Stevenage, UK, 30 March 2023 - NRG Therapeutics, Ltd., an innovative neuroscience company targeting mitochondrial dysfunction, is pleased to announce the formation of its scientific advisory board (SAB), to support and steer its R&D programmes to develop novel small molecule therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.
The four founding members of NRG’s International SAB are US-based and bring in-depth translational expertise in neuroscience and drug discovery across chemistry, biology and pharmacology disciplines. The SAB will be chaired by Dr James Summers, who has been an advisor to NRG since its inception, joined by Dr Melanie Leitner, Dr Kalpana Merchant and Dr Stevan Djuric.
NRG Therapeutics is applying breakthrough science in the field of mitochondrial biology to develop first-in-class treatments for Parkinson’s, ALS (also known as motor neurone disease) and other neurodegenerative disorders. Its approach is based on inhibiting the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) in brain cells through a novel mechanism of action, which has been shown to be neuroprotective in preclinical models.
Welcoming the new SAB members, Dr Richard Rutter, NRG Therapeutics co-founder and CSO said, “The breadth and depth of experience that Jim, Melanie, Kalpana and Stevan bring will be invaluable to our company as we progress toward the clinic. Developing life extending and life changing treatments for neurological disorders is challenging and we welcome their insights gained over decades in pharma, biotech, academic and not-for-profit organizations.”
James Summers Ph.D. – chair of SAB
A medicinal chemist, Jim has more than three decades of research management and drug discovery experience in neurodegeneration and other therapeutic areas. Under his leadership, as Vice President of Neuroscience Research, teams at AbbVie / Abbott have advanced more than twenty compounds into clinical development. Jim has established new research sites in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Shanghai, China, been the architect of strategies that defined the future direction of global research organizations, and has championed multiple successful licensing deals, biotech collaborations and venture investments. He currently serves on the board of directors and as an advisor to several biotechnology companies including Mission Therapeutics and Nitrase Therapeutics and is a venture partner with the Dementia Discovery Fund. He was awarded his Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University.
Melanie Leitner Ph.D.
Melanie has over 20 years cross-functional experience in the academic, government, industry, and non-profit sectors, specializing in the neuroscience sector with particular expertise in ALS. She currently serves as the Chief Scientific Officer for the ALS Investment Fund (a life sciences VC) and is the Founder of Accelerating NeuroVentures, LLC. Prior to joining the ALS Investment Fund, Dr. Leitner was an advisor to Target ALS and served as Chief Scientific Officer for the ALS non-profit Prize4Life. She has also held Director positions at Biogen and at the non-profit organizations FasterCures and the Society for Neuroscience. She is a Board observer on the Boards of Verge Genomics, QurAlis, and Bloom Science. Melanie was awarded a Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellowship as well as her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis.
Kalpana Merchant Ph.D.
A neuropharmacologist, Kalpana brings over 30 years of experience in pharmaceutical drug discovery, development and management, with a specific focus on applying translational science strategies to improve the success rate of drug development. She has deep knowledge in neuroscience, including neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimer's and Parkinson's), psychiatric disorders and chronic pain disorders. Following a long career in pharma at Pharmacia followed by Eli Lilly, she retired from the position of Chief Scientific Officer for Translational Sciences/Tailored Therapeutics-Neuroscience. Since then, she has held executive (CEO, CSO) and advisory roles at early-stage companies as an SAB or BOD member. She serves as an advisor to the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research and is an Adjunct Professor of Neurology at Northwestern University. She gained her Ph.D. in neuropharmacology at the University of Utah.
Stevan Djuric Ph.D.
With close to 40 years’ experience in pharma R&D, Stevan brings a deep understanding of medicinal chemistry and drug discovery & development. He was previously Vice President of the Discovery Chemistry and Technology organization at AbbVie and head of the global medicinal chemistry leadership team, and in 2015, was named an AbbVie Distinguished Research Fellow. During his tenure at Abbott/AbbVie he led projects across multiple therapeutic areas, several of which advanced compounds into clinical development, including Abbott’s proprietary marketed rapamycin analogue, Zotarolimus, currently licensed to Medtronics for use on their vascular stents. Stevan holds an Adjunct Professorship in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Kansas. He gained his Ph.D. at the University of Leeds, UK.