Back to the top


Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
Fluno Center | 601 University Ave | Madison, WI

Keynote Presenters

Mary Haak-Frendscho, PhD is a biotechnology entrepreneur specializing in the discovery and development of novel immunology and oncology biotherapeuticsAs an executive in both public and private companies, her experience ranges from start-ups to global pharma. Currently Dr. Haak-Frendscho is President, CEO and Board member of Spotlight Therapeutics in the San Francisco Bay Area, creating a new class of biologics for in vivo gene editing. Most recently, she was a venture partner with Versant Ventures and CEO of Blueline Bioscience, charged with launching new therapeutics companies in Canada. 

read more about Dr. Haak-Frendscho

During her 25-year career, Dr. Haak-Frendscho established and served as Chairman of Compugen, Inc., was CEO and Board member aIgenica Biotherapeutics, and established Takeda San Francisco where she was President, CSO and Board member. Dr. Haak-Frendscho began her industry career at Genentech, where she played a key role in the development of omalizumab (Xolair®).   

Dr. Haak-Frendscho has 70 scientific publications and over 40 patents. An immunologist by training, she received her BS from the University of Michigan, MLA from Washington University, MS from SUNY-Stony Brook, CSEP from Columbia University Graduate School of Business and PhD from the University of Wisconsin. (Go Bucky!) 

Paul Conrad

Paul Conrad, PhD, MBA is the Vice President of Business Development and Alliance Management at bluebird bio headquartered in Cambridge, MA.   bluebird is pioneering cell and gene therapies across a spectrum of disorders including cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy, sickle cell disease, β-thalassemia and multiple myeloma, with the goal that people facing potentially fatal conditions with limited treatment options can live their lives fully. Beyond their science, bluebird is working to positively disrupt the healthcare system to create access, transparency and education so that gene therapy can become available to all those who would benefit.

read more about Dr. Conrad

Prior to bluebird, Dr. Conrad was Global Transaction Head for Immunology and Oncology at Shire Pharmaceuticals where he led the team focused on growing Shire’s business in areas such as autoimmune disease and rare cancers.  In addition to his broad experience in business development and alliance management, Dr. Conrad has been in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector for more than twenty-five years in a variety of roles including research and development, consulting, program leadership, and venture capital.  He received his education as a chemical engineer earning a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, followed by an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

Podium Presenters

PMK Headshot for web

Philip Keegan, PhD brings professional expertise in bioengineering, technology development, and project management to his role as the Public-Private Partnership Lead, at the Forward BIO Institute. 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. 

Greg Keenan

Greg Keenan is the head of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) Accelerator, a leading university gap funding program that provides UW-Madison inventors business-related support and milestone-based funding to advance promising technologies to market.  The WARF Accelerator supports commercialization by investing in commercially relevant milestones (proofs-of-concept, market studies, prototypes, field trials, product demonstrations) that validate market potential, demonstrate commercial value, and de-risk technology with a goal to attract industry partners or investors. 

read more about Greg Keenan

Greg has 25 years of experience in commercializing early-stage technologies from Fortune 500 corporations, start-ups, and university labs.  Before joining WARF, he led business development and technology commercialization for university spin-out companies from UW-Madison (Virent) and MIT (LiquiGlide).  In between start-ups, Greg was the vice president of new business development for specialty bioproducts at Penford Corporation and was the director of the North American biomaterials business at Ingredion, a Fortune 500 ingredient solutions provider.  He started his career as a chemical engineer with Air Products and Chemicals where he gained extensive experience in the development, management, and commercialization of new technologies.   

Greg earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Penn State and a M.S.E. in the Management of Technology from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Barry Kurokawa

Barry Kurokawa is currently the Chairman and CEO of Dianomi Therapeutics, a private biotech company initially focused on osteoarthritis and pain, utilizing sustained release drug delivery technology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Previously he spent most of his professional career as an institutional venture and public market investor in healthcare. He co-founded ProMed Management, a healthcare focused crossover (investing in private and public companies) fund based in New York where he was the Chief Investment Officer. 

read more about Barry Kurokawa

Dr. Kurokawa was formerly a Senior Portfolio manager with INVESCO Funds Group, where he managed $1.5 billion in assets with over $100 million in venture investments. He currently sits on the Board of Directors (BOD) for Eirion Therapeutics, a private company focused in the aesthetics area, and has been a past BOD member of other life sciences and medical device companies. 

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

Bill Murphy, PhD 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.

read more about Bill Murphy

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. 

Cathy Rasmussen (Photo by Maria She Photography)

Cathy Rasmussen, PhD currently 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. Having worked in diverse settings including a tier-one research-oriented university, a highly-successful small business enterprise, and large biomedical corporations, she possesses substantial expertise in strategic planning, extramural fundraising, project management, cross-functional leadership, product development, and scientific communications.

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.

Andy Richards

Andrew Richards is Director of Discovery to Product (D2P), a unit located within UW–Madison’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education. D2P serves as the front door to UW–Madison’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, helping connect faculty, staff, and students with the right resources at the right time. Richards leads a team of Innovation and Commercialization Specialists who provide education programs and individual mentoring to help campus innovators bring their ideas to the marketplace. Richards works with the D2P team and campus community to set and implement strategic plans and programs that facilitate the commercialization of faculty, staff, and student innovation, while also supporting the regional startup ecosystem.  

read more about Andy Richards

Richards was most recently the Chief of Staff for the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at UW–Madison where he managed the flow of issues, projects, and problems requiring either short-term responses or anticipatory preparations, and maintained close liaison and coordination with internal and external offices and entities. In his previous role as the chief of staff for the UW System President, he led staff on a “Research to Jobs” taskforce that identified barriers to the commercialization of university research and implementation strategies to overcome barriers and capitalize on opportunities. Richards also served at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where he was Associate Vice Chancellor in the department of Business and Financial Services.  

Breakout Session Presenters

Natalie Betz

Natalie A. Betz, PhD is the Associate Director of the Master of Science in Biotechnology Program through the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  This face-to-face program was designed for working adults and integrates the business, scientific, legal, regulatory, and ethical issues in modern biotechnology in a cohesive two-year program that focuses on biotechnology project development.  Dr. Betz has been associated with the MS in Biotechnology program for the past 20 years, both as a primary course developer and instructor for several laboratory and science courses in the program, but also has administrative duties that including recruiting and managing academic and industry faculty, overall program curriculum integration and development, and student mentoring.  

read more about Natalie Betz

Prior to UW – Madison, Dr. Betz worked in several scientific positions at Promega Corporation.  Dr. Betz is also the Co-Academic Director for UW – Madison for the new UW Extended Campus online collaborative Master of Science in Applied Biotechnology program which is scheduled to launch in January of 2020.  She was an integral member of the team that developed the program, objectives, courses, student requirements, and is responsible for the design and faculty recruitment for three of the courses in this program that deal with quality control, regulatory affairs, and product development.  She is a passionate educator whose enthusiasm for biotechnology hopefully inspires both her students and colleagues. 


Dr. Christian Capitini joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics 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.

read more about Christian Capitini

Dr. Capitini’s 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.

Carter Cliff

Carter Cliff, PhD is a biotechnology entrepreneur who in 2016 established D1ASP0RA as a foundry for launch of disruptive healthcare ventures with a focus on regenerative medicine and precision medicine. Currently, Carter is CEO of Vascugen, developing an induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) therapeutic targeting severe vascular disease conditions. He is a founder of Opsis Therapeutics (Madison), Dianomi Therapeutics (Madison), and RPRD Diagnostics (Milwaukee). Previously he was Director of Business Development at FUJIFILM Cellular Dynamics, where he established a pipeline of iPSC-based therapeutic programs and spun out Opsis. 

Jon Eckhardt

Jon Eckhardt, PhD is a scholar-practitioner, a professor at the Wisconsin School of Business, and a Discovery Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jon is also a cofounder of gener8tor a top ranked business accelerator based in Wisconsin which has helped to build over 80 companies that have gone on to raise over $200 million dollars in venture funding and employ over 2,000 people.  His research projects involve the study of various aspects of entrepreneurship, including firm formation, venture finance, initial public offerings, the role of information in entrepreneurship, and academic entrepreneurship.  

read more about Jon Eckhardt

At the University of Wisconsin, professor Eckhardt teaches in the undergraduate, MBA, Ph.D. and executive education programs. He has won several awards for teaching and researching entrepreneurship, including a $50,000 fellowship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. He was awarded a Schulze Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation in 2015 which was renewed in 2018.    

David Gamm

Dr. David Gamm is an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the UW–Madison and the Emmett A. Humble Distinguished Director of the McPherson Eye Research Institute. He is also a member of the Waisman Center Stem Cell Research Program and the UW Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center. Dr. Gamm earned his medical and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and completed his residency and pediatric ophthalmology fellowship at the University of Wisconsin. In his clinical practice, Dr. Gamm diagnoses and manages a wide range of pediatric eye and vision disorders, including inherited retinal diseases; however, the majority of his effort is directed toward basic and translational retinal stem cell research.

read more about David Gamm

Dr. Gamm’s laboratory at the Waisman Center utilizes stem cell technology to 1) investigate the cellular and molecular events that occur during human retinal differentiation and 2) generate cells for use in human retinal disease modeling and cell-based rescue or replacement strategies. Three-dimensional optic vesicle-based differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into retinal cells, including photoreceptors, was first described in his laboratory. Dr. Gamm is also is co-founder and CSO of a company focused on discovering and developing novel medicines to treat patients suffering from retinal diseases.

Christopher Konop

Christopher Konop, PhD is the co-founder and Executive Director of WiSolve Consulting Group. He manages a group of +30 graduate student and postdoctoral scholars from the University of Wisconsin – Madison who are seeking additional training to prepare themselves for life after academia. Christopher and his team of directors, partners, and mentors provide supplemental training opportunities in business and entrepreneurship via workshops, short-courses, mentorship, and hands-on, practical consulting engagements with local companies. 

read more about Christopher Konop

WiSolve has been awarded two Entrepreneurial Support Awards by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and is currently is engaged in a partnership with the Isthmus Project Technology Accelerator (UW Health) and the UW Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic to work with innovators looking to develop technology that provides a benefit to human health. 

Nhi Le

Nhi Le is the StartingBlock Entrepreneur in Residence and a Doyenne Evergreen Fund Investment Committee Member. Nhi is the former gBETA Madison director and gener8tor Minnesota Managing Director. Currently, Nhi is completing her doctoral degree in the BioInspired Materials Laboratory at UW-Madison, where she developed 6 patented technologies that served as the foundation UP for Stem Pharm, a Madison-based life science tools startup company.

Kip Ludwig

Kip Ludwig, PhD is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin.  His laboratory focuses on developing next-generation neuromodulation therapies that use minimally invasive strategies to ‘wiretap’ the nervous system to treat circuit dysfunction and deliver biomolecules to target areas with unprecedented precision. Dr. Ludwig previously served as the Program Director for Neuroengineering at the National Institutes of Health. He co-led the Translational Devices Program at NINDS and led the NIH BRAIN Initiative programs to catalyze implantable academic and clinical devices to stimulate and/or record from the central nervous system. 

read more about Kip Ludwig

Dr. Ludwig developed the NIH / Industry Neurotechnology Public / Private Partnership Program. Dr Ludwig was an NINDS liaison to the FDA, including the FDA’s Stimulation Safety and Early Feasibility Studies Working Groups.   

While working in industry as a scientist, Dr. Ludwigwhere he conceived, developed and demonstrated the chronic efficacy of a next-generation neural stimulation electrode for reducing blood pressure in both pre-clinical studies and clinical trials. Through his industry work he oversaw Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and non-GLP studies enabling clinical trials in Europe and the United States, as well as participated in the development and execution of those trials, leading to approval for sale in twenty countries and a successful U.S. Pivotal trial. 
Dr. Ludwig connects his research to industry through multiple consulting and advisory roles. He is the Chair of the NeuroOne Scientific Advisory Board, is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for Battelle, BlackfynnCala Health and the National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies, and is a co-founder of Neuronoff, Inc. 

Brian McIntosh

Brian McIntosh, Study Director and Scientific Lead of Cell, Gene and Regenerative Therapies at Covance Laboratories, is a member of Covance’s Advanced Therapies Drug and Device Development Group, and has overall responsibility for the scientific and technical conduct of the company’s preclinical safety assessment studies. His current role and interest also focuses on the use and implementation of FDA guidance documents to usher cell and gene therapy clients through the preclinical the safety gauntlet. With more than 25 years of experience in laboratory research, Dr. McIntosh is an expert in regenerative biology and the development of cellular, gene and regenerative therapies.

read more about Brian McIntosh

Prior to joining Covance, Brian was the Head of Automation and Screening for Regenerative Biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research, where he was a contributing member of renowned stem cell biologist James (Jamie) Thomson’s lab. His research and duties focused on elucidating derived tissue engraftment barriers between species, and developing and managing a unique industrial scale automated high-throughput (HT) screening core. Concurrent with his tenure at the Morgridge Institute, his regenerative biology expertise was sought by Amgen where he served as a consultant. Brian obtained his doctorate from the McArdle Cancer Biology Laboratories at the University of Wisconsin-Madison working with toxicologist and cancer biologist Christopher Bradfield, and he previously held a position at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) in the department of Immunology. Brian is the author of a number of well cited peer reviewed publications and holds one patent for the generation of a model organism not requiring irradiation to engraft human cells.


Sean Palecek, PhD 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.

read more about Sean Palecek

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.

Carl Ross

Carl Ross is the Managing Director of Waisman Biomanufacturing at University of Wisconsin, a CMO designed to accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries into early clinical trials. The group serves both academic investigators and industry partners, providing development, manufacturing, and analytical services, as well as regulatory support for novel biotherapeutics.  Carl has been with WB since its inception in 2001, participating in the design of GMP manufacturing, quality, and project management systems.   

read more about Carl Ross

Prior to assuming his current role, Carl served as a project manager and Manager of Process Development for WB, advancing a wide range of cell and gene therapies, vaccines, and therapeutic proteins into human clinical trials. Additionally, he spent over 10 years working at large and small entrepreneurial companies in the biotech and biopharm industry. 


Kris Saha, PhD is an Assistant 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.

read more about Kris Saha

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.

Melissa Skala

Melissa Skala, PhD is an Investigator at the Morgridge Institute for Research and Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UW Madison. Her research group, the Optical Microscopy in Medicine Lab, uses photonics-based technologies to develop personalized treatment plans for cancer patients including breast, pancreatic, colorectal, neuroendocrine, oral, and other cancers.  Focused on tumor immunology and immunotherapy, cell-level metabolic heterogeneity, and cell-cell interactions, her group works closely with oncologists to collect fresh patient samples to assess patient-specific responses to multiple treatment options. 

read more about Melissa Skala

Additionally, the Skala group has collaborative projects leveraging their unique imaging technologies for clinical problems including quality control in T cell and stem-cell therapies, monitoring diseases in the eye, and predicting pre-term birth, among many others. Projects are highly diverse and range from translational research to biologically-driven questions to algorithm / instrumentation development.  

Dr. Skala received her BS in Physics at Washington State University, her M.S. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at Duke University where she continued as a postdoctoral trainee.  Prior to joining the UW Madison and Morgridge Institute faculty in 2016, Melissa was an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University. 

Tom Tubon

Thomas Tubon, PhD is an established scientist and professor in the Biotechnology Department at Madison College and is an honorary research fellow at UW Madison. He teaches program courses in the Applied Associates Degree in Biotechnology, Post-Baccalaureate Certificates in Biotechnology, and Human Stem Cell Technologies.

He currently serves as the Principal Investigator and Director for the National Science Foundation – Advanced Technological Education program for developing workforce-centered programming in Emerging Technologies and for the creation of a National Coordination Network for Cell and Tissue Manufacturing. He serves leadership roles the NSF Engineering Research Center for Cell Manufacturing, and the National InnovATEBIO Center for Biotechnology.

read more about Tom Tubon

Dr. Tubon oversees development of community college technical bioscience workforce and strategic implementation for local, regional, and national-level program scale-up.  In this role, he has facilitated the creation of a broad network of industry, community, and academic stakeholders through outreach and education initiatives empowering career pathways in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Prior to joining the Biotechnology Department at Madison College in 2008, Dr. Tubon held a position at the University of Madison, Wisconsin in the Department of Medical Genetics as an NIH-awarded research fellow.  His interests focused on neurodegenerative diseases and aging-related disorders which resulted in several high profile peer-reviewed publications.

Dr. Tubon holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from Stony Brook University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and a BS in Molecular Biology from San Diego State University.

Idella Yamben

Idella Yamben, PhD is the Business Development Consultant for the Center for Technology Commercialization.  She develops programming, teaches, and mentors in CTC’s virtual Lean Startup seed programs: Ideadvance and SBIR Advance. She has served as a national USDA SBIR reviewer and NIH I-Corps mentor. She leverages her scientific training and Lean Startup expertise to support customer development activities for CTC clients. 

read more about Idella Yamben

Dr. Yamben also leads efforts to manage mentor training and networks that serve underrepresented groups within STEM fields. In addition to overseeing the SBIR Labs and SBIR Ready programs, Dr. Yamben is responsible for CTC operational milestones and oversees outreach initiatives and training for targeted, underrepresented groups. Dr. Yamben completed a BS in biology from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from UW-Madison. 

© 2018