October 03
11:00 am - 12:00 pm EDT


Targeted Protein Degraders – Key Strategies to Maximize VC Funding and Clinical Success

Targeted protein degraders (TPD) have recently emerged as a novel class of small molecules with the potential to expand the scope of druggable targets, thereby improving the outcomes of diseases. This has stimulated investor interest, leading to the launch of several companies developing TPDs that have raised over $2 billion in the past few years. However, these companies are not immune to market conditions and must now demonstrate that their scientific results translate into the developability of a drug product while also establishing its clinical safety and efficacy. To achieve this, it is critical to establish a solid development pathway that addresses the drug molecule’s risks related to bioavailability, drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK) properties, target selection, safety, efficacy, manufacturing, and market factors like disease indication and patient’s preferred route of administration.

In this panel discussion, experts will explore the current investment and clinical landscape of TPD. They will provide insights on how to best position TPD to attract VC funding, how TPD have distinct advantages over more traditional inhibiting drugs, and the importance of tailored developability assessment in identifying lead TPD candidates with high likelihood of clinical success.

Key learning objectives
  • Gain insights into the latest trends in venture capital funding and understand the key parameters investors consider when evaluating potential investments in targeted protein degraders.
  • Stay updated on the current clinical progress of TPD.
  • Understand the concept of molecule developability and its critical role in providing insights into whether the drug candidate has the potential to progress successfully through preclinical studies and clinical trials.

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Lisa Caralli

Lisa Caralli

Senior Director, Scientific Advisory, Catalent

Lisa Caralli is Senior Director, Scientific Advisory at Catalent San Diego. She has over 30 years of industry experience in pharmaceutical research and development. Lisa's area of expertise is analytical methods and formulation development of small molecules and peptides. In her role, she works with pharmaceutical companies to identify the right development pathway for their early development drug candidates and advances new technical offerings within Catalent.

Ronak Savla

Ronak Savla

Director, Strategic Ventures, Catalent

Ronak Savla is Director, Strategic Ventures at Catalent Pharma Solutions. In his role, Ronak is responsible for expanding and nurturing the company’s strategic partnerships with life science venture capital firms, biotechnology incubators, consulting firms, and academic technology transfer offices. Ronak also manages the Catalent’s fund-of-funds representing the company’s limited partnership positions and works with an expanded team on the company’s direct venture investments. Previously, Ronak led the Medical Affairs and Competitive Intelligence functions at a biotechnology company harnessing the innate immune system to develop novel therapeutics. Ronak supported the commercial launch of a novel agent for a rare leukemia and was responsible for all aspects of Medical Affairs including medical information, medical education, medical science liaisons, investigator-sponsored clinical trials, Phase 4 post-marketing safety study, and KOL engagement. Ronak also built the Competitive Intelligence and New Product Planning function to drive business decisions regarding asset prioritization and indication selection. Outside of his professional role, Ronak is an Angel Investor with the HealthTech Capital group focused on funding and mentoring startups to disrupt healthcare delivery. Ronak is also an Adjunct Associate Professor within the Department of Pharmacy Practice at Rutgers University. Ronak has a Pharm.D. and Ph.D. from Rutgers University and a M.B.A. from Johns Hopkins University – Carey Business School.

Olga Danilchanka

Olga Danilchanka

Principal, MRL Ventures

Olga Danilchanka is a Principal at MRL Ventures Fund, the corporate venture arm of Merck & Co. Olga's focus is on investing in preclinical stage companies that translate novel biology into human medicines across therapeutic areas of high unmet need. Currently, she serves as a Director on the board of Therini Bio and as an Observer on the boards of Ambagon Therapeutics, Caraway Therapeutics, Eyebiotech Limited (EyeBio), and PAQ Therapeutics. Prior to joining MRLV in 2018, Olga coordinated the microbiome discovery efforts at the MRL Cambridge Exploratory Science Center, a subsidiary of Merck & Co, where she was responsible for identifying immunological pathways through which the microbiome may contribute to disease progression. Before her time at Merck, Olga worked at Epiva Biosciences, a startup founded by Flagship Pioneering (merged with Evelo Biosciences). Olga has a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and completed her postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School.

Gwenn M. Hansen

Gwenn M. Hansen

Chief Scientific Officer, Nurix Therapeutics

Gwenn M. Hansen, Ph.D., has served as Chief Scientific Officer of Nurix since June 2020 and served as the company’s Senior Vice President, Research from July 2019 through May 2020. Since joining Nurix in 2015, Gwenn has focused on establishing the company’s DNA encoded library technology platform for small molecule discovery in addition to leading the discovery organization. Prior to joining Nurix, Gwenn was an Associate Professor in the Center for Drug Discovery at Baylor College of Medicine and served in a variety of discovery-focused roles at Lexicon Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Hansen holds a B.A. in Biology from Gustavus Adolphus College and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Querida Anderson

Querida Anderson

Editorial Director and Biopharma expert

Querida Anderson is an editorial director and biopharma expert with 18 years of experience building intrepid reporting teams. Most recently, she was the managing editor for Fierce Biotech, Medtech, Pharma and Healthcare where she led the group’s news, analysis and special reports as well as ‘The Top Line’ and ‘Podnosis’ podcasts. Before joining Fierce, she was the editor in chief of GlobalData’s investigative pharma news team, formerly known as BioPharm Insight when it was owned by the Financial Times Group and subsequently BC Partners. Prior to that, she was the managing online editor at Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. Querida also is a regular moderator at industry conferences and events, has produced science news stories and documentaries for various networks like ABC, NBC, The Discovery Channel and National Geographic and has a master’s in Science and Health Journalism.