Core Team as an Executive Assistant and provides administrative and logistical support for the portfolio companies. She has been working with UPMC since 2011, before which she was working for a Fortune 500 company for 18 years.