About

Novasenta discovers novel therapeutic targets to develop innovative and effective treatments with the goal of transforming the lives of patients with cancer. 

Single-cell level analysis of high-quality, human tumor samples combined with the advanced data mining abilities of our research and computational biology teams accelerate the path from discovery to patient. Our goal is to identify novel targets to generate effective therapies for a range of cancers.

Experienced Team

Our team is comprised of seasoned life science executives, scientists, clinicians, and investors with a track record of successful value creation and experience in drug discovery as well as clinical development.

Our founders bring unique perspectives from decades of research success in tumor biology, immunology and drug discovery, in Pittsburgh and beyond, that define our unique discovery and development process and methodology.

Our team deploys systematic, rigorous, and unbiased human tumor microenvironment analysis to uncover new druggable targets, exploiting the critical interplay of disease, immune response, and metabolism. The diverse scientific perspectives of our world-class team inform a unique approach to generate the next generation of safe and effective therapeutics for cancer and beyond.

Leadership

Mani Mohindru, PhD
Mani Mohindru, PhD
Chief Executive Officer, Board Member
close
Mani Mohindru, PhD
Mani Mohindru, PhD
Chief Executive Officer, Board Member

Dr. Mohindru has served as Novasenta’s Chief Executive Officer and Director since April 2021. Dr. Mohindru also serves as a member of the board of directors of CytomX Therapeutics and Cardiff Oncology. Prior to Novasenta, she has held senior leadership positions in the biotech industry, having served as Chief Executive Officer of CereXis, Inc. (private), Chief Financial Officer and Chief Strategy Officer of Cara Therapeutics, Inc. (public), and Chief Strategy Officer of Curis, Inc (public). 

Prior to her leadership roles in the biotechnology industry, Dr. Mohindru spent several years as an equity research analyst covering the biotechnology sector at UBS, Credit Suisse and ThinkEquity. She also co-founded a private biotechnology company and was a healthcare industry consultant. On the non-profit side, she is a member of the Executive Advisory Board of the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute of Northwestern University and a member of the Scientific Investment Advisory Committee of the Gates Center of Regenerative Medicine at the University of Colorado. 

Dr. Mohindru received her Ph.D. in Neurosciences from Northwestern University and her Masters in Biotechnology and BS in Human Biology (Hons) from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India.

James R. Brown, PhD
Vice President, Computational Sciences
close
James R. Brown, PhD
Vice President, Computational Sciences

Dr. James (Jim) Brown has served as Novasenta’s Vice-President of Computational Sciences since May 2022. He has extensive biopharma industry experience leading computational biology support for pharmaceutical, vaccine and consumer health projects that span the drug development pipeline from early target discovery to clinical trials and launched products. Prior to Novasenta, Jim was Executive Director and Head of Computational Biology and Integrated Data Science at Kaleido Biosciences, a biotech focused on the discovery and clinical development of microbiome modulators for oncology and infectious, metabolic and inflammatory diseases. Jim’s industry experience began at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) where he was employed for over 25 years rising to Scientific Director and Senior Fellow in Computational Biology. At GSK, he coordinated computational biology efforts across multiple drug discovery programs involving infectious diseases, host-pathogen interactions, the microbiome, oncology and metabolic, neurological, inflammatory and respiratory diseases.

Jim graduated with a B.Sc. Marine Biology from McGill University. He earned M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from Simon Fraser University. Jim received a Medical Research Council of Canada post-doctoral fellowship to work in the lab of Dr. W. Ford Doolittle, Dalhousie University on early cellular evolution. He has authored 118 publications and served on multiple academic and industrial advisory panels.

Pallavi Tawde, PhD
Vice President, Antibody Therapeutics
close
Pallavi Tawde, PhD
Vice President, Antibody Therapeutics

Dr. Tawde has served as Novasenta’s Vice President of Antibody Therapeutics since May 2022. Throughout her career at Global BioPharma’s and Biotech startups, she has implemented disruptive technology platforms for therapeutic antibody discovery & development from single B cells, hybridoma, and display technologies. She has worked on a wide spectrum of disease areas and targets encompassing – Immuno-Oncology, Neurodegenerative diseases, Autoimmune, Infectious diseases, and Allergy with focus on target identification, lead antibody generation & development. Her expansive industry experience spans the discovery & preclinical development of therapeutic antibodies, leading to IND-enabling preclinical studies and advancement to FDA filings.

She started her BioPharma career at Pfizer where she led efforts to evaluate a broad range of technologies, build partnerships, perform scientific and IP due diligence, contributing towards in-licensing for antibody therapeutics against infectious and autoimmune diseases. After her tenure at Pfizer, Dr. Tawde was appointed at Bristol Myers Squibb to lead the pioneering efforts of building state-of-the-art Single B cell, Ab-NGS and Display Technology platforms for Antibody Discovery. At BMS, she was recognized for scientific innovation and excellence towards biotherapeutic portfolio development focusing on Immuno-Oncology. Subsequently, advancing into a Senior leadership role at Denali Therapeutics, she headed Antibody Discovery, directing large molecule pipeline generation for neurodegenerative diseases. Prior to Novasenta, Dr. Tawde served as a Senior Director, Antibody Therapeutics at TrueBinding, a clinical stage biotech focused on Neurodegeneration, Fibrosis and Oncology. She oversaw discovery, engineering, and early development of a portfolio of new molecular entities in the pursuit of both cutting-edge science and breakthrough antibody therapeutics.

Dr. Tawde earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Microbiology & Immunology from the University of Mumbai, India, and Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Immunology from Florida State University. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Seattle Biomed (CIDR funded by the Gates Foundation) contributing to HIV Vaccines.

Jiayi Yu, PhD
Jiayi Yu, PhD
Executive Director, Head R&D Operations
close
Jiayi Yu, PhD
Jiayi Yu, PhD
Executive Director, Head R&D Operations

Dr. Yu brings more than 20 years of combined experience in immunology and immune-oncology, drug discovery & development, as well as precision medicine. As the head of R&D operations, Dr. Yu currently leads target identification and validation, drug discovery and development across the company’s portfolio.

With a passion for innovation and a strength in cross-functional communication, Dr. Yu joined Novasenta as a founding employee where she built a diverse, high-performing team, leading the establishment of both computational target discovery and experimental target validation platforms. She has a proven record of discovering novel drug targets and leading clinical drug discovery programs.

Previously, Dr. Yu spent 3 years with NewLink Genetics focusing on IDO inhibitor clinical program development. Working in the discovery/cross-disciplinary team, she managed a diverse set of functionalities including new pipeline development, proof of concept assay design and development, preclinical IND enabling studies, biomarker analysis for ongoing clinical trials. Prior to NewLink Genetics, Dr. Yu led several projects to decipher immune system regulation at molecular level to explore the possible treatment of immune diseases in MD Anderson Cancer Center. She has authored multiple, high-impact articles in Nature immunology, Nature Communications, and PNAS.

Dr. Yu received her Ph.D. in Immunology and Microbiology from Wayne State University and BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Nankai University, China.

Board & Founders

Jeanne Cunicelli headshot
Jeanne Cunicelli
Board Member
close
Jeanne Cunicelli headshot
Jeanne Cunicelli
Board Member

Jeanne Cunicelli, a veteran venture capitalist in the life sciences industry, became president of UPMC Enterprises in January 2021. Jeanne was a managing director at Bay City Capital in San Francisco before joining UPMC in 2017 to lead UPMC Enterprises’ Translational Sciences focus area.

As president of UPMC Enterprises, Jeanne is leading UPMC’s efforts to commercialize its managerial and health care expertise. With a focus on improving the quality, efficiency and patient experience at UPMC, the division and its partners will then take those solutions to the broader health care market through its two focus areas, Translational Sciences and Digital Solutions. 

Under Jeanne’s leadership, the Translational Sciences team has grown to more than 20 scientific and investment professionals working to accelerate the transfer of scientific discoveries into life-changing medicines, diagnostics and devices. Based on ground-breaking research from the University of Pittsburgh and other global innovators, the team will deploy $1 billion in life sciences investments by 2024. Through its Digital Solutions group, UPMC Enterprises has started and invested in a portfolio of companies that leverages UPMC’s scale and health care insights to provide clinicians, payers and consumers with engaging technology that improves the quality and cost effectiveness of health care. 

Jeanne is a member of the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Mellon University. She received an M.B.A. from the University of San Francisco and a bachelor’s degree in cognitive psychology from Carnegie Mellon University.

Greg Delgoffe, PhD
Greg Delgoffe, PhD
Founder, Board Member
close
Greg Delgoffe, PhD
Greg Delgoffe, PhD
Founder, Board Member

Dr. Delgoffe is an associate professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, and a co-Founder and Director of Novasenta. Dr. Delgoffe’s research program studies how immune cells sense and acquire metabolic fuel to support anti-cancer immune responses. He has published in several high impact journals (Nature, Immunity, Nature Immunology) and translated his findings into several novel clinical trials for cancer. 

Dr. Delgoffe brings an appreciation for several understudied mechanisms of immune suppression in cancer along with a passion and proven track record of reversing or redirecting immunoregulatory pathways to promote curative immunotherapeutic responses in patients. 

He earned his Ph.D in 2010 from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and completed postdoctoral training at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 2014.

Matthias Kleinz, DVM, PhD
Matthias Kleinz, DVM, PhD
Board Member
close
Matthias Kleinz, DVM, PhD
Matthias Kleinz, DVM, PhD
Board Member

Dr. Kleinz is Senior Vice President and Head of Translational Sciences at UPMC Enterprises. Matthias joined UPMC Enterprises in July 2017 to help the ITTC invest and commercialize innovative translational science by defining the true potential of new life science technologies, exploring optimal business models and strategies, and helping to form companies with a clear path to success. Matthias sits on the board of other UPMC Enterprises portfolio companies Generian and Cerevance. He is also a member of the executive committee for the UPMC Genome Center. Prior to UPMC Enterprises, Matthias spent nine years in management consulting at L.E.K. Consulting in its life sciences practice in Boston and London leading teams on over 70 strategic assignments for clients in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. 

Dr. Kleinz completed his PhD in the Clinical Pharmacology Unit of the University of Cambridge (UK), working on early stage discovery of G-protein-coupled receptor targets for hypertension, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome and graduated from Justus Liebig University in Giessen (GER) with a doctorate in clinical veterinary medicine.

Mani Mohindru, PhD
Mani Mohindru, PhD
Chief Executive Officer, Board Member
close
Mani Mohindru, PhD
Mani Mohindru, PhD
Chief Executive Officer, Board Member

Dr. Mohindru has served as Novasenta’s Chief Executive Officer and Director since April 2021. Dr. Mohindru also serves as a member of the board of directors of CytomX Therapeutics and Cardiff Oncology. Prior to Novasenta, she has held senior leadership positions in the biotech industry, having served as Chief Executive Officer of CereXis, Inc. (private), Chief Financial Officer and Chief Strategy Officer of Cara Therapeutics, Inc. (public), and Chief Strategy Officer of Curis, Inc (public).

Prior to her leadership roles in the biotechnology industry, Dr. Mohindru spent several years as an equity research analyst covering the biotechnology sector at UBS, Credit Suisse and ThinkEquity. She also co-founded a private biotechnology company and was a healthcare industry consultant. On the non-profit side, she is a member of the Executive Advisory Board of the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute of Northwestern University and a member of the Scientific Investment Advisory Committee of the Gates Center of Regenerative Medicine at the University of Colorado.

Dr. Mohindru received her Ph.D. in Neurosciences from Northwestern University and her Masters in Biotechnology and BS in Human Biology (Hons) from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India.

Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD
Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD
Founder
close
Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD
Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD
Founder

Dr. Ferris is a co-Founder of Novasenta, is Hillman Professor of Oncology and Director at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Associate Vice Chancellor for Cancer Research, and Professor of Otolaryngology, of Immunology, and of Radiation Oncology. Dr. Ferris currently serves on the Editorial Boards of JNCI, JCO, Clinical Cancer Research, Cancer Immunology Research and Section Editor for Cancer. He is Editor in Chief of Oral Oncology. Dr. Ferris has published over 380 peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters. Dr. Ferris’s publications have been cited over 30,000 times producing an h-index of 88. He was re-elected co-chair of the NCI Head and Neck Steering Committee until 2021 to facilitate prospective clinical trials. 

Dr. Ferris has been lead investigator of several practice-changing, prospective randomized trials, including Checkmate-141 which led to the FDA approval of Nivolumab immunotherapy for head and neck cancer, as well as ECOG 3311, testing radiation dose-deintensification after transoral robotic surgery (TORS) for HPV+ oropharynx cancer. The Ferris lab has been continuously funded by the NCI since 2005, focused on neoadjuvant “window” trials of immuno-oncology agents and biomarkers of response in the tumor microenvironment, collaborating with many early phase companies and therapeutic agents.

Dario Vignali, PhD
Dario Vignali, PhD
Founder
close
Dario Vignali, PhD
Dario Vignali, PhD
Founder

Dr. Vignali, is a co-Founder of Novasenta. Dr. Vignali is also the Frank Dixon Chair in Cancer Immunology, a Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair of the Immunology Department at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.  He is also Associate Director for Scientific Strategy, co-leader of the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program and co-director of the Tumor Microenvironment Center in the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.  His research focuses on molecular and cellular aspects of negative regulatory immune mechanisms including regulatory T cells, inhibitory receptors, and inhibitory cytokines.  His lab was instrumental in uncovering the role of LAG3 in mouse models of cancer, tolerance, autoimmunity and immune regulation.  His lab discovered the inhibitory cytokine IL35 and the NRP1:SEMA4A axis, which are key regulators of intratumoral Treg stability and function.  

His current research extensively uses systems immunology approaches to understand transcriptional regulation of effector T cell exhaustion and regulatory T cell function and fate in murine models of cancer and autoimmunity, and numerous human tumors.  He has been a Highly Cited Researcher (top 1% by citations; Clarivate Analytics) for the last five years (2016-2020) and has published over 200 papers with over 38 as senior or co-author in high impact journals (IF>10). He has a strong record of extramural funding, which currently includes an NIH P01, R35 and three R01 grants. He is Director of the Cancer Immunology Training Program (NCI T32), and has trained, or currently training, 50 postdoctoral research or clinical fellows and 14 graduate students, with several successfully obtaining extramural fellowships (14 total), emphasizing his commitment to train the next generation of immunologists.  

Dr. Vignali’s innovative, discovery-based research has led to 15 patent awards (11 in the US) and 11 pending patent applications worldwide, and he is a co-founding scientist of several companies including Potenza Therapeutics [sold to Astellas] and Tizona Therapeutics [sold to Gilead]).

Team

Sreeram Balasubramanian
Sreeram Balasubramanian, PhD
Associate Director, Computational Sciences
close
Sreeram Balasubramanian
Sreeram Balasubramanian, PhD
Associate Director, Computational Sciences
Martha Bustos, PhD
Senior Scientist
close
Martha Bustos, PhD
Senior Scientist
Jie Chen
Research Associate
close
Jie Chen
Research Associate
Mason Colbert
Mason Colbert
Research Technician
close
Mason Colbert
Mason Colbert
Research Technician
Daniele Crisi-Couchenour
Director, Operations
close
Daniele Crisi-Couchenour
Director, Operations
Philip Dickinson
Philip Dickinson, PhD
Fellow, Computational Sciences
close
Philip Dickinson
Philip Dickinson, PhD
Fellow, Computational Sciences
Heather Evers
Animal Technician
close
Heather Evers
Animal Technician
Evan Janoski
Sr. Systems Administrator
close
Evan Janoski
Sr. Systems Administrator
Mohamad Kalani, PhD
Senior Scientist
close
Mohamad Kalani, PhD
Senior Scientist
Zachary Lash
Zachary Lash
Sr. Software Engineer
close
Zachary Lash
Zachary Lash
Sr. Software Engineer
Jatin Machhi, PhD
Senior Scientist
close
Jatin Machhi, PhD
Senior Scientist
Ashley Menk
Ashley Menk, MS
Associate Scientist
close
Ashley Menk
Ashley Menk, MS
Associate Scientist
Ann Piccirillo
Ann Piccirillo, PhD
Research Scientist
close
Ann Piccirillo
Ann Piccirillo, PhD
Research Scientist
Zengbiao Qi
Zengbiao Qi, PhD
Research Associate
close
Zengbiao Qi
Zengbiao Qi, PhD
Research Associate
Kobie Rankin
Research Technician
close
Kobie Rankin
Research Technician
Sanjay Rathod, PhD
Senior Scientist
close
Sanjay Rathod, PhD
Senior Scientist
Chao Sang
Chao Sang, PhD
Data Scientist
close
Chao Sang
Chao Sang, PhD
Data Scientist
Corinne Schneider
Research Associate
close
Corinne Schneider
Research Associate
Sunita Shinde, MS
Laboratory Manager
close
Sunita Shinde, MS
Laboratory Manager
Ann Tanilli
Executive Assistant
close
Ann Tanilli
Executive Assistant
Xiaole Yang, MS
Sr. Research Associate
close
Xiaole Yang, MS
Sr. Research Associate