Speakers and Panelists


Sara Jane Demy established Demy-Colton in 2008 to develop high value-added events and help reposition existing events in the life sciences industry.

She has taken her formidable experience and expertise to craft effective investor and CEO events that further business objectives. Her impressive background in supporting biotech’s growth includes being the founder of Biotech Showcase and the Biotech CEO Summits that are held in Napa and Europe. In addition, Sara was Vice President, Business Development & Investor Relations, and Head of the New York Office for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). Sara understood the problems facing biotech companies and developed solutions to help advance the sector. She launched and developed the BIO CEO & Investor Conference, BIO Investor Forum, BIO’s regional venture conferences, CEO boot-camps, the Business Forum at BIO’s Annual Meeting, BioEurope, BioEurope Spring, and BIO Asia. Sara also built the prototype for “the partnering system,” which is used throughout the biopharmaceutical sector today.

Jeremy A. Abbate is the VP & Publisher of Scientific American and its related titles. He is responsible for developing and executing new media programs, brand extensions and collaborative ventures serving the international opinion leadership that turns to Scientific American for the best views of the future.

He appears regularly at conferences and events to facilitate high-level discussions on healthcare, innovative science and technology. He has spearheaded co-branded partnerships with several international organizations including TEDMED, CES, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Carter Center. Working to bring important scientific ideas into a dynamic media environment, he has led projects serving some of the world’s largest corporate organizations, including Colgate Palmolive, Johnson& Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Philips, Amgen, BMS and others.

His writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Psychology Today and other national publications. Abbate penned the forward to the popular medical travel guide, Patients Beyond Borders. He serves on several advisory committees in the life science and healthcare space.

Ralph Snyderman, MD, Chancellor for Health Affairs at Duke University from 1989 to July 2004 led the transition of an excellent medical center into an internationally recognized leader of academic medicine.  He oversaw the development of the Duke University Health System, one of the most successful integrated academic health systems in the country, and served as its first President and Chief Executive Officer.  Dr. Snyderman has played a leading role in the conception and development of personalized health care, an evolving model of national health care delivery.  He was among the first to describe personalized health care -- a personalized, proactive, patient-driven approach to care that is recognized as a dominant force to improve health and minimize the burdens of disease.  The Association of American Medical Colleges has referred to Dr. Snyderman as the “father of personalized medicine.”  He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and is the recipient of numerous scientific and leadership awards.


Dr. Robert Schneider is a leading biomedical investigator and has been a biotech entrepreneur for more than 30 years. He combines innovative biomedical scientific research with disruptive models of business development to pioneer new therapies in for the benefit of patients. Dr. Schneider is a co-founding scientist of six biotechnology/small pharmaceutical companies: ImClone Systems (New York); PTC Therapeutics (New Jersey); Canji (San Diego); GenCell (Paris); Charterhouse Pharmaceuticals (London); and ENB Therapeutics (New York). Dr. Schneider is the Albert Sabin Professor of Molecular Pathogenesis and for seven years until 1/2020, the Associate Dean for NYU Technology Ventures and Partnerships (TVP) at NYU Langone Health/NYU School of Medicine. He oversaw the integration and transformation of NYU technology transfer that launched over 100 startup companies during that time. Dr. Schneider is a research scientist and maintains a productive lab performing basic and translational research on metastatic breast cancer, regulation of the immune response, and regulation of adult tissue stem cells for tissue regeneration. He is the author of more than 180 peer-reviewed publications in leading journals and has been continuously funded by the NIH for more than 30 years.

Dr. Abraham Heifets is CEO and Co-Founder of Atomwise, where he and Co-Founder Dr. Izhar Wallach invented the use of deep convolutional neural networks for drug discovery. Dr. Heifets was a Massey Fellow at the University of Toronto—a center for AI innovation—and a Fellow of the Ontario Brain Institute. His doctoral work applied machine learning and classical AI techniques to organic synthesis planning, a long-standing challenge in chemistry. His vision of AI bringing better, safer and more potent drugs to patients was recently featured in the July 2019 Moonshot issue of Newsweek. Dr. Heifets is a thought-leader on the use of AI for drug discovery and is an author on 24 papers, patents and patent applications. Dr. Heifets has presented his work to the U.S. GAO, the National Institutes of Health, the American Chemical Society, and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.

Marian Nakada Ph.D., VP Venture Investments for Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, has almost 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, starting her career at the laboratory bench at Centocor and moving to a research leadership role before Centocor’s acquisition by Johnson & Johnson in 1999.  She transitioned to Janssen Business Development where she executed deals to support the expansion of the Biologics portfolio.  She joined JJDC, Johnson & Johnson’s corporate venture group in 2013.   She is passionate about leveraging Johnson & Johnson’s capabilities to help her portfolio companies succeed.  Marian has a B.A. in Biology from Harvard College and a Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Pennsylvania.  She is currently on the Boards of Navitor Pharmaceuticals, Twenty-eight Seven Therapeutics, Ribon Therapeutics, Artizan Biosciences as well as the New England Venture Capital Association where she is working to champion change as an active contributor to its Diversity & Inclusion Committee. 

Noam Soloman is the CEO and Co-Founder at immunai, the first and only company to map the entire immune system for better detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. Leveraging single-cell technologies and machine learning algorithms, immunai has mapped out thousands of immune cells and their functions, building the largest proprietary data set in the world for clinical immunological data. Prior to co-founding immunai, Noam had a dual career in both the industry and academia. Noam is a double Ph.D., and served as a post-doctoral researcher in the Mathematics department at MIT, and in the center of mathematical sciences and applications at Harvard University. In his research, he developed and applied tools from algebra and Algebraic Geometry in the study of classical problems in combinatorics. Noam also worked as an algorithms developer in the Israeli defense forces and subsequently as a data scientist, consultant and head of data science in several hi-tech companies in Israel.

Alice Zhang is the CEO and Co-Founder of Verge Genomics. Alice has been named a Forbes 30 Under 30 Featured Honoree, MIT Technology Review’s Innovator Under 35, and SF Business Times’ 40 Under 40. Prior to Verge, she spent seven years at the forefront of systems biology research at the National Cancer Institute, the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University, and UCLA. She spent five years in the UCLA-Caltech MD/PhD program, where she helped author several papers on gene networks involved in neuroregeneration.  Alice received her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in Molecular Biology and was a recipient of the prestigious Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. In her spare time, Alice also is an angel investor and advisor for startups at the intersection of technology and biology.

Phyllis Barkman Ferrell 
is the Global Head of External Engagement for Alzheimer’s disease and Neurodegeneration at Eli Lilly & Company, where she previously served as the leader of the Global Alzheimer’s disease development team. Ferrell’s most recent prior position was Vice President of the Chief Commercial Services Officer for Eli Lilly and Company.

Ferrell has been with Lilly for more than 25 years and has held many leadership roles throughout the organization. She has led efforts in medical affairs, medical development, commercial capabilities, sales, marketing, recruiting, business development, strategy, transformation, Six Sigma, and corporate financial planning. 

Ferrell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and management with minors in computational mathematics and Asian studies from DePauw University. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with Magna Cum Laude honors in 1994. She received an MBA in general management and a certificate in public management from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 2001 and graduated with both Arjay Miller Scholar honors and as the Arbuckle Award recipient.

Dr. Mylea Charvat became interested in the brain at age 13 when her grandmother began to suffer cognitive problems. A clinician with a business background, she was an early employee with Travelocity in the 1990s and went on to train as a clinical neuropsychologist and neuroscientist and in 2015 founded Savonix. At Savonix, Mylea drives strategy to address dementia globally with business and clinical leaders and works as a domain expert in digital cognitive assessment with partners from Boston University to Fortune 50 CEOs seeking to detect and prevent cognitive decline and dementias.

Mylea has authored several peer review publications in mental health and neuroimaging. She completed her fellowship in clinical neuroscience at Stanford and has been a lecturer at Stanford, The University of San Francisco and San Francisco State University. She is a contributor for Psychology Today, has written for Tech Crunch and Huffington Post and appeared as a subject matter expert at many conferences including MedTech Showcase, The Atlantic Council, the NIH and NIA and with the Duke Leadership Program.

Mylea is committed to advancing the integration of cognitive health data into mainstream healthcare. The inspiration for Savonix came when her husband was severely injured in an accident and she experienced, first-hand, the difficulty in attaining vital health data needed to achieve recovery – including cognitive screening. She realized that if access was difficult for her with all her connections, that it must be virtually nonexistent for most people. She got to know the spouses and parents of other patients. What she learned in these conversations was a wake-up call. With a blossoming career ahead of her in academic medicine, Dr. Charvat left over a decade of work and a prestigious career path toward professorship to found Savonix.

Howard Fillit, MD, Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, is an internationally recognized geriatrician, neuroscientist, expert in Alzheimer's
disease and an innovative philanthropy executive.The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation is a nonprofit whose mission is to rapidly accelerate the discovery and development of drugs to prevent and
treat Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Fillit has had a distinguished academic medicine career and is currently a clinical professor of geriatric medicine and palliative care, medicine and neurosciences at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Throughout his career, Dr. Fillit has maintained a limited private practice in consultative geriatric medicine with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Fillit has received numerous awards and honors including the Rita Hayworth Award from the Alzheimer’s Association, and has authored or co-authored more than 350 scientific and clinical

Professor Ritchie is a world-leading authority on dementia and has been a senior investigator on more than 30 drug trials of both disease-modifying and symptomatic agents for the condition. Professor Ritchie is leading the PREVENT project to identify mid-life risks for dementia, and the European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia (EPAD) consortium, to understand early aspects of Alzheimer’s disease before dementia develops.

Professor Ritchie has extensive knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry, having sat on advisory boards of numerous pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, and clinical research organizations, all with an interest in developing drugs and clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease. Professor Ritchie is the Chair of the Scottish Dementia Research Consortium, Professor of the Psychiatry of Ageing and Director of the Centre for Dementia Prevention at the University of Edinburgh, Director of Brain Health Scotland, Associate Director of the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility and Co Coordinator at IMI-EPAD.

Michael C. Rice, MS, MBA Mike leads Cello Health BioConsulting’s Gene and Cell Therapeutics and Rare Diseases practices. He also co-heads the oncology practice focusing on hematologic malignancies and genetically defined cancers. Prior to Cello Health BioConsulting, Mike gained over a decade of experience creating new biotech ventures from academic inventions pertaining to nucleic acids and cellular platforms applied across monogenetic diseases and oncology. Industry positions involved translational research, strategic planning, technology transfer, finance and business development.

Mike holds an MBA, with a concentration in Biotechnology from the Alfred Lerner School of Business and Economics, at the University of Delaware, an MS in Molecular Pharmacology from Thomas Jefferson University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Delaware. Mike studied the molecular basis of cancer at the Kimmel Cancer Institute and is recognized for his extensive intellectual property and publication portfolio pertaining to cancer genetics, recombinational DNA repair, gene therapy, diagnostics, and agricultural trait improvement.

Mike is a member of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT), the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM), the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC), the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the Licensing Executives Society (LES), and the American Heart Association (AHA).

Sapan Shah, Ph.D. joined StrideBio as Chief Executive Officer in January 2019, and has led efforts to expand the company’s scientific platform, operations, and external partnerships to support an innovative pipeline of engineered adeno-associated virus vectors and gene therapy products targeting rare disorders. Dr. Shah has spent the past 20 years as an advisor, entrepreneur, founder and chief executive working with innovative companies advancing novel therapeutics for areas of unmet medical need. Prior roles have included CEO of ARMGO Pharma, CEO of Shionogi Inc., Co-founder and Chairman of Ezose Sciences, Founder and CEO of Novatherx, Entrepreneur in Residence at Yale University and Associate Principal at McKinsey & Company. Dr. Shah holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University and B.A. degrees in Mathematics, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Cell Biology from the Integrated Science Program at Northwestern University.

Faraz Ali has been the Chief Executive Officer at Tenaya Therapeutics since 2018.  Tenaya has a mission to discover, develop, and deliver curative therapies that target the underlying causes of heart disease, and that advance innovative science derived from three multi-modality product platforms: Regeneration, Gene Therapy, and Precision Medicine.  Mr. Ali was previously Chief Business Officer at REGENXBIO, a leading in vivo AAV gene therapy company. Prior to that, he was a Vice President at bluebird bio, a leading ex vivo LVV gene therapy company. Mr. Ali also had roles of increasing global commercial leadership at Genzyme Corporation, where he helped launch multiple first-in-class enzyme replacement therapies for rare (orphan) diseases. He started his career at General Electric, including technical roles at GE Healthcare and business assignments at GE Corporate. Mr. Ali received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and his B.S. from Stanford University. He is the proud father of three little girls – including identical twins – who teach him more about nature vs nurture than can be gained from any biology textbook.

Geoff McDonough, MD is the president and CEO of Generation Bio, which is developing a new class of gene therapy – redosable, titratable, and manufacturable at scale, with the potential for wide therapeutic reach in both rare and prevalent indications. Geoff formerly served as president and chief executive officer of Swedish Orphan Biovitrum AB (Sobi) from 2011– 2017. Prior to Sobi, he held a variety of senior roles at Genzyme Corporation, including president of Genzyme Europe and senior vice president and general manager of the global lysosomal storage disease business. Geoff has a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating summa cum laude in both. He obtained his doctor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency training in internal medicine and pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children's Hospital.