The MESH team brings experience in both academic and industry, including business development, industry relations and entrepreneurial mentoring.

  • Vasiliki Anest
    Vasiliki Anest, PhD, Chief Innovation Officer; Head of MESH Strategic Partnerships

    As the inaugural Chief Innovation Officer at the Keck School of Medicine (KSOM) of the University of Southern California, Dr. Vasiliki Anest is at the helm of shaping KSOM’s innovation trajectory. This position is endowed by the Vassiliadis Family Foundation. Her dynamic leadership is central to advancing the school’s research capabilities across more than 30 institutes and centers, where she plays a pivotal role in spearheading innovation, facilitating collaboration, and uncovering opportunities to pioneer next-generation healthcare products and services. Guiding KSOM through a transformative phase, Dr. Anest has adeptly directed diverse teams within the institution’s multifaceted framework. Her strategic foresight has been crucial in launching three groundbreaking initiatives: MESH Strategic Partnerships, the Brown Center for Cancer Drug Development, and the AI-MEDx Collaboratory, all dedicated to converting research into actionable, patient-oriented outcomes.

    Prior to her affiliation with USC in 2013, Dr. Anest made substantial contributions at Life Technologies Corporation, undertaking significant roles that spanned epigenetics R&D, oncology global market development, and the cultivation of international R&D partnerships. This diverse experience has honed her ability to transcend functional and divisional boundaries, leveraging project- and alliance-based business models to fuel organizational growth and profitability. Her extensive 20-year background encompasses research and development, academic-industry relationships, strategic partnerships, business development, and the orchestration of innovation strategy and management.

    Following her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Anest was honored with a Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) Fellowship at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD. She then pursued a Ph.D. in Genetics and Molecular Biology at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina, under the tutelage of Dr. Albert Baldwin. Her scholarly excellence was recognized with the Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award in 2004. Subsequently, as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. C. David Allis at The Rockefeller University, she earned a prestigious fellowship from the Cancer Research Institute, focusing on the interplay between epigenetics and immunology.

  • Steve Kay
    Steve Kay, PhD, DSc, FRS, Founding Director

    Professor Steve Kay FRS is the Founding Director of the MESH Strategic Partnerships, as well as the Director of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. Dr. Kay is a Provost Professor of Neurology, Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. From 2012 to 2015, he held the position as the 21st dean of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

    Dr. Kay is one of the world’s top experts on the genetics and genomics of circadian rhythms, and was recently elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 2019. Having published more than 200 papers, he was named by Thomson Reuters as one of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” from 2014 to 2019 and has been cited in Science magazine’s “Breakthroughs of the Year” three times since 1997. In 2008, Dr. Kay was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2009, he was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2011, he was awarded the American Society of Plant Biologists’ 2011 Martin Gibbs Medal for his pioneering work in plant sciences.

    Dr. Kay received his PhD and DSc from the University of Bristol, United Kingdom. Prior to joining USC in 2012, Dr. Kay served as dean of biological sciences at the University of California, San Diego. He also has held faculty positions at The Rockefeller University, University of Virginia and The Scripps Research Institute, as well as served as the VP of discovery research at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, where he focused on using high throughput technologies to push novel development candidates into the Novartis clinical pipeline. Dr. Kay served as president of The Scripps Research Institute from 2015 to 2016. In addition, he has founded several biotechnology companies.

  • Paula Cannon, PhD, Associate Director for Transdisciplinary Advocacy and Cross-School Championship
    Paula Cannon, PhD, Associate Director for Transdisciplinary Advocacy and Cross-School Championship

    Dr. Paula Cannon is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She leads a research team that studies viruses, stem cells, and gene therapy, with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS.

    Cannon earned a PhD from the University of Liverpool in the UK and did post-doctoral training at Harvard and Oxford. In addition to her position at USC, she has held faculty positions at Uniformed Services University and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. These positions provided her with opportunities to study highly pathogenic viruses of military significance and the therapeutic potential of bone marrow hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). Together, they shaped her current research program on the use of virus-based gene therapy vectors to engineer human HSC. Cannon’s research is funded by several foundations, the National Institutes of Health, and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

    She is a very active member of the USC community and served as Keck Faculty Council President (2014-2015), Academic Senate President (2016-2017), and Immediate Past President for the Academic Senate (2017-2018). Outside of her lab, she is known as a passionate advocate for the HIV community, whose ability to explain science in a straightforward and entertaining fashion makes her a sought-after and highly effective speaker.

  • Melissa J. Rodgers, PhD, Associate Director for Business Development and Industry Relations-2
    Melissa J. Rodgers, PhD, Director, Corporate Collaborations and Strategic Partnerships

    Dr. Rodgers is the director for the MESH Strategic Partnerships at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She is experienced in life science, medical device and healthcare IT commercialization; including technology evaluation, licensing and business development. Prior to joining USC, she was Manager of Intellectual Property and Market Strategy at the Innovation Lab, a healthcare technology incubator in Newport Beach, CA. Before that, she spent four years in the Office of Technology Development at the Salk Institute, first as an intern and then as a Licensing Associate. She received her PhD in Cell Regulation at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and completed her postdoctoral training at the Salk Institute.

  • Camilo Ansarah-Sobrinho, PhD, Associate Director for Business Development and Industry Relations
    Camilo Ansarah-Sobrinho, PhD, Director, Corporate Collaborations and Strategic Partnerships

    Camilo Ansarah-Sobrinho, Ph.D. is the director for the MESH Strategic Partnerships at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Dr. Ansarah brings more than eight years of experience in business development and technology commercialization and over 10 years of biomedical research experience to his role. His business development experience spans industry sectors from biotech/pharmaceuticals to digital health. Dr. Ansarah was previously a Licensing Associate at the USC Stevens Center for Innovation. Prior to joining USC, Dr. Ansarah worked as a Licensing Officer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and as a Technology Transfer Associate at the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland. He has a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from The George Washington University and a Master of Science in Microbiology from the University of São Paulo in Brazil. He has a certification in Biotechnology Business Management from the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School and is a Certified Licensing Professional. Dr. Ansarah has also authored 11 scientific publications.

  • Tian Deng, Ph.D., is the Manager for Business Development and Industry Relations
    Tian Deng, PhD, Manager, Corporate Collaborations and Strategic Partnerships

    Tian Deng, Ph.D., is the Manager for MESH at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Prior to joining USC, she worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. in the Southern California office, gaining experience in growth strategy and commercialization within the life science and healthcare industries. She earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), focusing on the application of nanomaterials in drug delivery and MRI contrast enhancement. During her time at UCLA, she interned at the UCLA Technology Development Group as a New Venture Fellow, where she discovered her passion for technology commercialization within the life science sector.

  • Emily Chu, MA, Program Administrator
    Emily Chu, MA, Program Administrator

    Emily Chu is program administrator for the MESH at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, where she coordinates all MESH events and assists with marketing. In addition to serving as event lead, Ms. Chu manages MESH’s social media presence and provides operational support.

    Ms. Chu’s interests focus on collaborative transdisciplinary projects. She joined the University of Southern California in 2015, where she served as project specialist for the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute prior to joining MESH in 2018. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Davis. She received her Master’s Degree in History with a focus on Archival Management from New York University.