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Beyond vaccines: Where mRNA technology goes next

The next class of mRNA tech is poised to provide for a wide range of applications — but what exactly does the immediate future hold? Our expert panel will break down the latest mRNA products in development and find out where the technology is headed.

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Jake Becraft

Jake Becraft

Co-founder and CEO, Strand Therapeutics

Jake Becraft is a synthetic biologist and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and CEO of Strand Therapeutics, and serves on its Board of Directors. Together with colleagues at MIT’s renowned Synthetic Biology Center, he led the development of the world’s first synthetic biology programming language for mRNA. Jake has been featured in Fierce Biotech, Bloomberg, the Boston Business Journal, and BioCentury, among others, for his vision and mission at Strand of applying this unique platform for real world disease applications. He has also been the recipient of prestigious national and international awards for his scientific and entrepreneurial achievements, including the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Award, the Andrew Viterbi Fellowship of MIT, Amgen Fellowship, and the Bristol-Myers Squibb 2018 Golden Ticket for recognition of Strand as an innovative startup. Beyond his work at Strand, Jake’s broader interests span synthetic biology, biologically engineered organism-machine interfaces, and the intersection of tech and biotech methodologies. He is an advocate among the life science entrepreneurial ecosystem for supporting young founders in biotech entrepreneurship. Currently, he serves on the advisory board of Starlight Ventures, an early stage venture firm, and also serves on the Executive Board of Public Health United, a non-profit focused on helping scientists better communicate their research for maximum impact. Previously, he served as a Science and Technology advisor to legislators in the Massachusetts State Legislature. Jake received his Ph.D. in Biological Engineering and Synthetic Biology from MIT and his B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduating Magna cum Laude with distinction. He is an author or inventor on numerous high profile publications, patents and white papers, including in top tier journals such as Nature Chemical Biology and PNAS.

Shehnaaz Suliman

Shehnaaz Suliman

Chief Executive Officer, ReCode Therapeutics

Dr. Suliman is a physician, drug developer and dealmaker with over 25 years of experience building and transforming small and large biopharmaceutical companies.

Prior to becoming CEO of ReCode Therapeutics in January 2022, she served as president and chief operating officer of Alector, a leading immuno-neurology and immuno-oncology company where she played a critical role growing, scaling, raising capital and advancing a late-stage development pipeline.

Prior to Alector, she served as senior vice president, corporate development and strategy at Theravance Biopharma from 2017 to 2019, where she helped deliver a $1B profit sharing partnership with Janssen for the company’s lead JAK inhibitor program.

Prior to Theravance, Dr. Suliman was vice president and global head, immunology, infectious diseases and specialty care at Roche from 2015 to 2017. Dr. Suliman worked for Genentech as a group leader and project team leader in the R&D Portfolio Management and Operations Group from 2010 to 2015, where she oversaw an early development portfolio of more than 30 programs across multiple therapeutic areas. She held various management roles of increasing responsibility at Gilead Sciences, Inc. between 2005 and 2010 and played a significant role in forward-integrating Gilead into new therapeutic areas through M&A. Prior to Gilead, Dr. Suliman was an investment banker with Lehman Brothers and Petkevich & Partners, advising numerous public and private companies on buy- and sell-side transactions.

She was named one of the 2017 Fiercest Women in Life Sciences and as one of the National Diversity Council’s Power 50 in 2021 (Most Influential Women in Business). Dr. Suliman serves as an independent director on the Board of Directors of Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc. (NASDAQ: RARE) and 10x Genomics (NASDAQ: TXG). Dr. Suliman received her M.D. (MB, ChB) from the University of Cape Town Medical School, South Africa, and holds an MBA, with distinction, and M.Phil. degrees from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

Thomas Madden

Thomas Madden

President and CEO, Acuitas Therapeutics

President & CEO of Acuitas Therapeutics, Dr. Thomas D. Madden is a world-renowned expert in the area of nanotechnology. Dr. Madden co-founded Acuitas Therapeutics in February 2009 and has guided the company into its position as a global leader through the development and application of lipid nanoparticle (LNP) technology. Acuitas Therapeutics partners with leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and prestigious academic institutions around the world, providing its proprietary LNP delivery technology to enable new drugs based on nucleic acid therapeutics.

Recent achievements include the use of its LNP delivery system in the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine COMIRNATY® that is being administered around the world. This success resulted in the recently announced partnership with Pfizer that enables the American multinational pharmaceutical company to use Acuitas Therapeutics’ LNP technology for up to 10 targets for vaccine or therapeutic development. Under Dr. Madden’s leadership, the team continues their work with partners to address serious illness and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis, malaria and more.

Dr. Madden obtained his BSc. and Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of London, U.K. He has held several senior academic and industry positions including Assistant Professor in Pharmacology at the University of British Columbia and Senior Director, Technology Development and Licensing at Tekmira Pharmaceuticals.

Ronald Plasterk

Ronald Plasterk

Senior Vice President of Science & Innovation, CureVac

Dr. Plasterk has over 30 years’ experience as a molecular biologist. He joined CureVac as part of the acquisition of Frame Cancer Therapeutics, a private company he founded in 2018 focused on advanced genomics and bioinformatics to identify both unique and shared neoantigens across different cancer types. Prior to Frame, he worked in politics and served as both the Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science and of the Interior and Overseas Territories.

He has held multiple academic leadership positions, including Endowed Professor of Molecular Biology at the Free University of Amsterdam and then Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Amsterdam. Dr. Plasterk was also group leader of the Netherlands Cancer Institute/Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital. He was also a postdoc at the California Institute of Technology and at the Cambridge MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (UK). Dr. Plasterk holds a doctorate in biology of the University of Leiden.

Nicole DeFeudis

Nicole DeFeudis

Editor, Endpoints News

Nicole DeFeudis is a Bay State native and proud University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department graduate. She previously covered local news as a general assignment reporter at the Lowell Sun, and has also written for the Boston Globe Magazine, Daily Hampshire Gazette, and Worcester Telegram & Gazette. When she isn’t working on a story, you’ll find Nicole kayaking or lost in a good book.