Sean Ainsworth is Immusoft’s Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board. He has 20 years’ experience in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Previously, he founded and led RetroSense Therapeutics, a gene therapy company he advanced into human clinical trials and sold to Allergan in 2016 in a deal valued at up to $555 million.
Earlier, he was deeply involved in the launch of Compendia Bioscience, Inc., and GeneVivo, LLC. At both he assisted in developing business models, licensing technologies, building management teams, and securing capital and first customers. Life Technologies acquired Compendia BioScience in 2012.
Sean founded Ainsworth BioConsulting in 2004 to provide licensing, as well as strategic and business planning services to the life science and entrepreneurial community. His clients included large pharma, small biotechs, universities, CROs, and venture investment funds. He has worked with clients at all stages of development.
His other professional experience includes research at Medical Biology Institute (now Avanir Pharmaceuticals, developers of Abreva, the leading cold sore medication) in San Diego, Calif., intellectual property at Koyama and Associates in Tokyo, and international corporate development consulting at The Mattson Jack Group in St. Louis, Mo.
Sean earned an M.B.A. in strategy and finance from Washington University in St. Louis. He holds a B.S. in Microbiology from University of California, San Diego.
Matthew Scholz is Immusoft’s founder and Chief Technology Officer. He is a member of the board of directors and served as the company’s Chief Executive Officer from 2009 through 2017.
With a background in computer security, Matthew’s initial concept for Immusoft’s core technology was based on using high speed cryptographic hardware to develop novel proteins to fight pathogens. In 2008, Matthew began conducting independent research in immunology and gene therapy and seeking input from some of the world’s top scientists. By 2009, he dramatically evolved the initial concept after conceiving how a research system developed by Nobel Laureate and former President of Caltech, David Baltimore, could be modified for a practical application: programming resting B cells to secrete therapeutic proteins. Matthew negotiated an exclusive license to the system, then developed and patented a way to improve its efficiency nearly seven-fold, thus making it clinically viable. This modified system is the core of Immusoft’s technology platform.
Along the way, Matthew recruited a world-class team of scientists and biotech business experts to build Immusoft’s core technology and shape and drive the company. Immusoft’s extensive list of advisors includes experts in immunology, cell therapy, gene therapy, preclinical and clinical development, and CEOs of successful biotech companies. Matthew has also led Immusoft’s highly successful fundraising efforts. In March 2012, Immusoft was among the first to be awarded the Thiel Foundation’s Breakout Labs grant. The start-up has also received a grant from the National Institutes of Health and funds from private investors. In addition, Matthew has secured several valuable collaborations, including nearly $100k of work at no charge from academic labs during the company’s proof of concept stage.
With Immusoft as his third venture, Matthew has 13 years of experience connecting real-world needs with cutting-edge technical solutions. Prior projects include mobile application development and GPS-based fleet logistics (a start-up that he sold in 2009). He holds a degree in computer science from the University of Washington and is a frequent speaker at the University of Washington School of Business. Matthew also serves as mentor for the Thiel Fellowship, a program that awards $100k grants to some of the brightest scientific minds in the world who are under age 20.
Zach Hall is Business Development Director at Immusoft, a Seattle-based start-up developing a new paradigm for the delivery of biologic-based medicines in vivo, by turning patient blood cells into drug secreting factories.
Zach has a background in neuroscience, molecular biology, chemistry, and nanoscience. Early entrepreneurial efforts include a medical device to deliver micro-currents of electricity to shrink tumors, a novel drug delivery vesicle derived from autologous cells, and a synthetic orthopedic device for ligament replacement therapy using an advanced carbon composite fiber. Zach is a serial entrepreneur who brings 7+ years of entrepreneurship experience to Immusoft, and has a growing interest in materials science, cancer diagnostics, GMP process development, and electron microscopy.
Recognizing the advantage Immusoft’s ISP™ approach could provide to the current state-of-the-art in drug delivery, Zach joined as the first member of Immusoft’s core team, supporting early grant writing and networking efforts, the creation of the business plan, and provided strategy on how to successfully launch Immusoft. This is Zach’s third biomedical start-up.
To date, Zach has helped Immusoft raise over $650,000 in federal and private research grants, initiated relationships with key vendors and CROs, and is project manager for the Phase I STTR grant through the NIAID with collaborators at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Seattle, WA). He is responsible for managing administrative duties including private and federal grants, purchasing, vendor database management, accounting, technology assessment, special projects, and business development.
Additionally, Zach foresees future applications of ISP™ technology to promote re-myelination for treating neurodegenerative disorders, protection against infectious disease using broadly neutralizing antibodies from rapid antibody discovery platforms, and regenerative medicines to promote healthy bone growth, protection against the effects of lethal radiation, and anti-aging.
He earned a B.S. in Neuroscience and minor in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2003 where his senior research project at the Santa Cruz Institute of Particle Physics Retina Group characterized electrical signals generated from neural cells responding to patterns of light. Zach attended the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business BioExec Institute Series in 2008, completed the Advanced Project Management course certificate in 2010 from Stanford, and then graduated from the Nanoscience Program from Foothill College in 2012. He went onto work as a Staff Scientist in May of 2012 for the NASA-OMEGA (Off-Shore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae), a project aimed at developing a green technology capable of producing scalable quantities of microalgae-based biofuels using nutrients derived from municipal wastewater discharge. Zach is a part-time research scientist at NASA-Ames Research Center Advanced Studies Laboratory (Mountain View, CA).
Eric Herbig is the Chief Scientist at Immusoft Corporation. He leads research, development and testing of the ISP™ platform, a breakthrough technology that turns human immune cells into biologic production factories within the body.
Eric brings to Immusoft more than 15 years of diverse research experience, including a number of years specializing in cell development, gene regulation and cancer research. He entered college with dreams of becoming a rock star, and delved briefly into zoology before finding fascination in the complexity and cutting edge nature of molecular biology. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at Arizona State University. His graduate studies were completed at the University of Washington, where he was one of just three individuals in his year to obtain an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. concurrently.
Eric’s research career began while attending Arizona State University. There, at the Arizona State Cancer Research Institute, he spent several years identifying natural products with activity against cancer cells, first in the organic chemistry lab of Dr. Dennis Dubeck and later in the microbiology laboratory of Dr. Robin Pettit. Later transitioning into genetic research, Eric worked in the Newfeld lab utilizing the model organism, Drosophila melonagaster (fruit fly) to derive a mechanism for the activity of human cancer mutations. He also collaborated with computer scientists in the Kumar lab in the creation of a Drosophila gene expression image database.
While at the University of Washington, Eric spent time studying cellular development and gene expression. His most recently published paper explores gene regulation, including the identification of so-called ‘fuzzy complexes’, a newly identified form of protein-protein interaction. Much of this research was completed in the labs of Drs. Hahn and Stoddard at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, a world renowned leader in cancer prevention, detection and treatment research. Eric cites Dr. Hahn’s affinity for pursuing the technically challenging as inspiration, and one of the reasons he now enjoys the difficulty and risk of research at a startup company.
Immusoft is Eric’s second experience working at a startup after consulting for several years at Mirador Biomedical. His extensive research background is well suited to working with emerging biotech; with experience in genomics (microarrays), mass spectroscopy, structural biology, biophysics, yeast genetics, and business, Eric is able to draw on disciplines across the spectrum to generate innovation.
Rian de Laat, Ph.D., is a scientist at Immusoft. She is an experienced researcher with training in academic and industrial settings in molecular biology, biophysics, neurodegeneration, immunology and physiology.
Her broad expertise ranges from molecular cloning, mammalian cell culture, primary culture, animal husbandry, histology, imaging, immunochemistry, assay development, and high thorough-put screening. Rian is also well versed in using in vivo and in vitro models for studying development and signal transduction. Additionally, she has extensive training in Flow cytometry, Imaging, Immunocytochemistry, Immunohistochemistry (IHC), Immunoprecipitation (IP) In Situ, Mass spectrometry, PCR, Protein Interactions, ELISA, Real-time PCR, RNA Interference/ shRNA, and secretory pathway manipulation.
Earlier she held positions at Quantum Dot Corporation, an Immunology Lab at the University of San Francisco, California, and Elan Pharmaceuticals. Rian earned her Ph.D., in Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington. She has a bachelor’s in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
R. Scott McIvor, Ph.D., Chief Development Officer at Immusoft, is Professor of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development at the University of Minnesota. He is also a Founding Scientist and Chief Executive Officer at Discovery Genomics, Inc., Immusoft’s close collaborator.
Dr. McIvor graduated with degrees in Cell and Molecular Biology, and Pathobiology from the University of Washington and obtained his Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Minnesota in 1982. He was a postdoctoral fellow first at the University of California, San Francisco, and then at Genentech, Inc., in South San Francisco, California, where he conducted some of the earliest work on gene transfer into animal tissues in vivo.
He has been at the University of Minnesota since 1986, where he initially was a member of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Human Genetics, where he served as Director of the Gene Therapy Program.
He is a two-time former member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) has served extensively on NIH study sections and the Scientific Advisory Board of the NIH National Gene Vector Laboratories. He is currently a member of the Gene Therapy Resource Program Steering Committee for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and serves on the Editorial Board for Molecular Therapy. His research has been primarily in the area of human gene therapy, where he has extensive experience developing both viral and non-viral vectors for the treatment of genetic diseases and cancer.
Monika Swietlicka is Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at Immusoft. She leads development and implementation of regulatory strategy and quality systems, including overseeing regulatory submissions and compliance. She is responsible for quality oversight and program management of Immusoft’s clinical pipeline.
Monika has broad knowledge of the product lifecycle from Investigational New Drug approval through the Biologics License Application process with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency. She brings to Immusoft extensive experience in various biotechnology settings, having specialized in discovery, pre-clinical, clinical, commercial and translational research. She is versed in all stages of cellular therapeutics and biologics drug development, and manufacturing.
Previously, Monika managed a continuous improvement program for a first in class immunotherapy product, Provenge (Sipuleucel-T), for which she also developed new processes to monitor method lifecycle. She has authored content for FDA and EMA submissions, led Contract Manufacturing Organization tech transfer activities and compliance audits.
Immusoft is Monika’s third experience with a biotech startup. Earlier, she worked on in-situ therapeutic antibody rescue technology, T-cell activation platform, and the first autologous antigen-presenting cells vaccine designed to stimulate an immune response to a variety of tumor types. She was part of early collaborative efforts with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to develop HIV-neutralizing antibodies and has worked on broadly neutralizing antibodies for treating pandemic influenza and severe seasonal influenza.
Monika has degrees from Seattle Pacific University, having earned an M.B.A. in International Business and a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. While earning her master’s, she co-authored an operations management textbook now used by the graduate business program. As an undergraduate, her senior thesis focused on studies of NKG2D and MICA on Surface and in Solution in which MICA ligands were mutated at residues that do not contact NKG2D.
Monika is a strong advocate for disruptive biotechnologies and passionately supports all regulatory activities to advance Immusoft’s strategic initiatives.