Joseph F. Petrosino, PHD
Founder and Chief Science Officer
Joseph F. Petrosino, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine and the Director of the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research. He holds joint appointments in the Human Genome Sequencing Center, Department of Ophthalmology, and is a member of the Cell and Molecular Biology and Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine programs.
He obtained his undergraduate degree in microbiology and immunology with a distinction in research from the University of Rochester, followed by a PhD degree in microbiology and immunology from Baylor College of Medicine. He completed postdoctoral fellowship training in genetics at Baylor College of Medicine and was a Research Associate in the Human Genome Sequencing Center working on the functional genomics of biodefense and emerging infectious disease.
He was hired as a tenure-track faculty member at BCM in 2006 with a National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases funded Career Development Award Project from the Western Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Disease. His ongoing comparative genomics studies of Francisella tularensis, a pathogenic bacterium with the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety, have helped move the field closer to the goal of creating new rationally-designed attenuated and/or subunit vaccines for this Category A select agent.
In 2007, Dr. Petrosino and his colleagues obtained funding through the NIH Common Fund for the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). As a large-scale sequencing center Principal Investigator for the HMP, Dr. Petrosino assisted in the lead of consortium efforts for standardized clinical sample preparation, sequencing, and analysis. This allowed microbial communities from diverse body sites and niches to be compared with minimal technical bias and has led to study design standards that are being implemented internationally.
As a result of the success of his efforts and to extend metagenomics and microbiome studies at BCM, the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research (CMMR) was established in January 2011, with Dr. Petrosino serving as its Director. Currently, the CMMR is pursuing over 200 metagenomics projects in humans and model systems with the goal to improve human health through detection and modulation of the microbes that reside on and in us and to translate these efforts into new diagnostics and therapeutics. Among the latest CMMR projects initiated is an $11.8M microbiome analysis of 18,000+ Type 1 Diabetes samples from the NIH/NIDDK TEDDY (The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young) study.
Dr. Petrosino has authored 40 original papers. Among 14 published in 2012 are the June HMP flagship manuscripts in Nature, collaborative studies examining microbiome associations with Cystic Fibrosis, pregnancy, nutritional intervention in colitis, rotavirus infection, and the shaping of the microbiome from birth in murine systems. He has been an invited to speak at numerous institutions and meetings nationally and internationally, and recently he has been named an American Society for Microbiology Distinguished Lecturer for 2012-2014.
Caroline Popper, MD MPH
CEO and Chairman
Dr. Popper is the President of Baylor College of Medicine Technologies (BCMT) and the co-founder and President of Popper and Company, a boutique life sciences consulting and M&A advisory firm with offices in Florida, Maryland and Canada. She has 20 years of hands-on biotech/life sciences operating experience. An internist and pathologist, subsequently trained in health economics, she combines this perspective with that gained from managing a wide spectrum of life sciences businesses in diagnostics, devices and drug discovery.
She has extensive diagnostic industry experience. In an 11-year career at Becton Dickinson (BD NYSE), Dr. Popper’s global responsibilities included clinical affairs, marketing, strategy, and business development. She was the founding General Manager of BDGene; a start-up focused, with its partner Millennium Pharmaceuticals, on development of novel cancer diagnostics. From 2000 to 2002, she was the Chief Business Officer for MDS Proteomics, a drug discovery company with operations in the US, Canada and Europe.
BCMT is the venture creation subsidiary of Baylor College of Medicine, and responsible for starting new companies based on inventions of Baylor faculty. Popper and Company provides strategic consulting as well as hands on management to a wide variety of venture-backed as well as public life science firms. The firm has been involved in the start-up of 9 companies in the last 36 months, consulted for several public multinationals and advised numerous companies in their deal activities.
Dr. Popper received her MD from the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and her MPH from Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore). She was a Robert Wood Johnson Fellow in Health Care Finance. She completed her residencies in Internal Medicine and in Pathology at Johns Hopkins.
Joy M. Nassif
Chief Operating Officer
Ms. Nassif has over 20 years experience in financial and executive management in the healthcare, diagnostic testing, and pharmaceutical industries. Her career has included demonstrated ability to maximize return on investment through aggressive working capital and operating expense management. Additionally, she has experience in building and operationalizing start-up corporations.
In the years prior to joining Diversigen, Ms. Nassif held leadership positions at Quest Diagnostics as Vice President of Clinical Trials, and Vice President of Anatomic Pathology. During her tenure at Quest Diagnostics, she developed the strategy for the pharmaceutical division, led the transformation of the international clinical trials business from loss making to profit, and launched the first profitable product in cytology for the company. She obtained a Green Belt in Six Sigma Quality.
Ms. Nassif held the positions of Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Franklin Heath, Inc. (A Corning Company). She was responsible for all aspects of operations and administration for this start-up healthcare company. Additionally, Ms. Nassif was director of Finance for Covance, Inc. working in its Phase II-III contract research organization. There, she had international responsibilities for pricing, contracts, revenue recognition, and budgeting.
Ms. Nassif graduated summa cum laude from Kean University with a BS in Accounting. She is a Certified Public Accountant. In addition to her corporate positions, she has served on the Board of Advisors for several non-profit groups and organizations.
Julia Cope, Phd
Director, Scientific Operations
Dr. Julia Cope is a microbiologist and plant pathologist with training in bioinformatics, and statistics. Her postdoctoral training included work in human microbiome projects for both research and clinical trials at the Texas Children’s Microbiome Center of Texas Children’s Hospital. She currently works with Diversigen, Inc. as the Director of Scientific Operations spearheading pre-clinical and clinical projects in the Microbiome on Human and Animal Health. She has extensive experience in microbiome study design, handling of various sample types, multiple sequencing platforms and the underlying bioinformatics analysis.
Jean-Philippe Laine, PHD
Director of Business Development
Dr. Laine has seven years of experience in consultative business development of enabling technologies supporting Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology companies in their R&D and biomarker discovery efforts.
Prior to joining Diversigen, Dr. Laine has successfully held sales and business development positions with increasing responsibility for mid- to large-size companies focusing on Omics services across the pre-clinical and clinical pharmaceutical value chain. Dr. Laine was instrumental in the launch of various metabolite-based products in the United States, notably MetaMap©Tox, a database for early assessment/prediction of toxicity and MxP© Quality Control Plasma, an assay testing for pre-analytical errors occurring during plasma generation.
Dr. Laine received his PhD in Molecular Biology with a minor in Immunology and Physiology from the University Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France, in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in Baltimore, MD, USA. His Doctorate and Post-Doctoral resulted in 12 peer-reviewed publications and reviews on the regulation of gene expression and DNA repair in human and yeast cells.
Nadim J. Ajami, PHD
Nadim J. Ajami, PhD received his PhD in Molecular Virology and Microbiology from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He is a young and self-driven scientist with vast experience in the fields of virology and microbiology. Dr. Ajami obtained a BSc in clinical microbiology from the Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogota, Colombia, where his work helped establish a link between an outbreak of a gastrointestinal viral infection in the young and a contaminated water source of a rural town in Colombia. He then moved to University of Sao Paulo, in Sao Paulo, Brazil to study the effect of tumorigenic proteins and anti-tumorigenic metabolites isolated from bacteria. His doctoral work at Baylor College of Medicine included developing methods for the detection and characterization of a viral etiology of a gastrointestinal disease that affects travelers worldwide. These studies led to the characterization of the immune response established after the viral infection as post-doctoral work.
Dr. Ajami currently serves as a Research Associate and Senior Project Manager for the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research at Baylor College of Medicine, where he is engaged in developing next generation molecular and bioinformatics tools for the advancement of the microbiome research world. His achievements include numerous peer-reviewed publications and multiple awards for his research.
J. Russ Carmical, PHD
Director of Operations
J. Russ Carmical, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine in the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research and the Director of Operations for Diversigen.
He obtained his undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology from the University of Texas at Dallas, followed by a PhD degree in Molecular Toxicology from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB). His postdoctoral training was carried out at Phase-1 Molecular Toxicology, a start-up company focused on the development of microarray technologies to be utilized in drug toxicity testing.
He was previously an Assistant Professor in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and assistant director of the Molecular Genetics Core at UTMB. During his tenure at UTMB, he co-authored 19 original manuscripts that were published in peer review journals and was active in teaching in the graduate school of biomedical sciences.
In addition to his academic career, Dr. Carmical has extensive experience in directing laboratories under 21 CFR 58 – Good Laboratory Practice Regulations and has served as a consultant to a number of large DNA sequence providers.
Dr. Carmical is active in the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities (ABRF) where he has served as chairman of the Nucleic Acid Research Group (NARG) and as a member of the Metagenomics Research Group. In 2012 he received the Outstanding Scientist/Technologist Award. He has served both as an invited speaker and chaired a round table discussion on biobanking.
George Gunn, PHD
Member, Board of Directors
Dr. Gunn is renowned for his successful leadership and contributions to the global animal health and pharmaceutical industries.
Until January 2015, he was Division Head of Novartis Animal Health and a member of the Novartis Executive Committee. Dr. Gunn joined Novartis in 2003 as Head of Novartis Animal Health, North America and became global head of the Animal Health Business Unit in 2004. In addition to this role, he was Division Head, Novartis Consumer Health, from 2008 to 2011 and served as Head of Corporate Social Responsibility from 2011 to 2014.
Before joining Novartis, Dr. Gunn was president of U.S. based Pharmacia Animal Health. His previous positions included a succession of healthcare executive roles over the course of 18 years for leading animal health and pharmaceutical firms including Johnson & Johnson, Pharmacia and, Coopers Animal Health Ltd. Additionally, Dr. Gunn practiced nine years as a veterinary surgeon.
Dr. Gunn graduated with a bachelor of veterinary medicine and surgery from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in the United Kingdom in 1973 and received a diploma in veterinary state medicine from the same school in 1978. In 2008, he received an honorary doctorate in veterinary medicine and surgery from the University of Edinburgh where he was appointed Regent. Dr. Gunn is past Chairman of the UK National Office of Animal Health and the global animal health industry association, the International Federation of Animal Health (IFAH) . Dr. Gunn is a recipient of the Pharmacia Chairman’s Leadership award, the Novartis Chairman’s award for talent development and a special award from the IFAH for his contribution to the industry.
Dr. Gunn founded Stonehaven Consulting AG, an industry consulting firm in which he remains active. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Philbro Animal Health Corporation and Pharmaq AS and as Chairman of the Board at Nexvet Biopharma Pty Ltd.
Adam Kuspa, PHD
Member, Board of Directors
Dr. Kuspa is Senior Vice President for Research at Baylor College of Medicine. He received his BA in Biochemistry from the University of California at San Diego, his PhD in biochemistry from Stanford University and he served as an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at San Diego. He joined the Baylor College of Medicine faculty in 1993 as an assistant professor of biochemistry and has been involved in several programs, including Developmental Biology and Molecular and Human Genetics, as well as the Human Genome Sequencing Center. Dr. Kuspa was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2005. He served as chair of the Verna and Marrs McLean Department of Biochemistry from March 2006 to April 2011, and was named to head Baylor College of Medicine’s research enterprise in July 2010. In addition to working at many levels to achieve the college’s strategic vision in research, Dr. Kuspa’s own federally funded laboratory currently investigates how eukaryotic cells kill bacteria.
Dr. Kuspa’s interests include the signaling systems that regulate the development and cell differentiation of the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum, and the recognition of bacteria by amoeba. He directed the consortium that completed the first genome sequence of an amoeba, uncovering genes previously thought to be specific to animals or plants. Recently, he discovered an innate immune system in the social amoeba that utilizes protein homologs found in similar systems in plants and animals, suggesting a common evolutionary origin for bacterial recognition by eukaryotes. Collaborative efforts include the development of functional genomic tools, such as the use of global transcriptional profiling for genetic epistasis analyses and the genetic analysis of the evolution of eusociality that has identified numerous pathways involved in the stabilization of cellular cooperation.
F. John Mills, MD PHD
Member, Board of Directors
Dr. Mills is Chairman of BioStorage Technologies Inc., a company he co-founded in 2003 to provide management, logistics, and storage services for biological specimens and datato life science companies. He is an accomplished healthcare industry executive and entrepreneur with a background in general management of contract research organizations and pharmaceutical development for over 30 years. Prior to forming BioStorage Technologies, he held various senior executive level positions at Covance Inc. as the Executive Committee member managing the Central Laboratory Services globally and was previously Head of the European Clinical Research Organization while living in the U.K. Prior to Covance he was Medical Director and a board member of Janssen Pharmaceutical Ltd UK and, subsequently, Janssen Pharmaceutica’s Regional Medical Director for SE Asia, based in Singapore.
Mills received his MD from Cambridge University and his PhD in endocrinology from Surrey University in the United Kingdom. He holds diplomas in pharmaceutical medicine, aviation medicine, and marketing and has authored more than 40 scientific papers as well as a textbook on aviation medicine. He currently sits on the boards of directors for Intelsius plc, HC1.com Corporation and previously served on the boards of IBT Laboratories and ChanTest Corporation, recently acquired by Charles River Labs.