Leadership Team

Bill Murphy, Ph.D. – Founding Director

Bill Murphy is the Founding 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, 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. He 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.

John Krutty, Ph.D. – Pre-Commercial Development Director

John Krutty, Pre-Commercial Development Director, 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, where his research focused on developing advanced biomaterials to reduce complexity, increase capacity, and streamline manufacturing of cells for therapeutic use. John has 5 years’ experience in developing academic projects in cell therapy, gene therapy, and biomanufacturing towards commercial spin-out. He serves as the point of contact for the Catapult program’s portfolio of research projects and leads 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.

Executive Committee



Sean Palecek, Ph.D. – Director of Research Innovation

Sean Palecek is the Milton J. and Maude Shoemaker Professor and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His lab studies how human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) sense and respond to microenvironmental cues in making fate choices, with a focus on differentiation to cardiovascular lineages. His lab has generated novel mechanistic insight and developed protocols for differentiation of hPSCs to cardiovascular and neurovascular cell types. They strive to engineer fully-defined, animal component-free differentiation platforms, compatible with biomanufacturing of cells for in vitro and in vivo applications. Dr. Palecek’s recent awards include the Cozzarelli Prize of the National Academy of Sciences and the Biotechnology Progress Excellence in Research Publication Award for his work on cardiovascular tissue manufacturing from hPSCs. He is the Bioengineering Thrust Leader for the UW Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center and the Associate Director for Research for the National Science Foundation funded Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies.

Kris Saha, Ph.D. – Director of Education Innovation

Kris Saha is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medical History & Bioethics, as well as a core Faculty Member of the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery. His research interests lie in using human stem cells together with emerging engineering methods in material science and synthetic biology to make smarter therapeutics, model human disease, and advance personalized medicine. Major thrusts of his lab involve gene editing and cell engineering of human cells found in the retina, central nervous system and blood. Dr. Saha has published more than 50 scientific manuscripts, filed numerous patents, and received awards that include the National Science Foundation Career Award, Biomedical Engineering Society’s Rising Star Award, and Gund Harrington Scholar Award. He is a member of the National Academies’ Forum on Regenerative Medicine and the National Institutes for Health’s Somatic Cell Genome Editing Consortium.

Christian Capitini, M.D. – Director of Clinical Innovation

Dr. Christian Capitini, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2011, and is presently an American Cancer Society Research Scholar and a Young Investigator on a Pediatric Cancer Dream Team sponsored by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and Stand up to Cancer. Dr. Capitini leads an NIH and NSF-supported laboratory focusing on development of cell-based therapies for the treatment of childhood cancers like neuroblastoma and osteosarcoma, including NK cells and CAR T cells. His laboratory was the first to track NK cells within tumors using fluorine-19 MRI. The laboratory also manufactures cell-based therapies for complications of bone marrow transplant, including alternatively activated macrophages to treat graft-versus-host-disease and acute radiation syndrome. In the clinic, Dr. Capitini was a site Principal Investigator for multiple CAR T cell trials for the treatment of childhood leukemia.

Anne Smith, J.D. – Director of Legal Strategy

Anne Smith is a Clinical Associate Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, as well as co-founder and Director of the Law School’s Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic. Previously, she was the General Counsel for Winterthur U.S. Holdings, Inc., a U.S. insurance holding company owned by Winterthur Swiss Insurance Company and Credit Suisse; and later became General Counsel for Promega Corporation, a global life sciences company. Her practice focused on general corporate law and mergers and acquisitions. In addition to being a co-founder of Madison Seed Accelerator, Inc., Anne serves on the Advisory Board for WiSolve and on the Board of Directors for StartingBlock Madison, Inc. She also serves as Chairperson of Community Partnerships, a Dane county nonprofit that provides wraparound services to people with mental health issues.