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Meet our Spring 2017 LEAP Inventor Challenge Judges

May 3, 2017

Each LEAP Inventor Challenge cycle, we are blown away by the insight that our competition judges bring to the presenting teams.

For the Spring 2017 cycle, twenty individuals hailing from the pharmaceutical industry to venture capital volunteered their time and expertise to judge the competition. What resulted was robust conversation and feedback that will truly impact the research teams’ trajectory. We want to recognize each of our judges for their input, as we are grateful for their time and commitment to propelling innovation at Washington University.

Thank you to our Spring 2017 LEAP Inventor Challenge Judges:


Harry AraderHarry Arader

Director of Entrepreneur Development at BioSTL/BioGenerator

Harry Arader is a highly-experienced life-sciences and biotech business “utility player”. He has thirty-two years of experience in pharmaceutical, biotech and agricultural companies ranging from “seed stage” company start-ups through venture funding through IPO all the way to multi-billion-dollar multinational. His experience includes top-level management (including Board of Director) roles in several companies.


Michael BishopMichael Bishop

Medicinal Chemistry Director at GlaxoSmithKline

Mike earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Rice University under the guidance of Marco Ciufolini, and has worked in drug discovery at GSK for over 20 years.  Mike served as the director of a metabolic diseases research department from 2001-2014, leading a team working primarily on obesity & diabetes treatments.  In 2014, Mike joined the Discovery Partnerships with Academia team to focus on collaborative research with academic investigators.


JT Peters, MBA

Co-Founder & CEO at Truck Driver Power

JT is a St. Louisan with a passion for community building. His deep capital markets background in both public and private markets brings a finance and incentives focus. JT holds a double major BA in Economics and Political Science from Bucknell University as well as an MBA from Olin Business School. Having worked for multiple startups & co-founding his current business, JT has the perspective of an early-stage entrepreneur that inform much of his angel investing.

Jacob Bode

Jacob Bode

General Manager at Eurofins Pharma Discovery Services

Jacob Bode is the General Manager for Eurofins Pharma Discovery Services, which is a global CRO supporting all stages of drug discovery.  He has previously held management positions within Merck KGaA and Millipore focused on CRO support of drug discovery & development activities for small and large molecules.  Prior to working within CROs, he held positions within the R&D organizations of Pfizer and Pharmacia.


David Christenson, MBA

Entrepreneur in Residence at BioGenerator; Founding Partner of PinPoint Holdings, LLC

David Christenson was a cofounder of LDM Group LLC, the leader in direct-to-patient & physician communications. He is the co-inventor of six patents covering the LDM platform. In 2014, he spearheaded the sale of LDM to Lee Equity Partners. Earlier, David led corporate development at Catalina Marketing and later built Catalina’s entry into the ambulatory setting. He was a strategy consultant for The Wilkerson Group working Med-Tech pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. David earned his BA from Carleton College and MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management.


Brian Cudney, MBA, CSSBB

Director, Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls (CMC) for Cardinal Health Regulatory Sciences

Cudney has more than 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, focusing in research and development (R&D), analytical development, technical transfer and scale-up of pharmaceutical products in a variety of dosage forms. Cudney also has extensive experience with regulatory strategies (US and ex-US), maintaining regulatory compliance, intellectual property protection, technical writing, contract manufacturing and formulation development for a variety of different dosage forms and drug substances.


Kelly Davis, PhD

Portfolio Manager at Curium

Kelly Davis currently serves as the Portfolio Manager for the North American business of Curium. She works with various business functions to evaluate potential product development opportunities in the nuclear medicine business.  In her ten years with the company, she has worked in various engineering, project management, and merger & acquisition roles.  Kelly earned a BS and MS in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane University and a PhD in Engineering Management from Missouri University S&T.


Karen Gheesling Mullis, Ph.D., PMP

Venture Partner at RiverVest

Karen Gheesling Mullis, Ph.D., PMP, serves as president of RiverVest’s Archer Seed Partners, LLC, investing in early-stage biopharmaceutical companies primarily in St. Louis and elsewhere in the Midwest. Prior to joining RiverVest in 2016, Karen served as director of project management at Pfizer (previously Pharmacia/Monsanto/Searle), where she led the clinical development and registration of several breakthrough cancer therapy drugs including Ibrance and Xalkori Ros1.


Cameron Gray, PhD

Managing Director at MDB Capital

Dr. Gray’s background spans technical fields, business, investment and intellectual property law. Prior to MDB Capital, Dr. Gray was Senior Vice President at ICAP Patent Brokerage, where he managed the life sciences business and Asia-Pacific business. He brings significant experience in the intellectual property markets. Prior to his tenure at ICAP, Dr. Gray was Director of Strategic Development with IPXI, a financial exchange dedicated to intellectual property-related contracts, where he was an integral part of the management team and oversaw product development, outside counsel, deal sourcing and established strategic direction.


John H. Hardin

Senior Partner at Exeteur Group LLC

John brings 40+ years of marketing, sales, business development, and senior management to the team. He is currently a Senior Partner in The Exeteur Group; a St. Louis based venture development group. He is chairman of the board for Cognition Medical, an early stage Boston-based medical device business. He previously held senior management positions at the medical device startups, ev3, Inc. and Mindframe, Inc. Both startup companies exited very successfully by acquisition. The early part of John’s career was spent in sales and management positions with Baxter, Inc. and Medtronic, Inc.


Jeff Hersh

Jeff Hersh has an extensive background in engineering, science and medicine. This includes a BS in Mechanical Engineering, an MS in Electrical Engineering, a PhD in Physics, and an MD. He has been board certified in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine with over 20 years of clinical experience. His business experience includes work in the medical device industry including clinical trials, product support, regulatory product development, etc. He currently works at GE Healthcare as the Chief Medical Officer.


Ken Janoski

Managing Partner at Guidance Ventures

Ken Janoski focused on the creation of high growth companies from advances in technology, software, medicine, & life science research. Guidance Ventures works with major universities and their researchers to successfully commercialize their discoveries. Ken’s professional experience with science & technology-based companies include roles as advisor, entrepreneur, senior executive, and board member. He has been a Founder, Co-Founder or Venture Investor in multiple university-related start-ups with technologies as diverse as therapeutics, devices, imaging, research tools, and software.


Kishore Kanakamedala

Director of Product Management at Google

Kishore runs online to offline ads products at Google. Prior to that he was chief of staff for Google’s Ads & Commerce organization. His 25+ years career includes leadership roles in programming, M&A, strategy and product management and stints at McKinsey, SAP, Microsoft and Aspen Technology. He has an MBA from the Wharton School, MS from Purdue University and BTech from Indian Institute of Technology Madras. He is a proud Wash U parent.


Brad T. Keller, PhD

Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) at RiverVest Venture Partners

Dr. Keller is an EIR at RiverVest Venture Partners. Leveraging more than 30 years of drug discovery and development experience, Brad works with the RiverVest team to identify and evaluate potential funding opportunities in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device space.  He is a PhD Biochemist with drug development knowledge for both small molecules and proteins/antibodies and has held positions in both large pharma and small, start-up companies.


Alastair King, PhD

Scientific Director at Eurofins Pharma Discovery Services, Inc.

Alastair King has over 18 years of research experience, focusing on oncology drug discovery, cellular systems, and laboratory automation.  He has held positions of increasing responsibility at SKB, GSK, J&J, and Eurofins, and has led international strategic initiatives and drug discovery teams, including that which discovered dabrafenib (Tafinlar®) for the treatment of melanoma.  He holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, and has received numerous awards for his work.


Tiffany Lucas, PhD

Investment Analyst BioGenerator

Tiffany Lucas has worked in the Saint Louis scientific community in multiple roles, including Washington University’s Office of Technology Management, as an independent consultant for biotechnology investment and development groups, and as adjunct faculty teaching microbiology at Saint Louis University.  Her area of expertise includes due diligence and licensing of early-stage technology in biomedical sciences. Tiffany completed a postdoctoral position at Washington University studying immunology and viral infection.  She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Missouri.


John “Jay” McGill, PhD

Senior Director of Lilly Research Labs at Eli Lilly

Dr. McGill has over 25 years of experience in pharmaceutical research and development, research collaborations, and outsourcing management.  During his career, he has been instrumental in creating and developing Eli Lilly’s collaborations in Asia, and establishing operations to support an external network of research based outsourcing partners and alliances. Dr. McGill is known for his leadership in the pioneering of novel and transformational partnership models.


Michael R. Myers, PhD

Senior Director, LRL Due Diligence at Eli Lilly

Dr. Mike Myers has worked 30 years in pharma and has spent his career contributing to the discovery and development of new drugs.  He is an inventor on 35 patents and has led teams in the pursuit of innovative treatments for cancer, CNS, infectious and cardiovascular disease.  Mike is currently Sr. Director LRL-Due Diligence and is involved in Lilly’s activities as part of the larger External Innovation team.



Walter Smith

CEO at Confluence Life Sciences, Inc.

Walter Smith has over 30 years of experience in pharmaceutical drug discovery and development. He joined Confluence in May 2011 after spending 28 years with pharmaceutical companies Searle, Pharmacia and Pfizer where he was V.P. of Research and Global Head for the Inflammation/Immunology Therapeutic Area.  In his various management roles, he led licensing and portfolio management teams along with line organizations that have delivered several NCEs to market. Walter has published 30 full-length manuscripts and is a member of the American Thoracic Society and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.


Randy H. Weiss, PhD, MBA

Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Exeteur Group, LLC

Dr. Weiss is Managing Partner of Exeteur Group, LLC, a St. Louis-based venture development firm, that advances the commercial development of innovative life science technologies sourced out of universities. He has co-founded 13 start-ups, including Cardialen, Vascular (now Tioma), Galera Therapeutics, and Euclises Pharmaceuticals, and served as the initial CEO and/or board member for these companies. Previously, he was a Partner with Triathlon Medical Ventures, a VP with BioGenerator, and a Director of R&D at Monsanto/Searle.