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Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021
Virtual Meeting hosted by Zoom

Keynote Presenter

Ronald Poropatich, M.D. is the Director of the Center for Military Medicine Research (CMMR), and Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. The CMMR has been instrumental in building collaborative multi-disciplinary and multi-organizational research teams to improve the health and well-being of service members, veterans and their families that has led to significant DoD medical research funding for the University of Pittsburgh (nearly $400M from 2013 to 2019). Dr. Poropatich served 30 years on active duty in the US Army retiring in 2012 at the rank of Colonel. From 2006-2012 he served as the Deputy Director of the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, where he managed large medical research programs and developed novel research programs and technologies in medical informatics and telemedicine.

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Dr. Poropatich received his medical degree from Drexel University in 1985. He completed his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in 1988 and was selected as Chief of Medical Residents in the WRAMC Department of Medicine from 1988-1989. He completed his fellowships in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in 1992 also at the WRAMC. He is a long-standing educator and has been faculty at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science, Bethesda, MD, since 1985 and currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Medicine.
Full Biography

Podium Presenters

William Murphy during the AO Foundation Exchange Meetings, Collaborative Research Programs (CRP), Davos, September 01, 2011 (01.09.2011)

Bill Murphy, Ph.D. is the Director of the Forward BIO Institute, and Harvey D. Spangler Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Orthopedics & Rehabilitation. His research interests focus on creating new biomedical technologies inspired by nature, with a particular emphasis on new treatments for patients with debilitating diseases. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Murphy’s research group has created a cadre of groundbreaking new biomaterials, which are now being applied for biomanufacturing of medical devices, drugs, cells, and tissues.

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Dr. Murphy has published more than 160 scientific manuscripts, filed over 50 patents, co-founded multiple venture-backed start-up companies, and received awards that include the National Science Foundation Career Award, the Wisconsin Vilas Associate Award, the Romnes Fellowship, and induction as a Fellow in the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.  Dr. Murphy received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan, and was a NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago. 

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Paul Weiss, Ph.D. joined Venture Investors in 2006 as a Managing Director, focusing on the firm’s therapeutics practice. He has over 20 years of operating experience in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Previously, he served as President of Venture Investors portfolio company, Gala Design, Inc., and of the Gala Biotech business unit of Cardinal Health after its acquisition. Previously, Paul served as Vice President of Business Development of 3-Dimensional Pharmaceuticals, a venture capital backed company with a drug discovery platform that successfully completed an IPO during his tenure, and was subsequently acquired by Johnson & Johnson.

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Dr. Weiss received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He began his career in industry as the Director of Operations of Columbia Research Labs. He also served as Director of Business Development and Research for the Scientific Protein Labs (SPL) division of American Home Products and worked as Director of Licensing for Wyeth-Ayerst, which was a division of American Home Products (now part of Pfizer). Dr. Weiss serves on the Board of Directors of FluGen, Invenra, and Madison Vaccines. He is a former board member of Aerpio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARPO), Akebia Therapeutics (NASDAQ:AKBA), Neurovance (acquired by Otsuka for up to $1 billion), and Tissue Regeneration Systems (Observer).

Cathy Rasmussen (Photo by Maria She Photography)

Cathy Rasmussen, Ph.D. serves as the Assistant Director of the Forward BIO Institute. She has over twenty years of experience in regenerative medicine and translational biomanufacturing research, specializing in cell-based therapies and tissue engineering strategies for treating complex skin defects. She possesses substantial expertise in strategic planning, extramural fundraising, project management, cross-functional leadership, and product development.

read more about Cathy Rasmussen

Dr. Rasmussen was part of the pioneering team at Stratatech – a Mallinckrodt Company where she established laboratory operations and supported advanced development of StrataGraft® Skin Substitute Tissue. She also spearheaded development and marketing of the StrataTest™ Human Skin Model for toxicology applications. In addition to directing the company’s preclinical studies program, she led the development programs of the genetically-modified pipeline products, ExpressGraft™ and EpiReady, and managed the team supporting the first-in-human clinical trial evaluating the safety of ExpressGraft-C9T1 skin tissue in the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers.

In addition to her publications and book chapters, and is an inventor on four U.S. and numerous international patents. With a background in biochemistry and cell biology, she received her B.A. from Macalester College, and her M.S. and Ph.D. from UW-Madison.

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Philip Keegan, Ph.D. brings expertise in bioengineering, technology development, and project management as the Public-Private Partnership Lead at the Forward BIO Institute. Dr. Keegan is passionate about connecting trainees with the Institute’s expansive campus and industry professional networks. To accomplish this goal, Dr. Keegan launched the Innovators in Training (IIT) program, which blends industry-relevant education with practical, experiential training in pre-commercial innovation. The Institute is committed to its goal of training the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators, and strategic leaders for the rapidly evolving biopharma industry.

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Prior to joining the Forward BIO Institute, Dr. Keegan served as the Technical Director of a multi-million dollar program at Draper, where he managed an interdisciplinary team of biologists and engineers working to humanize Pfizer’s drug development pipeline via micro-physiological organ-on-a-chip models. He also contributes experience in preclinical innovation, validation and verification having served as a senior research scientist on the Hemanext blood transfusion device. Dr. Keegan earned his B.S. in biomedical engineering from Boston University and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University.


Cynthia Czajkowski, Ph.D. is UW-Madison’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Research in the Biological Sciences, and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Neuroscience. Her research interests focus on the mechanisms underlying pentameric ligand-gated ion channel (LGIC) function. LGICs, which lie in the membranes of nerve cells, regulate information flow throughout the brain. Defects in LGICs lead to a variety of neurological diseases and psychiatric disorders, and numerous drugs target these channels. A deeper understanding of how these channels work at a molecular level will improve the ability to design safer and more effective drugs, develop better therapeutic strategies, and understand the etiology of disease-causing mutations.

read more about Cynthia Czajkowski

As Associate Vice Chancellor for Research in the Biological Sciences, Dr. Czajkowski’s responsibilities include biological sciences recruitment and retention, grant matches, faculty awards, center reviews, Fall Competition and Research Forward awards, and development of new OVCRGE grant initiatives. She provides leadership for biological sciences interdisciplinary research across campus and helps oversee several research centers, including the Biotechnology Center, the Waisman Center and the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

Breakout Session Presenters

Sisi Li 2x3

Sisi Li, Ph.D. is a Data Architect at Porta Sophia, a 501(c)(3) non-profit created to assist patent reviewers find relevant prior art in the field of psychedelics. Porta Sophia is affiliated with the Usona Institute, which supports pre-clinical and clinical research to further the understanding of the therapeutic effects of psilocybin and other consciousness-expanding medicines. Dr. Li received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where her research focused on better understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying depression and anxiety disorders.

read more about Sisi Li

Dr Li’s passion for the field of mental health, and specifically in advancing psychedelic treatments of psychiatric disorders, led her to a position in which she can stimulate innovation surrounding psychedelic applications, and enable fair approval of psychedelic-based treatments for clinical use. She previously had worked for 3 years as an R&D Research Scientist at Gregor Diagnostics, where she was engaged in assay development, design and execution of clinical studies, project management, and grant writing.


Dr. Lucas Klemm recently joined ElevateBio in Cambridge, MA as a Scientist after completing his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at UW-Madison. His thesis research focused on neutrophil migration and the role of this cell type in autoimmune disease, cancer, and infection, with the overarching goal to develop iPS cell-derived immune cell therapies to treat human disease. Prior to finishing his training at Madison, Dr. Klemm was part of the Institute’s Innovator in Training Program.

Sophie Mancha 4x5

Sophie Mancha is a trainee in her 4th year of the Biomedical Engineering PhD Program, being co-advised by Drs. Melissa Skala and Paul Campagnola. Her research goal is to construct biomimetic in vitro pancreatic cancer models that replicate native tissue stiffness and architecture with bio-relevant extracellular components. Such models have the potential to improve engineered culture models to better understand cancer progression mechanisms for the future development of novel treatments. Ms. Mancha is a current trainee in the Institute’s Innovator in Training Program. She recently completed an internship with Promega Corporation during this past summer.

T kirland 2x3

Thomas Kirkland, Ph.D. is a senior scientific investigator within the Advanced Technology Group, Promega’s early research division. He is responsible for creating partnerships with academic and governmental researchers with the goal of co-inventing broadly useful tools for life science research. His research is broadly based on using chemistry to detect the states and interactions of biomolecules in simple and complex environments. He has co-authored over 25 journal articles/reviews and is an inventor for over 25 issued patents and over 40 pending patent applications.

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Dr. Kirkland received his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology. He did a postdoctoral fellowship focused on total synthesis at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining Promega in 2008 he worked as a medicinal chemist with Berlex Biosciences for 7 years. His inventions at Promega include fluorescent dyes for human identification through STR analysis, fluorogenic dyes for real time PCR, fluorescent dyes for real time measurements of protein-protein interactions through bioluminescent resonance energy transfer, proluminescent substrates for real time analysis of epigenetic enzyme activity and optimized HaloTag ligand chemistry for subcellular analysis and live cell kinetic imaging.

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Amy Achter is currently the Sr. Director for Open Innovation at Pall Corporation. In her role, which was created in November of 2020, Amy is working to build both capacity and capability for external collaborative partnerships across the Pall Lifesciences businesses including Biotech, Laboratory, and Medical. Prior to this role, Amy was the Managing Director of the Office of Business Engagement (OBE) at UW Madison. OBE creates a hub for campus-wide business partnership fostering mutually beneficial relationships between industry and UW–Madison.

read more about Amy Achter

Ms. Achter has spent the majority of her career leading partnerships from the industry side. She served as Sr. Director of Partner Development at The Nature’s Bounty Company, and prior to that she was the Associate Director of Strategic Technology & Innovation at the Oscar Mayer division of Kraft Foods. She also held the position of Director, Corporate Intellectual Asset Management at the Kimberly-Clark Corporation. Ms. Achter has both a B.S. and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering. The former from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the latter from Northwestern University.


Priya Baraniak, Ph.D. is Vice President of Corporate Development and Leads Process and Product Development at OrganaBio, LLC. She has brought over 20 years of expertise in stem cells and tissue engineering, coupled with a keen business acumen, to the OrganaBio team. Dr. Baraniak has published multiple peer-reviewed papers and book chapters on the use of stem cells and biomaterials in cardiac repair and regeneration. She was a founding member of RoosterBio and in her role as Business Development lead, she structured, negotiated and executed multiple strategic partnerships for aggressive growth of the organization.

read more about Priya Baraniak

Dr. Baraniak received her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 2008, where she developed a controlled release biodegradable elastomer for applications in cardiovascular regenerative medicine. Her post-doctoral research as an American Heart Association Fellow in Dr. Todd McDevitt’s lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, focused on harnessing the secretome and isolating the extracellular matrix from MSCs and other cell types, including pluripotent stem cells, for cardiac tissue repair and regeneration.


Christian Franck Ph.D. is the Grainger Institute for Engineering Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. His research has led to the development of unique three-dimensional full-field imaging capabilities to study the 3D deformation behavior of neurons in the brain during traumatic brain injuries. Dr. Franck is the Acting Director of the Office of Naval Research-funded Physics-based Neutralization of Threats to Human Tissues and Organs (PANTHER) program, to better detect, predict, and prevent traumatic brain injuries by accelerating translation of basic science discoveries to civilian and warfighter protection solutions.

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Dr. Franck specializes in cellular biomechanics and new experimental mechanics techniques at the micro and nanoscale. He received his B.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of Virginia in 2003, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 2004 and 2008. Dr. Franck held a post-doctoral position at Harvard investigating brain and neural trauma, and was an Assistant and Associate Professor in Mechanics at Brown University from 2009 – 2018.

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Taby Ahsan Ph.D. is the Head of Biologics Analytical Development & Characterization, Therapeutic Discovery at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Ahsan has extensive experience, in both the public and private sectors, in basic and translational science in the fields of tissue engineering and stem cells. Her current focus is on cell and gene therapies for immuno-oncology. Taby received her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego and completed postdoctoral studies at Georgia Tech. Dr. Ahsan serves on the Scientific and Clinical Advisory Board of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT) and is a current member of the Cell, Tissue, and Gene Therapy Advisory Council at the FDA.

read more about Taby Ahsan

Previously Dr. Ahsan joined RoosterBio Inc., a Mesenchymal Stem Cell-focused company, initially as Director of Analytical Development, advancing to Vice President of Analytical, Process & Product Development. Prior to this, she was a faculty member in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Tulane University, leading research focused on biomechanical regulation of both pluripotent and adult stem cells.


Robert Deans, Ph.D. is the Chief Scientific Officer at Synthego, a leading CRISPR company focused on developing and deploying full stack genome engineering solutions. A serial entrepreneur, Dr. Deans has roughly three decades of experience developing stem cell and gene therapies, with extensive translational science and global regulatory expertise. He previously served in executive roles at BlueRock Therapeutics and Rubius Therapeutics, where he participated in the creation of next-generation therapies through the use of pluripotent stem cell biology and gene editing tools.

read more about Robert Deans

Prior to his role at Rubius Theapeutics, Dr. Deans served as Executive Vice President of Regenerative Medicine at Athersys, and prior to that was Vice President of Research at Osiris Therapeutics. He was previously a Director of R&D at Baxter. Dr. Deans has a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from University of Michigan.

Martin Ostrowski 2x3

Martin Ostrowski is an entrepreneur and attorney with over 20 years’ experience in the life science, biotech and medical device industries. His targeted experience includes corporate management and operations, corporate development and deal-structuring, and intellectual property and life science-based commercialization. Previously he served as director of intellectual property and business development at Cellscript, practiced law at Sughrue Mion, PLLC and led business development operations at Arteriocyte and Arteriocyte Medical Systems (acquired by Isto Biologics).

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Mr. Ostrowski holds a B.S.E. in bioengineering from Arizona State University, an M.S. in biochemistry from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and a Juris Doctorate from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He is a registered USPTO patent attorney and licensed through the D.C. Bar. Mr. Ostrowski is a co-founder of three biotech companies including Dianomi Therapeutics, a platform-based biotherapeutic company advancing a series of preclinical products in a variety of indications and disease spaces, and Vascugen, a regenerative medicine company developing advanced therapies to treat incurable vascular disease conditions.

Krutty Headshot for web

John Krutty, Ph.D. is the Forward BIO Institute’s inaugural Innovation Associate. His interest in understanding private sector technology development and operational practices inspired creation of the Innovators in Training program. In addition to serving as the point of contact for the Catapult program’s portfolio of biomanufacturing and biomaterials-based projects, he is engaged in expanding the IIT program, coordinating projects and a lecture series focused on preparing trainees for industry careers and increasing interaction between trainees and our industry partners.

read more about John Krutty

Dr. Krutty earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma and completed his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at UW-Madison in 2019. His research focused on developing advanced biomaterials to reduce complexity, increase capacity, and streamline manufacturing of cells for therapeutic use.

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