UK markets closed
  • NIKKEI 225

    -546.97 (-1.87%)

    -118.49 (-0.45%)

    -0.76 (-0.91%)

    -1.20 (-0.07%)
  • DOW

    -6.26 (-0.02%)

    -2,535.93 (-5.29%)
  • CMC Crypto 200

    -47.67 (-3.11%)
  • ^IXIC

    +94.02 (+0.62%)
  • ^FTAS

    -16.45 (-0.40%)

Aarvik Therapeutics Appoints Dr. Richard Scheller to Board of Directors, Dr. Melissa Starovasnik to Scientific Advisory Board, and Announces Scientific Team

·10-min read

FREMONT, Calif., September 23, 2021--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aarvik Therapeutics, a biotechnology company dedicated to engineering precision medicines for cancer therapy, is excited to announce that Richard Scheller, PhD has joined as an Independent Board Member and Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) Chair.

Dr. Scheller currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors and Chairman of Research & Development at BridgeBio. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of 23andMe, Alector, Inc., DICE Therapeutics, and Maze Therapeutics. Dr. Scheller has previously served as the Chief Science Officer and Head of Therapeutics at 23andMe. From 2001 to 2014, Dr. Scheller was the Senior Vice President of Research and then Executive Vice President of Research and Early Development and a member of the Executive Committee at Genentech, Inc. From 2009 to 2014, he was a member of the Enlarged Executive Committee at Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. Dr. Scheller is a recipient of the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience and the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine. Dr. Scheller holds a BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a PhD in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology.

"We are indeed delighted to have Dr. Richard Scheller join the Aarvik team as a member of the Board of Directors and SAB Chair," said Jagath Reddy Junutula, PhD, Co-founder, President and CEO of Aarvik Therapeutics. "His deep scientific rigor and outstanding biotech executive experience will help us immensely in taking Aarvik Therapeutics to the next level."

"I look forward to reuniting with several of my former colleagues from Genentech in this new endeavor," said Dr. Scheller. "Aarvik Therapeutics has outstanding scientific expertise, advanced protein engineering platforms and the vision to make a difference for cancer patients. I am honored to join their efforts."

Aarvik Therapeutics is also excited to announce that Melissa Starovasnik, PhD will serve as an SAB member. Dr. Starovasnik is an accomplished scientific leader and executive in the field of protein sciences, including protein/antibody therapeutics and small molecule drug discovery. She spent 28 years at Genentech in roles of increasing responsibility and was an integral member of the research leadership team. As Vice President, Protein Sciences, and head of large-molecule drug discovery from 2011-2017, she was responsible for overseeing the discovery and optimization of more than 20 protein therapeutic candidates. Prior to that, as Vice President, Research Operations and Structural Biology, she coordinated all operational activities for the more than 1300-member Genentech research organization, while also leading the Structural Biology department. Currently, Dr. Starovasnik serves on the Board of Directors for Twist Bioscience and the Scientific Advisory Boards for multiple therapeutics companies. She earned a BS in Chemistry and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Washington and has co-authored more than 70 scientific publications and patent applications.

"Many of us on the Aarvik team worked with Melissa at Genentech. We have the greatest respect for her knowledge and leadership, and we are very excited to work together again," said Sachdev Sidhu, PhD, Co-founder and SAB member.

"I am very excited to join the Aarvik SAB and work together with a team of truly exceptional scientists, innovators, and leaders who have the vision, experience, drive, and uniquely elegant technology platform to produce next-generation protein therapeutics that will transform patients’ lives," said Dr. Starovasnik.

Aarvik Therapeutics is also pleased to announce its outstanding new scientific team, located in the US, Canada and India.

United States

Sunil Bhakta, Executive Director, Biochemical Pharmacology

Sunil Bhakta has over 30 years of research experience in Pharma/Biotech including 16+ years of experience in oncology drug discovery and development. Sunil started his career at Syntex/Roche Bioscience as a molecular biologist. At Roche, Sunil worked on GPCRs and chemokine programs through lead identification and optimization. After a decade at Roche, Sunil moved to a startup company, Abgenix, and then to Thios Pharmaceuticals. Sunil moved to Genentech in 2005, where his main research focus was on novel THIOMAB-based antibody drug conjugates (ADCs). Sunil also identified and validated several tumor antigens for the ADC platform. Later his research focused on engaging multiple cell surface receptors with bi-specific/tri-specific antibody therapeutics for solid malignancies.

Allison Bruce, Director, Creative Design and Scientific Art (part-time)

Allison Bruce has been a scientific illustrator, designer, and animator for over 25 years in the biotech industry. After receiving a BS degree in chemistry from the University of California, Davis, she studied art and design at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco and was hired as a Graphics Specialist at Genentech. Allison founded her freelance studio A. K. Bruce Design in 2018, working with a broad array of pharma companies and institutions. She is a professional member of the Association of Medical Illustrators, and in 2019, her work was shown as part of Images from Science 3, an international juried exhibition of "captivating images in service to science", in partnership with the Rochester Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins University.

Vasu Jamma, PhD, Vice President, Chemistry

Vasu Jamma has more than 20 years of experience in oncology drug discovery and has 25 years of experience in medicinal chemistry research. Vasu holds a PhD in organic chemistry from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and later pursued post-doctoral research at University of California at Berkeley and University of California at San Francisco. Vasu was at Discovery Partners, Exelixis Inc. and at pH-Pharma. He was responsible for contributing to several INDs. His work focused on development of small molecules as therapeutic drugs, including discovery and design of toxins as payloads for antibody drug conjugates (ADCs). He is a co-inventor of an approved drug, Cabometyx (cabozantinib, a c-met inhibitor).

Viswanatham Katta, PhD, Executive Director, Process Development (part-time)

Viswanatham Katta (PhD, University of Houston) has broad experience in therapeutic protein characterization in general, with an emphasis on mass spectrometry-based techniques. He has worked both in Research (Amgen) and Process Development (Genentech and Medivation). His group contributed to CMC sections for several INDs of biologics. Dr Katta led the analytical team for ocrelizumab from pre-clinical through phase 1. He also led the CMC team enabling first-in-human clinical trials of a THIOMAB-drug conjugate.

Heather Maecker, PhD, Senior Vice President, Immuno-oncology

Heather Maecker has over 15 years of drug discovery and development experience in oncology, inflammation, and infectious disease. Heather obtained her PhD from Stanford University where she received the AACR Young Investigator Award. She did her post-doctoral training at Genentech. Heather continued her drug discovery efforts at Genentech, contributing to the development of small and large molecule therapeutics for oncology with the filing of numerous INDs. Notably, she is a co-inventor of the PD-L1 immunotherapy, atezolizumab (TECENTRIQ). Heather moved to Gilead where she oversaw the development of both small and large molecule immunotherapies for oncology and infectious disease targets. Most recently Heather led oncology drug discovery efforts at AbbVie, overseeing the creation and development of engineered oncolytic viruses and autologous as well as allogeneic cellular therapies.

Suryanarayana Sankuratri, PhD, Strategic Advisor, Business Development

Surya Sankuratri received his PhD from the Indian Institute of Science and conducted his post-doctoral studies at Duke and Stanford Universities. During his three decades of tenure at CV Therapeutics, Roche, Merck, Gilead Sciences, and Iron Hills Therapeutics, Surya held R&D leadership positions. In the early part of his industry career, Surya led many drug discovery and development programs for major therapy areas with unmet medical needs and contributed to several launched treatments. In the last 18 years, Surya has led external innovation, in- and out-licensing, M&A, and investment activities for Roche, Merck, Gilead, and Iron Hills Therapeutics. He currently heads Corporate Business Development at Atomwise, an AI-focused therapeutics R&D company. Surya also serves as a science and business advisor and board member for several start-ups, established global biotech and investment companies, and philanthropic organizations.

Dhaval K. Shah, PhD, Strategic Advisor, PK/PD

Prof. Dhaval K. Shah is an Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Prior to becoming faculty, Prof. Shah served as a Principal Scientist in the Translational Research - Modeling & Simulation group at Pfizer Inc. His research focuses on understanding the determinants for the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination (ADME) of protein therapeutics. His lab uses the principles of Pharmacokinetics-Pharmacodynamics (PK-PD) Modeling & Simulation to support the discovery, clinical translation, and late phase development of novel biologics like engineered antibodies, multi-specific proteins, immuno-oncology agents, engineered T cells, and antibody drug conjugates (ADCs). He has developed several pioneering systems PK/PD models for ADCs and continues to develop mechanism models to understand and improve pharmacological behavior of ADCs.


Jarrett Adams, PhD, Technical Advisor, Protein Engineering

Jarrett is a protein engineer who specializes in synthetic antibody technologies. He trained as a structural biologist and spent 3 years at Stanford University studying immune recognition, and 10 years at University of Toronto as the Associate Director of the Toronto Recombinant Antibody Centre (TRAC). He developed a state-of-the-art antibody discovery platform utilized by academics and pharmaceutical companies, conducted research in cancer biology, immune-oncology, regenerative medicine and infectious disease. He has participated in several drug development programs with Celgene, Pionyr Therapeutics, Northern Biologics and Reflexion Pharmaceuticals. Platforms developed by Jarrett have been used to characterize T cell-pMHC recognition networks as well as to build a catalog of 15,000 mAb targeting the human surfaceome. Jarrett holds a PhD in Biochemistry from Queen’s University which was awarded the Governor General’s Academic Medal.

Levi Blazer, PhD, Technical Advisor, Protein Sciences

Levi Blazer has over 10 years’ experience in drug discovery and has spent over 15 years in scientific research. He obtained a PhD in pharmacology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, developing small molecule inhibitors of protein-protein interactions. He then shifted focus to biologics, joining the Toronto Recombinant Antibody Centre (TRAC) where he studied antibody engineering under the guidance of Sachdev Sidhu. At TRAC, Levi focused on multivalent antibody modalities with a special emphasis on antibody "developability." He also oversaw the team responsible for the production and biophysical characterization of thousands of recombinant Fabs, IgG, and various other antibody modalities.

Gang Chen, PhD, Technical Advisor, Antibody Engineering

Gang Chen has over 15 years’ experience in protein engineering and over 10 years’ experience in the field of phage display technology and antibody engineering. After obtaining his PhD in Chemistry from University of Toronto, Gang joined the Sachdev Sidhu group at the same University, initially as a post-doctoral fellow and then research associate. During the first few years in the Sidhu Lab, he participated in multiple therapeutic and diagnostic antibody development projects, mostly targeting bacterial and viral pathogens. Following this, he spent a few years overseeing the phage selection platform responsible for identification and optimization of antibody leads for various targets of interest. Most recently, Gang’s focus has been on the development of multi-specific antibodies with potential therapeutic application.


Vidya Jonnalagadda, PhD, Managing Director/Site Head (India)

Vidya Jonnalagadda has over 40 years of experience as a biology researcher and teacher. She obtained her PhD from University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, and has worked on research projects at Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore), Fox Chase Cancer Center (Philadelphia), Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (Hyderabad), Osmania University (Hyderabad) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA).

Meenakshi Vengarai, PhD, Executive Assistant

Meenakshi completed her MSc in Animal Biotechnology from the University of Hyderabad. She holds a PhD in insect behavior and neuroscience. Her passion is to understand the molecular and evolutionary foundations of emotions. She has previously worked with the Federation of Asian Biotech Associations (FABA) as an academic coordinator. During her stint with FABA, she organized multiple workshops and webinars.

About Aarvik Therapeutics

Aarvik Therapeutics combines a unique, proprietary modular platform with multiple target mechanisms to develop novel molecules with an improved therapeutic index for oncology targets. Backed by the extensive scientific, research, development and business expertise of its founders, Board, SAB and team members, Aarvik Therapeutics is applying its vision and passion to create transformational benefit for cancer patients.

For additional information, visit

View source version on


Pradeep Fernandes

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting