The nominees in The 2018 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Life Science Category hail from four different countries in three separate continents, but are united by their perseverance. From developing lab-grown platelets that reduce the need for stem-cell donors, to designing transformative gene therapies, each nominee has founded companies that seek to drastically improve human health. This quest to save lives is a long game requiring grit, bravery and a determination to change the world. If that’s not the definition of a consummate immigrant entrepreneur, then what is?
Dr. Guanping Gao, Voyager Therapeutics
Dr. Guangping Gao co-founded Voyager Therapeutics in 2014 to develop and deliver life-changing gene therapies to people around the world living with severe neurological diseases. His work is based on a novel primate adeno-associated virus (AAV) family he discovered and vectorized. He now owns more than 26 patents relating to AAV medical work. This method was instrumental in reviving the gene therapy field, hugely impacting many currently untreatable and deadly human diseases, such as advanced Parkinson’s disease, ALS, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and severe, chronic pain. This impressive pipeline has attracted numerous high-profile investments
Dr. Michael Koeris, Sample6 Technologies
Dr. Michael Koeris is the co-founder and CEO of Sample6. His mission with Sample6 is to secure the global food supply chain by changing and improving the way food production is being tested for bacterial pathogens. The inventions he and his team made at Sample6 allow for detection of dangerous pathogens in the food supply chain in order to catch them before food reaches the market. His innovation already helps customers like Unilever secure their food production, and it can be more broadly applied to reduce hospital acquired infections
Dr. Bernat Olle, Vedanta Biosciences
Dr. Bernat Olle is the co-founder and CEO of Vedanta Biosciences. The company is developing a new class of drugs that work by modulating the human microbiome, which is increasingly recognized as a key factor in autoimmune, metabolic and infectious diseases. Vedanta has generated a pipeline of drug candidates including a candidate in inflammatory bowel diseases licensed to Johnson & Johnson in 2015 in the largest deal in the microbiome space to date by a pharmaceutical company. The drug is now being brought into clinical trials for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. A second Vedanta drug candidate for treatment of recurrent C. difficile infections started clinical trials in 2017.
Dr. Jonathan Thon, Platelet BioGenesis
Dr. Jonathan Thon is the co-Founder and CEO/CSO for Platelet BioGenesis, a biotech startup developing a process to produce life-saving human platelets from stem cells for therapeutic applications. Platelets are currently sourced entirely from human volunteer donors, and by 2019, demand will exceed supply by 533,000 units. By removing the volunteer donor, the company can make platelets that are cheaper, safer and available on demand. Thon invented the platelet platform in his laboratory at Harvard Medical School while an assistant professor. He left that position to build Platelet BioGenesis but retains a lecturer position at Harvard.