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
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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.

Pallavi Tawde, PhD
Vice President, Antibody Therapeutics
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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
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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.

Krishnadatt (Kris) Persaud
Senior Advisor, Antibody Therapeutics
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Krishnadatt (Kris) Persaud
Senior Advisor, Antibody Therapeutics

Kris Persaud currently serves as a Senior Advisor for Novasenta since January 2022.  He brings more than 25 years of biopharmaceutical experience in oncology biologics drug discovery and development. He has demonstrated leadership experience in antibody technology across screening, production, biophysical characterization, engineering, and cell line generation.  More recently, he served as Director of Cell Expression and Engineering of oncology discovery research at Eli Lilly and Company.  As a member of the Senior Leadership Team, he directly supported the development and successful launch of several biologic oncology drugs including Erbitux®, Cyramza™, Portrazza® and Lartruvo™ as well as clinical advancement of many more therapeutic antibodies over the course of his career.  Prior to Lilly’s acquisition, Kris was a Senior Scientist and Team Leader at ImClone Systems Inc. providing discovery research leadership within the Angiogenesis and Tumor Biology department, developing therapeutic antibodies to receptor tyrosine kinase. Kris received his BS in Biology from The City College on New York. He has also been an author on >30 manuscripts, and abstracts including patents.

Michael Lyman, PhD
Senior Advisor, Drug Discovery and Development
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Michael Lyman, PhD
Senior Advisor, Drug Discovery and Development

Dr. Lyman has served as a senior advisor to Novasenta’s R&D activities since October 2022. Prior to working with Novasenta, Dr. Lyman was the Vice President of Discovery Research at IconOVir Bio, a preclinical-stage biotechnology company pioneering the next generation of synthetic oncolytic virus therapies for the treatment of patients with solid tumors. Prior to joining IconOVir, he was the Director of Translational Research at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies where he led a translational research team developing virus engineering and screening platforms as well as a pipeline of novel virus-based therapies including vaccines and oncolytic viruses that led to the spin out of IconOVir. Previously, he was the Associate Director of Immunology at Tanabe Research Laboratories (a subsidiary of the Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation) where he and his team were responsible for the discovery and non-clinical research efforts for multiple biologics programs in the therapeutic areas of inflammatory disease and autoimmunity. Dr. Lyman began his industry experience as a scientist at Kyowa Hakko Kirin California (formerly Kirin Pharmaceuticals), where he was a major contributor to multiple therapeutic antibody programs that reached the clinic and was the project leader for KHK4083/AMG 451, a novel anti-OX40 antibody moving into Phase 3 clinical trials in atopic dermatitis.

Dr. Lyman received his Ph.D. in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis from Northwestern University and did his postdoctoral work at the Scripps Research Institute where he led projects to understand how tumor reactive T cells respond to cross-presented tumor antigens and investigated how to break tolerance to tumor associated self-antigens.

Board & Founders

Jeanne Cunicelli headshot
Jeanne Cunicelli
Board Member
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Sreeram Balasubramanian
Sreeram Balasubramanian, PhD
Associate Director, Computational Sciences
Martha Bustos, PhD
Senior Scientist
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Martha Bustos, PhD
Senior Scientist
Jie Chen
Research Associate
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Jie Chen
Research Associate
Mason Colbert
Mason Colbert
Research Technician
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Mason Colbert
Mason Colbert
Research Technician
Daniele Crisi-Couchenour
Director, Operations
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Daniele Crisi-Couchenour
Director, Operations
Philip Dickinson
Philip Dickinson, PhD
Fellow, Computational Sciences
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Philip Dickinson
Philip Dickinson, PhD
Fellow, Computational Sciences
Joanna DiSpirito, PhD
Associate Director, Translational Sciences
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Joanna DiSpirito, PhD
Associate Director, Translational Sciences
Heather Evers
Animal Technician
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Heather Evers
Animal Technician
Mohamad Kalani, PhD
Senior Scientist
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Mohamad Kalani, PhD
Senior Scientist
Zachary Lash
Zachary Lash
Sr. Software Engineer
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Zachary Lash
Zachary Lash
Sr. Software Engineer
Jatin Machhi, PhD
Senior Scientist
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Jatin Machhi, PhD
Senior Scientist
Patrick McKiernan
Controller
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Patrick McKiernan
Controller
Ashley Menk
Ashley Menk, MS
Associate Scientist
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Ashley Menk
Ashley Menk, MS
Associate Scientist
Ann Piccirillo
Ann Piccirillo, PhD
Research Scientist
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Ann Piccirillo
Ann Piccirillo, PhD
Research Scientist
Anisha Prasad
Research Associate
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Anisha Prasad
Research Associate
Zengbiao Qi
Zengbiao Qi, PhD
Research Associate
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Zengbiao Qi
Zengbiao Qi, PhD
Research Associate
Kobie Rankin
Research Associate
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Kobie Rankin
Research Associate
Sanjay Rathod, PhD
Principal Scientist
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Sanjay Rathod, PhD
Principal Scientist
Sunita Shinde, MS
Laboratory Manager
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Sunita Shinde, MS
Laboratory Manager
Ann Tanilli
Executive Assistant
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Ann Tanilli
Executive Assistant
Xiaole Yang, MS
Sr. Research Associate
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Xiaole Yang, MS
Sr. Research Associate