• Help researchers navigate the challenges of drug development.
    • Provide a rigorous but collaborative approach to managing the drug development process that is driven by timelines and milestones.
    • Provide financial resources and advisory capabilities.
    • Leverage expertise across USC and enable access to existing core facilities to support drug discovery activities.
    • De-risk projects and enhance the likelihood of partnership and progression to clinical development.
    • Connect to a highly collaborative, NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, clinical trial expertise, and one of the most diverse patient populations in the country.
    • Earlier access to innovative preclinical drug candidates that can be expedited to IND readiness.
    • Formulate partnering strategies that will de-risk projects and accelerate path to patients.
    • Flexible agreement models that are mutually beneficial.

External Advisory Committee

  • Michael Jackson PhD
    Michael Jackson, PhD

    Michael Jackson, PhD, is senior vice president of Drug Development at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, where he oversees the bicoastal operations of the Prebys Center, the Institute’s Drug Discovery enterprise. His overall goal is to generate a pipeline of first in class small molecule therapeutics based on breakthrough discoveries on the molecular basis of disease made by investigators at the institute and collaborators. He holds an appointment as Adjunct Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology of Cancer at the NCI-designated Sanford Burnham Prebys Cancer Center.

    Upon joining SBP in 2009, Dr. Jackson managed, and then led as Principal Investigator, SBP’s NIH-funded Molecular Libraries Probe Comprehensive Center, which successfully executed over 100 HTS campaigns with collaborators across the nation. Over a six-year period, the center generated >30 million screening data points and produced over 60 chemical probe reports published through the NCBI bookshelf. Since the Molecular Libraries program ended, the Prebys Center has continued to operate in a highly collaborative framework, conducting HTS screens against >25 targets each year in search of drug leads to advance to therapeutics. Dr. Jackson is integrally involved in the Prebys Center’s outreach and translational efforts that include over 35 ongoing collaborations, supported by grants, collaborations, and contracts.

    Dr. Jackson has held leadership roles including president of Research and Development at Alza Corporation, senior vice president of drug discovery at J&J Pharmaceutical Research and Development, and vice president of drug discovery and senior director at R.W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development.

    Dr. Jackson earned a PhD in Molecular Biology and Toxicology from the University of Dundee. He completed his postdoctoral studies at the Scripps Research Institute, where he focused on intracellular transport and antigen presentation in the lab of Peter Peterson, and subsequently held an assistant professorship in Cell Biology. He earned a BS in Botany and Biochemistry from Durham University.

  • Mark Namchuk, PhD
    Mark Namchuk, PhD

    Mark Namchuk, PhD is the executive director of therapeutics translation and Professor of the Practice in the department of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School (HMS).  Dr. Namchuk works with HMS scientists to identify and harness basic insights and progress them towards tomorrow’s medicines creating an infrastructure that advances the School’s scientific discoveries along a translational trajectory while training the next generation of therapeutics investigators.

    Dr. Namchuk joined HMS after a 24-year research and development career in the biotech industry, working in a number of areas, including drug discovery, translational science and pharmaceutical development. In 2015, he joined Alkermes as senior vice president of research and nonclinical and pharmaceutical development. Previously, Dr. Namchuk held a number of senior research positions at Vertex Pharmaceuticals over 17 years, including senior vice president of North American research and interim global head of research.  Dr. Namchuk began his drug discovery career at Cubist Pharmaceuticals as head of the enzymology group.

    Over more than two decades, he has directed drug discovery efforts in numerous therapeutic areas, including infectious disease, oncology, neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders, immune-mediated inflammatory disease, inflammatory bowel disease and orphan diseases, including cystic fibrosis. These responsibilities encompassed scientific oversight of the various disciplines in discovery science, drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics, preclinical and clinical biomarker development, nonclinical safety and pharmaceutical development.

    Dr. Namchuk received his BSc in chemistry with honors from the University of Alberta, his PhD in bioorganic chemistry at the University of British Columbia, and was a Human Frontier Science Program postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco.

  • Iva Toudjarska, PhD
    Iva Toudjarska, PhD, MBA

    Iva Toudjarska, PhD, MBA is a VP, Portfolio Operations at Xontogeny, a Boston based life sciences accelerator that invests in, supports and advances life science technologies from early development through clinical proof-of-concept.

    Prior to Xontogeny, Dr. Toudjarska was SVP, BRIDGEs Partnerships North America and NewCos at Evotec, responsible for the growing portfolio of academic and strategic partnerships aiming to de-risk early-stage breakthrough science and create investments into NewCos. She was responsible for establishing a due diligence pipeline, setting up operations and selecting new opportunities for investment for the BRIDGE partnerships. As part of engagement with University and investors, she provided development strategy and advisory to individual academic investigators, investors, and translational fund committees.

    Prior to joining Evotec, Dr. Toudjarska spent six years in Biopharma strategy consulting, leading Halloran Consulting’s Development Strategy and Due Diligence practice and prior to that, at Putnam Associates, a leading boutique commercial strategy firm.

    Previously, Dr. Toudjarska was a founding employee at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, the leader in RNAi therapeutics. During her nine-year tenure at Alnylam, as part of a multi-disciplinary team she advanced several programs to clinic, most notably ALN-RSV (a virology program) and ALN-VSP (an oncology program).

    Dr. Toudjarska started her academic career in Bulgaria’s Molecular Genetics diagnostics laboratory where she was responsible for genetic diagnoses of newborns nation-wide. Dr. Toudjarska earned a Doctor of Philosophy from Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Molecular Genetics and Masters of Business Administration from F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College.

    Dr. Toudjarska is currently part of the Fred Hutch Evergreen translational fund advisory board and Harvard Medical School Initiative for RNA Medicine Business Advisory Board. She has continuously mentored in the Biopharma and tech ecosystem- through HBA Boston, MassConnect, Social Innovation Lab at John Hopkins.

  • Stefan J. Scherer
    Stefan Scherer, MD, PhD

    Stefan Scherer, MD, PhD is CEO of 3TBiosciences, Inc. A preeminent thought leader in the field of precision medicine and drug development, and an expert in academic alliances and partnerships, Dr. Scherer brings extensive expertise in drug development, clinical science, translational medicine, and overseeing development strategies for early- to late-stage assets.

    Dr. Scherer has served as global head of experimental medicine at GSK, as well as chief marketing officer and senior vice president of clinical development at Cellectis, Inc. A leader in clinical, academic, and public-private partnerships, Dr. Scherer served as chair of the Strategic Governing Group of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI)—an EU public-private commission to facilitate open collaborations in research—where he led strategic direction to advance and accelerate the development of patient access to personalized medicines.

    Dr. Scherer served at Novartis, Inc., as vice president of head early development and medical innovation, and vice president of global head correlative services. He has led strategic development of biomarker programs across all oncology indications at Genentech, Inc. and Roche Pharmaceuticals.

    Dr. Scherer earned his MD from the University of Freiburg, Gemany, where he graduated magna cum laude the completed a PhD in Physiological Chemistry, Oncology, and Cell Biology from the Julius Maximillians University of Würzburg, Germany, where he graduated summa cum laude. He earned a postgraduate diploma in Bioinformatics from the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Germany. In addition, he is a graduate of the Venture Finance Programme at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School, UK.

    Dr. Scherer is also a member of the board of Makucell, Inc., a research-based skin care company which provides regenerative medicine biotechnology solutions.

Contact

Have an interesting cancer drug target or therapeutic?

Faculty are invited to complete the intake form and return this form to mesh.academy@usc.edu.

Contact MESH directly and start the conversation with Melissa Rodgers, rodgersm@usc.edu.