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Our Research Team

Mike Gresser, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer

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Mike Gresser received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1976 from Brandeis University, where his thesis research was done under the supervision of W.P. Jencks on the mechanism of ester aminolysis. He did postdoctoral studies at the Molecular Biology Institute at UCLA on the mitochondrial and chloroplast proton translocating ATP synthases, under the supervision of Paul D. Boyer.

In 1980 Dr. Gresser joined the Department of Chemistry at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, and progressed through the ranks of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor of Chemistry. While there Dr. Gresser received the Excellence in Teaching Award, and did research on the biochemistry of Vanadium V, and on the mitochondrial ATPase.

In 1988 Dr. Gresser joined the Merck Frosst Center for Therapeutic Research in Kirkland, Quebec as Director of Biochemistry. Over the next twelve years he progressed through the ranks of Senior Director, then Executive Director of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. His team worked on a variety of small molecule drug discovery programs, resulting in the introduction of numerous molecules into clinical trials. Two of these molecules, Singulair and Vioxx, became products.

In 2000, Dr. Gresser joined Amgen Inc. in Thousand Oaks, California, as Vice President Research for Inflammation, where he remained until April, 2006. For two years Dr. Gresser served as Head of Neuroscience Research as well as Inflammation Research. His team at Amgen worked on many molecular targets, introducing numerous small molecules, human antibodies, and other proteins into development.

Currently Dr. Gresser is a Visiting Scholar at the Molecular Biology Institute at UCLA, and works as a consultant with Clarity Therapeutics Consulting. He often consults jointly with Dr. David R. Fitzpatrick of Biotech Clarity Consulting.

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Jay Tung, Ph.D., Chief Research Officer

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Jay Tung, Ph.D. has more than 20 years of experience with the drug discovery process in both the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors (Eli Lilly, Athena Neurosciences and Elan Pharmaceuticals). Most recently Jay served as Senior Director/Department Head of the Chemistry Department at Elan where he worked on developing therapeutics for a variety of neurological diseases. He is an author/co-inventor of more than 50 scientific publications and patent applications.

Jay earned a B.A. in Biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.S., M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Synthetic Organic Chemistry from Yale University.

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Tassie Collins, Ph.D., Senior Director of Translational Medicine

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Tassie Collins, Ph.D., has 14 years of biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry experience leading drug discovery and development teams in the fields of inflammatory diseases and immune disorders, including multiple sclerosis. During her tenure as Scientific Director at Amgen, she led three small molecule drug discovery teams through IND-enabling development and into clinical studies. She brings to Myelin Repair Foundation experience in the identification of biomarkers and surrogate markers for measuring drug efficacy, extensive experience guiding collaborative and contract research teams, and over two decades of immunology research. Tassie Collins received her B.A. in Biology from Saint Mary’s College of Maryland and her Ph.D. in Immunology from Harvard University.

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Michael A. Pleiss, Ph.D., Research Liaison for Intellectual Property and Contracts

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Michael A. Pleiss, Ph.D. is a medicinal chemist with more than 25 years of industrial experience in pharmaceutical research and has a proven track record in the design of novel small molecule drugs in several therapeutic areas. Compounds he has advanced into clinical trials or that are in predevelopment represent novel therapeutics for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain and Alzheimer’s disease.

Mike is currently a private consultant with expertise in all aspects of drug design and development through Phase 1, including medicinal chemistry and outsourcing, computational chemistry, patent construction and breaking, DMPK, and CMC. He served most recently as Vice President of Chemistry and Drug Metabolism & Pharmacokinetics (DMPK) at Elan Pharmaceuticals. Mike has also held positions at Genentech and Syntex prior to joining Athena Neurosciences / Elan Pharmaceuticals.

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Jason Dugas, Ph.D., Associate Director of Discovery and Translational Biology

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Jason Dugas, Ph.D., previously worked at Stanford University in the lab of Dr. Ben Barres, where he investigated the molecular mechanisms regulating oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelination. As a member of Dr. Barres' lab, Dr. Dugas has been a participating scientific member of the Myelin Repair Foundation since its inception in 2004, and in that time has authored and contributed to several high-profile peer-reviewed publications and two patents in association with the Myelin Repair Foundation. In 2010 Dr. Dugas formally joined the Myelin Repair Foundation to head our Translational Medicine Center, where he is responsible for developing and overseeing the various in vitro models that will be instrumental in our initial lead compound and therapeutic discovery efforts. Dr. Dugas received his B.S. in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Karen Lariosa-Willingham, Scientist

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Karen Lariosa-Willingham brings over 15 years of pharmaceutical and biotechnology experience from SIBIA (Salk Institute of Biotechnology/Industrial Associates) Neurosciences, Merck San Diego, Roche Palo Alto, iPierian and STATegics where she worked on identifying therapeutics for stroke, traumatic brain injury, alzheimer's disease, parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis. During her tenure at Merck and Roche, she established and implemented predictive primary glial and neuronal cell based assays for due diligence efforts — specifically evaluating compounds with putative neuroprotective and neurogenic properties from collaborators and mergers for in-licensing opportunities. Further studies investigated neuron-glial interactions as they relate to drug mechanism of action.

She brings to Myelin Repair Foundation extensive experience in developing, optimizing and standardizing primary cell-based assays that transition to high throughput screening methodologies to facilitate identification of promising therapeutics. She received her B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at the University of California, San Diego and conducted postgraduate studies in medicine at Columbia University in the city of New York.

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Dmitri Leonoudakis, Ph.D., Scientist

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Dr. Leonoudakis brings to the Myelin Repair Foundation extensive expertise in neuroscience and cell biology that will be used for primary glial and neuronal cell culture, cell-based assay development, and fluorescent imaging. During graduate school at the UC Santa Barbara and a postdoctoral fellowship at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute (CPMCRI) in San Francisco, his research focused on protein trafficking and cell surface expression of ion channels and receptors in the heart and brain. As part of this work, he investigated mechanisms of neuroinflammation, identifying glia as a source of TNFα that facilitates glutamate receptor surface expression and excitotoxicity. Also at CPMCRI, he characterized the phenotype of a conditional mouse knockout of the laminin receptor dystroglycan (DG) in the mammary epithelia and characterized the endocytosis of extracellular matrix (ECM) in both normal and cancer cells. Dmitri has worked at a small startup biotech company, STATegics, establishing cell-based assays for screening prospective small molecule neuroprotective compounds. As an associate Scientist at CPMCRI, he focused his research on the ECM regulation of neuroinflammation and astrocyte biology with particular interest in how ECM composition and signaling are altered during injury, disease, and aging. As part of this research, he conducted experiments at the Buck Institute as a Visiting Scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Julie Andersen.

Dr. Leonoudakis received his Ph.D in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology from UC Santa Barbara and his Bachelors in Science in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology from UC Santa Cruz.

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Elen Rosler, Scientist

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Elen Rosler is a cell biologist bringing 20 years of experience in biotechnology and academia research, including BioSeek, Geron, BioTime, SyStemix, and University of Illinois at Chicago. Specializing in primary human cell characterization, culture optimization and assay development, Elen established a number of primary human cell in-vitro assays and in-vivo models to facilitate high-throughput compound profiling for internal and collaborator drug discovery.

Elen studied medicine at Tartu University, and received her B.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology from San Francisco State University.

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