Misti Ushio, Ph.D.
Chief Executive OfficerREAD BIO
Misti Ushio, PhD. is the founding CEO of TARA. Dr. Ushio has over 20 years of experience in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, and early stage life science company building. Dr. Ushio has served most recently as Chief Strategy Officer and Managing Director of Harris & Harris Group, where she worked with, and invested in, life science companies to help them translate their transformational science into commercially successful companies.
Earlier in her career, Dr. Ushio held management roles at Merck & Company, where she developed vaccines and biologics products, and Columbia University, where she managed the intellectual property of several scientific and engineering portfolios.
She graduated from Johns Hopkins University (B.S., Chemical Engineering), Lehigh University (M.S., Chemical Engineering) and University College London (Ph.D., Biochemical Engineering). She also serves as a Director on the Boards of private and public life science companies.
Michael Graziano, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific OfficerREAD BIO
Dr. Graziano is an accomplished scientific leader with more than 30 years of experience in biotechnology and pharma drug discovery and development. He began his industry career at Merck Research Laboratories, initiating and leading drug discovery programs in the cardiometabolic and neuroscience arenas. After Merck, he joined Schering Plough where he held positions of increasing responsibility, ultimately serving as Executive Director and Head of Cardiometabolic Drug Discovery. Under his leadership, Dr. Graziano’s team identified two first-in-class drugs, the cholesterol absorption inhibitor ezetimibe (Zetia®) and the antiplatelet agent vorapaxar (Zontivity®). Dr. Graziano returned to Merck as Executive Director of External Cardiovascular and Diabetes Basic Research in a newly created External Basic Research organization which yielded several programs that entered Merck’s discovery pipeline.
Prior to joining TARA Biosystems Dr. Graziano was Vice President of Research Biology at MyoKardia (NASDAQ: MYOK), a clinical stage biotechnology company pursuing targeted therapies for the treatment of serious and rare cardiovascular diseases. As a member of MyoKardia’s executive committee, he led efforts the company’s development of novel assays and platforms to enable discovery and development of heart failure therapeutics.
Dr. Graziano received his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from The State University of New York at Stony Brook and his B.A. in Biology from New York University. He was a Fellow at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical at Center at Dallas and is an author of more than 60 scientific publications and inventor on several patents.
VP, Finance & AdministrationREAD BIO
Steven Lesiak is the VP of Finance and Administration for TARA Biosystems. Steven brings to TARA a passion for organizational development and company building having spent 20 years working with big pharma, development-stage biotech, and early-stage start-up companies. Steven began his career in Johnson & Johnson’s finance division with rotations at Neutrogena, J&J Corporate Internal Audit, Janssen Pharmaceutica, and J&J Pharmaceutical Research & Development(JJPRD). It was with JJPRD, supporting the Global Clinical Operations division, that Steven gained unique insight into the clinical development process leading to finance and operations roles with pre-commercial development stage biotech companies - GPC Biotech (Pre-clinical thru Phase III, Oncology) and Lux Biosciences (Phase I thru III, Ophthalmology). Prior to joining TARA Biosystems, Steven was VP Finance & Operations for the Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship (ILSE), an early-stage life science accelerator and research institute with programs in microbiology and microgenomic platform development. While working for ILSE, Steven was also Acting VP Finance for Prokaryotics, Inc. Prokaryotics is a start-up company founded by leaders from Merck’s Antibacterial Early Discovery Unit and senior chemistry leadership team who are working to advance early-stage antibacterial programs with a licensed compound library from Merck & Co., Inc.
Steven earned his MBA from the Sloan School of Management (MIT), his MA in Industrial & Organizational Psychology from Montclair State University, and a double major, BS in Accounting from Rutgers School of Business and BA in Psychology from Rutgers College.
Board & Advisors
Milica Radisic, Ph.D.
Scientific FounderREAD BIO Dr. Milica Radisic is a co-founder of TARA. She is a Professor at the University of Toronto and Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering. She obtained B.Eng. from McMaster University in 1999, and Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2004, both in Chemical Engineering. Dr. Radisic received numerous awards and fellowships, including MIT Technology Review Top 35 Innovators under 35. In 2010, she was named “The One to Watch” by the Scientist and the Toronto Star. She was a recipient of the Engineers Canada Young Engineer Achievement Award in 2012, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 and NSERC E.W.R Steacie Fellowship in 2014. In 2014 she was elected to the Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. She is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. The long-term objective of Dr. Radisic’s research is to enable cardiovascular regeneration through tissue engineering and development of new biomaterials. Her research interests also include microfluidic cell separation and development of in vitro models for drug testing. Currently, Dr. Radisic holds research funding from CIHR, NSERC, CFI, ORF, NIH, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. She is an Associate Editor for ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering and a member of Editorial Board of Tissue Engineering and Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews. Her research findings were presented in over 130 research papers, reviews and book chapters with h-index of 44 and over 6500 citations.
Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, Ph.D.
Scientific FounderREAD BIO Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic is a founder of TARA, and serving on the Board of Directors. She obtained her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Belgrade in Serbia, and was a Fulbright Fellow at MIT. She is the Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering, a Professor of Medical Sciences at Columbia University, and a faculty in the Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Center for Human Development. She directs the Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, and serves on the Columbia University President’s Task Force for Precision Medicine. The focus of her research is on engineering functional human tissues for regenerative medicine and studies of development and disease. She is well published (3 books, 346 journal articles) and highly cited (31,500 citations, h=101). She has 75 licensed, issued or pending patents and has founded two other biotech companies: epiBone (http://epibone.com) and MatriTek (http://matritek.com). Among her many recognitions, Gordana is the Chair of the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and was elected to the Academia Europaea, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Medicine, and National Academy of Inventors.
Robert Langer, Ph.D.
DirectorREAD BIO Robert Langer is an Institute Professor at MIT (there are 13 Institute Professors at MIT; being an Institute Professor is the highest honor that can be awarded to a faculty member).Over 300 of his trainees are now professors, 13 have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering and 9 have been elected to the National Academy of Medicine, and 34 to the Technology Review 35. His h-index of 222 is the highest of any engineer in history and he has over 1,100 issued and pending patents worldwide. His patents have licensed or sublicensed to over 300 companies. He served as Chairman of the FDA’s SCIENCE BOARD (it’s highest advisory board) from 1999-2002. Langer is also one of very few individuals ever elected to the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors. He is one of four living individuals to have received both the United States National Medal of Science and the United States National Medal of Technology and Innovation. In 2015, Dr. Langer received the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, the world’s largest engineering prize. He has also received the Charles Stark Draper Prize (sometimes referred to as the engineering Nobel Prize), the Albany Medical Center Prize, the Wolf Prize for Chemistry, the Millennium Technology Prize, the Priestley Medal (highest award of the American Chemical Society), the Gairdner Prize, the Kyoto Prize, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences and the Lemelson-MIT Prize, for being “one of history’s most prolific inventors in medicine.” He holds 27 honorary doctorates including honorary degrees from Harvard and Yale.
John M. Baldoni, Ph.D.
DirectorREAD BIO John Baldoni is Senior Vice President, In silico Drug Discovery, in GSK Pharma R&D. This department will use in silico methods to identify patient needs, explore molecular interventions to address those needs and design and conduct clinical trials to test the medical hypothesis. Using these methodologies, the conventional empirical design make test cycle will be dramatically reduced. The intent is to discover medicines at higher velocity, with greater precision and at dramatically lower cost compared to current approaches. Prior to this, John was Senior Vice President, Platform Technology and Science (PTS), in GSK. The work of PTS span the entire drug discovery and development process, from preclinical activities leading to clinical candidate selection through commercial launch. This accountability covered the discovery and manufacture of small molecules, biopharmaceuticals, and cell and gene therapies. John joined GSK in 1989 and has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 37 years. His experience spans new chemical entity design, development and commercialization, and biopharmaceutical development. In progressing to his current role, John has held various positions at GSK including Senior Vice President, Preclinical Development; Vice President, Product Development; Director, Product Development; and Assistant Director, Biopharmaceutical Formulation Development, among others. He has led several key cross-functional strategic initiatives, such as advanced manufacturing technologies and discovery modernization John has a BS in biochemistry (1974), and MS and PhD degrees in chemistry (1980) from Penn State University.
DirectorREAD BIO Craig Asher’s firm Trancos Ventures, successor to Vital Venture Capital, invests in life science tools, therapeutics, cyber security, and life sciences-related semiconductor companies. Trancos aims to add value to its companies in intellectual property, sales, marketing, product development, quality assurance, product management, and implementations. Prior to co-founding Vital Venture Capital in 2007, Craig was a senior software product manager in the nascent field of big data at IBM/Trigo Technologies and at Commerce One. Preceding his software development work, Craig was a consultant at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). He started his career as a manufacturing engineer. His customers in software and in consulting included pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmaceutical distributors, pharmacies, consumer packaged goods manufacturers, aerospace manufacturers, semiconductor manufacturers, and large retailers. Craig has a Masters degree in industrial engineering and a MBA from Northwestern University, as well as a Bachelors degree from Stanford University.
Dan Fero, Ph.D.
DirectorREAD BIO Dan Fero is a Principal on the Merieux Equity Partners venture capital team where he is involved in all aspects of the firm’s investment activities, focusing on the life science tools and drug development sectors. Prior to Merieux Equity Partners, Dan worked for 5 years with L.E.K. Consulting where he served as a strategic advisor to a broad range of corporate clients and life science investors working on issues of market strategy, new product launch planning, and transaction support. At L.E.K., Dan also authored three Executive Insights white papers on biopharma corporate strategy topics. Prior to this role, Dan served as a professional political operative for three years working for four Congressional campaigns around the U.S. Dan holds a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) where he studied the cell signaling pathways that control the localization and polarization of cells during 3-dimensional tissue formation and maturation. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Rhode Island College. Dan has served as a Board Director or Board Observer for Xeris Pharmaceuticals, Twist Bioscience, Inscripta, and TARA BioSystems.
Nathan Bays, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Assay TechnologiesREAD BIO
In addition to Brooklyn, Nathan Bays lives at the intersection of biology, automation and data science. After an introduction to high-throughput screening at Exelixis in South San Francisco, Nathan became a founding member of the Automated Lead Optimization group at Merck Research Laboratories in Boston, MA. While at Merck, Nathan pioneered several platforms for drug discovery, including high-throughput flow cytometry screening for immune cell responses in whole blood. To achieve an industry-pioneering scale, Nathan developed innovations across automation, flow cytometry and data analysis. Nathan was then recruited to Eli Lilly in New York City to bring similar innovations to biomarker discovery for large molecules and help establish a small molecule discovery engine in New York City. To support immuno-oncology antibody development at Lilly, Nathan advanced quantitative flow cytometry in clinical assays to better model pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic relationships.
After enjoying a very productive decade in drug discovery, Nathan discovered a new level of scientific passion in biological engineering at Ginkgo Bioworks in Boston. Now the question of how to dramatically scale biology was truly front and center. Nathan thrived in this engineering environment with a true biological foundry dedicated to designing, building and testing new organisms at unprecedented scale and speed. At Ginkgo, Nathan lead a large assay development group to test engineered organism performance while simultaneously building a mammalian foundry to scale synthetic biology in areas like immune cell engineering, bioproduction, and environmentally-responsive ‘living therapeutics.’
TARA now provides a perfect home for Nathan in combining bioengineering with drug discovery. As Senior Director, Assay Technologies, Nathan is working to build and deploy both technical and cultural tools to maximize the expansive talent at Tara as it tackles the bold challenge of scaling the Tara platform to meet external demand and internal vision.
A Native Texan and first-generation college graduate, Nathan studied statistics at Texas A&M University, earned a B.S. in Molecular Biology from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California, San Diego in the lab of Randy Hampton. While Nathan’s favorite hobby is avoiding hobbies, they can be found at a wide array of live music venues in New York City and beyond.
Danielle Bogdanowicz, Ph.D.
Research ScientistREAD BIO
Danielle Bogdanowicz, Ph.D. is a Research Scientist at TARA. Dr. Bogdanowicz has extensive experience in the development of in vitro platforms for studying cellular interactions during fibrous tissue injury and repair. She previously served as a postdoctoral fellow for the Empire State Columbia University Stem Cell Training Program, and prior to that, was an Honorary Research Associate in the Biomedical Engineering Division at the University of Glasgow. She received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Columbia University.
Senior Manager, Corporate OperationsREAD BIO
Jay Clare is the Senior Manager of Corporate Operations at TARA. Jay has extensive experience in technology development and commercialization, intellectual property and early stage company operations. Prior to joining TARA , he has been responsible for managing technology transactions, venture capital financings and engineering projects across a number of different positions. Jay received his B.Sc. (Biology) from the State University of New York at Albany and his JD from Syracuse University where he served as a Senior Research Fellow in the Technology Commercialization Law Center.
Kevin Considine is an engineer at TARA. He received his B.S. in Bioengineering, with a concentration in biomedical devices, from Northeastern University. As part of the cooperative education (co-op) program at Northeastern, Kevin has previously worked as a mechanical engineer at Boston Scientific, and gained a year of experience as an engineer at TARA. At Northeastern, he worked in Dr. Qianqian Fang's Computational Optics and Translational Imaging lab, seeking to develop low-cost point-of-care medical devices for developing communities around the world. He also collaborated with the Northeastern Neuromotor Systems lab, developing instruments to support novel approaches to procedural memory-focused physical therapy.
Krista Durney, Ph.D.
Project ManagerREAD BIO
Krista Durney, Ph.D. is the Project Manager at TARA, Inc. Dr. Durney was trained in the laboratories of Dr. Gerard Ateshian, Ph.D. and Dr. Clark Hung, Ph.D at Columbia University where her graduate research focused on musculoskeletal biomechanics and tissue engineering. Krista was trained in financial markets and business valuation at Goldman Sachs where she covered the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors as an equity research fellow.
During her graduate studies, Krista’s entrepreneurial spirit has led to her involvement in bringing two technologies out of the university through funding from Columbia’s Biomedical Technology Accelerator and Cisco’s Global Problem Solver Challenge. She obtained both her Bachelor and Master of Engineering degrees from The Cooper Union in NYC (Inter-Disciplinary and Mechanical Engineering), and her Ph.D. from Columbia University (Biomedical Engineering).
Nicole Feric, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Lab OperationsREAD BIO
Dr. Nicole Feric is the Associate Director of Lab Operations at TARA, Inc. She trained as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Milica Radisic at the University of Toronto where she helped develop the BiowireTM cardiac tissue maturation protocol and platform technology.
She obtained her B.Sc. (Honours, Biochemistry) and Ph.D. (Biochemistry) from Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada. There she began her cardiovascular research career in the laboratory of Dr. Marlys Koschinsky investigating the prothrombotic effect of lipoprotein(a), a coronary heart disease risk factor, on the plasminogen activation system.
Senior Research ScientistREAD BIO
Meghan Garcia is a Senior Research Scientist at TARA, focusing on product development. With over 10 years of experience in industry research, her career has centered around developing advanced human disease models from primary human cells and stem cells. She has developed models for neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental and liver diseases amongst others. Her work in the space of multiple sclerosis targeted a novel therapeutic approach to the disease. In her time at Vertex Pharmaceuticals she applied these disease platforms to drug discovery, and many of these models were successful in identifying molecules as clinical candidates for the treatment of life threatening diseases. Her work on establishing disease models and assay development has resulted in numerous patents, as well as an FDA approved clinical assay.
She obtained her B.S. in Biology and Biotechnology from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she began academic research in the labs of Dr. Steven Grossman and Dr. Michael Francis (UMass Medical School). Her research has largely focused on the fields of neurobiology and stem cell biology while the underlying current of her career has been towards progressing the state of human disease models to increase clinical translation and in turn treat disease.
Research AssociateREAD BIO
Wilson Hsieh is a research associate at TARA. He had previously worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where he contributed to research in drug-resistant breast cancer. He has also worked at Columbia University where he used transgenic mouse models and medical imaging to study pancreatic cancer. Wilson received his B.S. in neuroscience from the University of Michigan where he began his research career studying mouse models of diabetic neuropathy.
Research AssociateREAD BIO
Julia is a research associate at TARA. She received her BS in Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University (2018), where she worked in Dr. Keith Cook's cardiopulmonary engineering lab researching thrombosis in a 3D-printed microfluidics device to optimize artificial lungs. She went on to complete her MS in Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University (2019), exploring shape-specific bioreactors for bone bioengineering and engineering clickable antibodies through metabolic reagent labeling in Dr. Xi Ren's lab.
Isabella Pallotta, Ph.D.
Research ScientistREAD BIO
Isabella Pallotta, PhD, is a Research Scientist at TARA. Dr. Pallotta graduated from the University of Pavia, Italy (M.S., Biology, PhD, Biochemistry). As a visiting PhD student first, and later on as a Postdoctoral Scholar, she spent 5 years in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University (Prof. David Kaplan’s group), to gain fundamental insight into megakaryocyte cell biology and in vitro released platelet functions, within bioengineered systems and advanced 3D systems. This work led to 1 patent, together with several published papers.
At the New York Stem Cells Foundation, NY, in Prof. Donald Freytes’ group, she then started her research career in cardiac tissue engineering, by developing advanced cardiac constructs and investigating the interactions with the inflammatory environment found at the site of myocardial infarction.
Kacey Ronaldson-Bouchard, Ph.D.
Scientific FounderREAD BIO
Kacey Ronaldson-Bouchard, Ph.D. is a Senior Research Scientist and co-founder of TARA. Dr. Ronaldson-Bouchard has spent the previous 6 years developing various microphysiological systems for organ-on-a-chip studies of human toxicity and disease modeling.
Dr. Ronaldson-Bouchard’s doctoral studies primarily focused on the development of cardiac microphysiological systems with mature functionality. This work led to four published papers and four pending patent applications.
She was graduated from the University of Florida (B.S., Biochemistry), and Columbia University (M.S., Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering). She was President of the Graduate Society of Women Engineers and continues to support initiatives that mentor young women to pursue STEM related fields.
Rooz Sobbi, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Research & DevelopmentREAD BIO
Rooz Sobbi, Ph.D. is a Senior Research Scientist at TARA. Rooz has extensive experience in cardiac electrophysiology and has spent the last 10 years studying ion channels and structural changes in the heart as a result of arrhythmias.
Rooz holds a B.Sc. in Cellular and Molecular Microbiology from University of Calgary and a Ph.D. in Physiology from University of Calgary Medical School.
Steve Sorota, Ph.D.
Director, Drug DiscoveryREAD BIO
Dr. Steve Sorota is the Director of Drug Discovery at TARA. He is an experienced cardiovascular physiologist and pharmacologist with over 20 years of drug discovery experience. Immediately prior to joining TARA, he was the lead of a heart failure and pulmonary hypertension discovery group at Merck & Co, Inc. His career at Schering-Plough and Merck covered a wide range of responsibilities including in vitro cardiac repolarization safety, ion channel discovery efforts for pain targets, hypertension, the role of the autonomic nervous system in regulation of blood pressure and metabolism, heart failure, diabetic cardiomyopathy, portal hypertension and pulmonary hypertension. He served as the biology lead for multiple targets and a variety of modalities including oral and inhaled small molecules efforts, fusion proteins, targeted protein degraders and antibodies.
Dr. Sorota obtained his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Connecticut Health Center under the guidance of Dr. Achilles Pappano. His post-doctoral experience was in the laboratory of Dr. Brian Hoffman in the Department of Pharmacology at Columbia University. After completing postdoctoral training, he remained at Columbia University as faculty member and leader of an independent laboratory until moving to Schering-Plough Research Institute.
Kai Wang, Ph.D.
Research ScientistREAD BIO
Kai Wang is a research scientist at TARA working on cardiac disease modeling. Kai has extensive research and protocol development experience in the field of cardiac channelopathy and stem cell biology. After obtaining M.B.B.S. degree at Tongji Medical University and Ph.D. degree at the University of Hong Kong, he first worked at Columbia University with Dr. Robert Kass on molecular composition and activities of the ion channels associated with congenital cardiac arrhythmias. His widely cited work of modeling Long QT Syndrome using patient-specific iPSCs is among the first few studies that demonstrate the value of an iPSC-based disease model in understanding disease mechanism and in drug testing or developing personalized therapy. During his time in Dr. Eric Bouhassira’s lab at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Kai focused on disease modeling using human hematopoietic stem cells. He developed an innovative method to reprogram single hematopoietic stem cells into iPSCs at about 50% efficiency, published in Cell Report. His recent work of reprogramming, culture and erythroid differentiation of baboon iPSCs in feeder-free condition was published in Cell in 2019. He was an awardee of the Drukenmiller fellowship at NYSCF.
Boyang Zhang, Ph.D.
Scientific FounderREAD BIO
Boyang Zhang is a co-founder of TARA and a postdoctoral fellow at University of Toronto, Canada. At TARA, Dr. Zhang is developing the manufacturing process of BiowireTM plates. Dr. Zhang obtained his B.Eng. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2010, and his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry from University of Toronto in 2016.
In 2016 Dr. Zhang was named MedTech’s Rising Star by Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry (MD+DI). In 2013, University of Toronto named Dr. Zhang inventor of the year for his collaborative work on a skin bioprinter. Dr. Zhang’s research interests are tissue vascularization, tissue assembly and organ-on-a-chip engineering. He utilizes microfabrication techniques in combination with biomaterials to build complex tissue models in vitro for drug discovery and regenerative medicine. His research on AngioChip, published as a cover article in Nature Materials, was featured in the Toronto Star and on The National on CBC in 2016. He has published over 20 research papers with H-index of 10 and has 3 patents pending.
Scientific FounderREAD BIO
Yimu Zhao is a 4th year Ph.D. Candidate in the laboratory of Dr. Milica Radisic at University of Toronto. Her Ph.D. thesis is to develop BiowireTM II drug testing platform (TC dish version and 96-well version) that is designed to 1) be minimally drug absorbable, 2) mature engineered cardiac tissues and 3) accurately evaluate inotropic and chronotropic responses of tissues with drugs. She is one of the inventors of TARA’s BiowireTM platform technology (Patent) and contributes significantly on tissue conditioning, maturation and drug screening optimization for platform development. She is one of the co-founders of TARA.
She obtained her B.A.Sc. (Chemical Engineering) from University of Western Ontario and M.A.Sc. (Chemical Engineering) from Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada. There she worked on stem cell technology in the laboratory of Dr. Lauren Flynn and Dr. Stephen Waldman for multi-lineage differentiation and application of adipose-derived stem cells.