Termeer Fellows

Meet the Henri Termeer Fellows. To apply for the Termeer Fellows program, click here.

Jenna Baker

Jenna Baker, PhD
Basin Genomics

Jenna Baker, PhD is Founder and CEO of Basin Genomics, an early-stage diagnostic company using novel technology for the early detection of HPV oral cancer. Jenna earned a Master’s degree from the University of Colorado and a PhD from George Washington University. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Jenna brings more than 20 years of life science experience to Basin Genomics in the academic, private, and government sectors.

Greatest accomplishment: Founding Basin Genomics and persevering through the challenges of the pandemic to arrive at a place where we can finally build our team to execute on the vision set forth at its inception.

Greatest challenge as a leader and how you have overcome: My greatest challenge as a first time CEO has been learning when to accept it is time to pivot. Like most startup companies, our path has not been a straight line. Keeping our sights set firmly on our mission has allowed us to find innovative solutions to the obstacles that arise while building a company.

What keeps you up at night: My responsibility to my team to deliver guiding principles and essential goals so that together we can accomplish the key tasks necessary to drive our company to success.

Book recommendation: A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived- The Human Story Retold through our Genes, by Adam Rutherford

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: Always perform careful and deliberate due diligence and ask for advice from multiple trusted sources. Most of all, if people show you who they are, believe them.

Jacob Becraft

Jacob Becraft
Strand Therapeutics

Jacob Becraft is co-founder and CEO of Strand Therapeutics, an emerging biopharmaceutical company applying synthetic biology to RNA therapeutics and developing the first platform for the creation of programmable, long-acting mRNA drugs capable of delivering precise, multi-functional, potentially curative treatments with a single dose. Jake brings his entrepreneurial instincts and background as a synthetic biologist to the leadership position at Strand, where he also serves as a member of the company’s Board of Directors. As a graduate student at MIT’s Synthetic Biology Center, Jake and his colleagues created the world’s first synthetic biology programming language for mRNA. He has received numerous 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. Jake is an advocate among the life science entrepreneurial ecosystem for supporting young technical founders in biotech entrepreneurship. 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.

Greatest accomplishment: Building an organization where people are given the opportunity to grow their skills and career at accelerated rate!

Greatest challenge as a leader and how you have overcome: Balancing growth and culture. We have relied on our early hires to be leaders, regardless of level, and to embody our culture of science-forward inquiry and acceptance that we value.

What keeps you up at night: Are we moving fast enough? In biotech, all missed timelines and slowed rollouts of drugs mean that our life saving medicines are not reaching the people who need them most, and that means some people will succumb to disease that we could have helped. Time is the metric that saves lives.

Book recommendation: How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong. Good Economics for Hard Times by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. Sapiens, Homo Deus, and 21 Questions for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. The Great American Drug Deal by Peter Kolchinsky.

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: Have conviction and plow ahead. There will be no shortage of people within the biotech world that will come up with reasons as to why you “can’t” do something, and most of these people have never done it themselves. Work with people who have done what you aspire to accomplish, and let the rest be noise along the sidelines.

Martin Bruncko

Martin Bruncko
Camarque Bio

Martin Bruncko is co-founder and acting CEO of Camarque Bio, a cancer immunotherapy company developing a targeted immunotherapy platform and companion diagnostics for hypoxic tumors using Carbonic Anhydrase IX (CA IX) as the therapeutic target and mechanism of action. Camarque is developing drug compounds directed at five disease indications that currently account for more than half of all cancer deaths. Martin is also the founder and managing partner of Steam Capital and a member of the investment committee of the European Innovation Council Fund, which is the largest deep tech investment fund in Europe. Prior to founding Camarque and Steam Capital, Martin held several senior executive positions in the Government of Slovakia, including junior minister for innovations and deputy for European affairs of the minister of finance. In this role, he was responsible for national policy in the area of knowledge economy, e-government and EU/Eurozone economic and financial affairs. He was also a Board Member of the European Stability Mechanism (previously EFSF) and Senior Director and Head of Europe at the World Economic Forum. Martin holds a B.A. from Stanford University and a M.P.A. from Harvard Kennedy School. In 2012, he was honored as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.

Greatest accomplishment: Reading the entire Being and Nothingness by J.P. Sartre

Greatest challenge as a leader and how you have overcome: Going forward when you get unlucky again and everything in a start-up goes to hell for an umpteenth time – you simply have to believe that it’s just basic statistics that things finally have to work out the next time (or the one after that).

What keeps you up at night: I sleep very well but during daytime I’m pretty obsessed about making Europe a global technological leader once again.

Book recommendation: The Etruscan (Turms, Kuolematon) by Mika Waltari

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: If anyone ever tells you how glorious it is to be an entrepreneur, slap them. They don’t know what they are talking about – or they are lying. But then do start your business anyway. The feeling is truly amazing when things finally work – after many (not-so-fun) years of blood and sweat.

Nick Davis

Nick Davis
Theonys, Inc.

Nick Davis is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Theonys, Inc., a patient-focused drug discovery company developing small-molecule correctors of RNA pathobiology. Theonys, Inc. is revolutionizing the future of drug discovery by bringing the control of gene expression into the scope of medicinal chemistry. Nick has a decade of hands-on experience building impactful technologies across biotechnology and healthcare, and launched Theonys, Inc. in 2020 with Pete Dedon at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Richard I Gregory at Harvard Medical School, two pioneers in the exploding field of non-coding RNA regulatory biology. Nick has built his professional career around a deep understanding of the components and drivers of success for innovations that improve access to quality healthcare, enable engineering of biology and impact clinical decision making. Prior to founding Theonys, Inc., Nick held advisory roles across the industry, with stints at Santander Global Corporate Banking, Flagship Pioneering, and both private and public biotechnology companies. Nick earned a Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) in Biological Engineering at MIT in 2019, and completed a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) with Honors in Bioengineering at Stanford University in 2013.

Greatest accomplishment: Finding art and love.

Greatest challenge as a leader and how you have overcome: Finding ways to empower my employees to become evangelists of THEON’s biological breakthrough.

What keeps you up at night: A deep, fundamental need and relentless passion to create medicines that alter the course of serious human diseases.

Book recommendation: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: Work-life balance is a myth.

Amy Ripka

Amy Ripka
Lucy Therapeutics

Amy Ripka is CEO of Lucy Therapeutics, a Boston-based, mitochondrial platform biotechnology company, revolutionizing treatments for rare and neurological diseases. Prior to founding LucyTx, Amy served on the executive leadership teams at SAI Life Sciences and WuXiAppTec and also held positions of scientific leadership at EnVivo Pharmaceuticals, Daiamed and Infinity Pharmaceuticals. Amy received her PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed her post-doctoral studies in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate K. Barry Sharpless. Amy has over 35 issued patents and has been involved in Investigational New Drug Applications in numerous therapeutic areas. She has deep peer-based affiliations in the medicinal chemistry community and currently serves on the Executive Committee of the American Chemical Society’s MEDI division and was the elected Chair of the 2012 Medicinal Chemistry Gordon Research Conference. Amy is currently a Scientific Advisory Board member at Carraway Therapeutics and Q BioMed. In her spare time, Amy plays classical violin professionally.

Greatest accomplishment: I spent 2 years reading 2,500 papers in disparate therapeutic areas to develop LucyTx's central scientific thesis, biological targets and chemical matter starting points for treating mitochondrial dysfunction in neurological diseases. Building LucyTx's team, partners and corporate structure from this starting point has been an amazing journey that is continuing to unfold.

Greatest challenge as a leader and how you have overcome: Managing the expectations, motivations and personalities of different stakeholders while being true to the vision of the company as we take on the significant challenge of developing small molecule drugs for neurological diseases. By continuing to cultivate self-knowledge about my strengths and weaknesses I am better able to serve the company's ecosystem in a positive and effective manner.

What keeps you up at night: The responsibility I feel towards LucyTx's employees, investors and future patients - along with how to develop a framework to provide a fair, equitable and diverse environment for the company to thrive, grow and be successful.

Book recommendation: The Overstory by Richard Powers and any of Lapham's Quarterly volumes.

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: Never give up, never surrender! No one ever got anywhere by listening to 'no' - it's important during your bleakest moments to remember that.

Rachel Salzman

Rachel Salzman, DVM
UltraSquared Bio

Rachel Salzman, DVM is the founder of UltraSquared Bio, a gene therapy company designed to develop medicines for ultra-rare patient populations where there is a significant, unmet medical need. UltraSquared is designed to be a fully sustainable drug development company owned by a non-profit shareholder that will provide the initial resource investment, thus obviating adherence to the traditional VC schedule of returns and timelines.

In 2017 Rachel co-founded SwanBio Therapeutics, an AAV gene therapy company, and served as start-up CEO through 2019 followed by heading up Portfolio Development until 12/31/2020. During her time at Swan she co-led $77MM in fund raising, established the company's initial operational structure and oversaw its R&D footprint. As Chief of Portfolio Development her key role was to build the pipeline and introduce external innovation while ensuring a value-driven enterprise.

Prior to her time at SwanBio Dr. Salzman was Chief Science Officer of The Stop ALD Foundation (SALD) since 2001. SALD is a non-profit Medical Research Organization dedicated to employing entrepreneurial approaches towards advancing effective therapies, cures, and prevention of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), an often-fatal neurodegenerative disease. As CSO at SALD she made critical contributions in driving forward the world’s first ex vivo lentiviral gene therapy clinical trial conducted in non-HIV infected patients. This program enabled the subsequent successful establishment of a public gene therapy company.

Dr. Salzman has been an active member of the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) for 20 years and has served in a leadership capacity on the Board of Directors and multiple committees. She currently represents ASGCT on the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s Forum on Regenerative Medicine. Rachel earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree from Oklahoma State University and was in large animal practice until ALD manifested in her own family. This unplanned for (and unwelcomed) encounter is what catalyzed her career shift from horses to humans.

Greatest accomplishment: Playing a key role in getting ALD (x-linked Adrenoleukodystrophy) added to the RUSP (Recommended Uniform Screening Panel), which is a list of diseases the Health and Human Services recommends newborns get screened for, although this multi-faceted accomplishment was absolutely a case of “it takes a village”. Soon, over 80% of babies born with an ALD gene mutation in the U.S. will be identified at birth, which means these children will never miss their therapeutic window to receive life-saving intervention.

Greatest challenge as a leader and how you have overcome: Working in rare disease requires the ability to gather and lead disparate parties whose ongoing interests are almost never 100% aligned, in spite of shared passion and dedication. Early in my career I slowly (and sometimes painfully) learned that a classical hierarchical approach was not the best way to maximize results when working with a nuclear group of world-class experts and highly invested stakeholders. In this environment practicing a more nuanced and personalized “light-touch” leadership style delivered the most value. At the end of the day, regardless of ego, subject matter knowledge, or professional title, I am firmly convinced that every person living and working in orphan diseases ultimately has the same goal – the desire to dramatically alter disease state. A good leader works backwards from that Guiding Principle.

What keeps you up at night: It’s not so much what keeps me awake at night, but rather what gets me up in the morning! I have an extremely clear sense of purpose and know exactly what I am doing and, more importantly, why I am doing it. The key challenge is to be thoughtful and strategic in terms of deploying the most valuable of all resources - time. Thus, late at night I run through the ever constant “to do” list in my head, and then allow my brain to conduct its own unconscious organic filtering and filing exercise while I sleep. I usually wake up refreshed and better organized!

Book recommendation: Aesop’s Fables. There is a reason it has been around for over 2,500 years. It reminds me that human nature and basic moral value systems are enduring and timeless. It continues to amaze me how often an ancient fable is completely relevant to my own daily personal and professional life, or to larger events and circumstances.

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: The ultimate goal of every entrepreneur is success. While so much remains outside of one’s control, such as the economic climate, the rules of biology, or even the weather, the best way to increase your probability of success is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. My goal is to leave each encounter, conversation, or meeting, with new information or having gained a different perspective. If you manifest that culture throughout your organization there will be an almost magical blend of humility + interactive exchange of knowledge and ideas that will increase your likelihood of success. Embedding this philosophy will establish a uniquely talented and cohesive team who will consistently deliver the competitive edge.

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