Richard Yu, Ph.D.

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Our Team

The founders at Abalone Bio saw an opportunity to apply complementary skill sets in cell biology, genetics, synthetic and systems biology, structural biology, and computer science to address a long-standing problem and opportunity: drugs for membrane protein targets, like GPCRs, to activate or modulate cellular activities to treat disease.

Leadership Team

Richard Yu, Ph.D.

Richard Yu, Ph.D.

Co-Founder & CEO

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Board of Directors, Head of Operations, Business Development

Richard has been in and around startups since 2008, on both sides of the lease and term sheet, as founder, incubator manager, and venture capital principal.

His path to co-founding Abalone Bio started at UC Berkeley in Biophysics and Computer science, and wound its way through protein engineering, structural biology, and then systems biology and synthetic biology at the Molecular Sciences Institute, where he met co-founder Gustavo Pesce.

Abalone Bio grew out of an “a-ha!” moment shared with Gustavo defining a technology that uniquely combines their skillsets and experiences to meet a long-standing therapeutic need- safe and effective drugs for promising yet difficult to drug targets.

Ph.D., Mol. Biochemistry & Biophysics, 2000
Yale University

Favorite Outside Work or Activity:
Making or fixing things around the house or lab, rock climbing, motorcycling, tea and coffee obsessing

Toshi Takeuchi, Ph.D.

Toshi Takeuchi, Ph.D.

CSO

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Head of R&D, Academic and industry partnerships

Toshi brings nearly 20 years of industrial experience and expertise in antibody expression and engineering, therapeutic discovery and development, and project and departmental leadership to Abalone Bio.

Prior to joining Abalone Bio, Toshi worked at companies ranging from small startups (Bioren, acquired by Pfizer) to large multinational companies (Bayer).  As VP of Discovery Research at XOMA Corporation, he was responsible for selection, engineering and characterization of multiple clinically developed antibodies. Most recently, as VP of Discovery Research at Second Genome, he helped develop therapeutics derived from the human microbiome.  

Ph.D., Chemistry 1996
California Institute of Technology

Favorite Outside Work or Activity:
Cycling, playing violin, gardening, meditating and spending time with family (when they tolerate him)

Lauren Schwimmer, Ph.D.

Lauren Schwimmer, Ph.D.

VP of PREclinical development

Antibody development

Lauren brings a wealth of antibody and immuno-oncology drug development experience to Abalone Bio.

At Xoma and Distributed Bio, she was behind the development of two of the most well-regarded antibody libraries used for antibody drug discovery, and she managed multiple antibody drug discovery and preclinical drug development teams.

At QLSF, she directed three pre-clinical stage bispecific antibody drug development programs for immuno-oncology.

Ph.D., Biochemistry, 2005
Georgia Institute of Technology

Favorite Outside Work or Activity:
Dancing, reading, and coaching a Middle School robotics team

Monica Schwartz, Ph.D.

Monica Schwartz, Ph.D.

director of antibody discovery

Platform Technology Development, Antibody Discovery

Monica has a deep background in early discovery and platform development.

At Achaogen, she led the development of a microfluidic B-cell capture and screening platform, in addition to her efforts in target development and characterization.

At Zymergen, she was project and portfolio leads for multiple teams to develop and scale cellular engineering technologies.

Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2005, University of California, San Francisco

Favorite Outside Work or Activity:
Hiking and biking

Ron Burch, M.D., Ph.D.

Ron Burch, M.D., Ph.D.

SENIOR MEDICAL ADVISOR

Antibody development

Dr. Burch has a 35 year history in biotech. His formal training was in pharmacology and chemistry, which was followed by a move to the NIH and then into a prolific biotech and pharma career. Ron has held senior research, director and VP roles at large pharma Zeneca and Purdue, and helpd several C-suite roles (CEO and CMO) and a number of biotechs.

He was a founder or founding team member and CEO and CMO in numerous neurological and pain related biotech companies, including successes like Naurex, which developed an antibody-derived NMDA receptor partial antagonist for depression and was acquired by Allergan for $560M upfront in 2015.  He also currently serves as CMO of Gate Neurosciences.
Having developed two CIPN drugs through clinical trials, he has unique insight into particular clinical pain points and issues along the whole development path from discovery to market.

Dr. Burch is leading the clinical development plan for our CIPN program, and providing general drug development and clinical development from his combined successful startup and large pharma experiences.


Favorite Outside Work or Activity:
Avid orchid collector and hybridizer

Richard Yu, Ph.D.

Richard Yu, Ph.D.

Co-Founder & CEO

Board of Directors, Head of Operations, Business Development

Richard has been in and around startups since 2008, on both sides of the lease and term sheet, as founder, incubator manager, and venture capital principal.

His path to co-founding Abalone Bio started at UC Berkeley in Biophysics and Computer science, and wound its way through protein engineering, structural biology, and then systems biology and synthetic biology at the Molecular Sciences Institute, where he met co-founder Gustavo Pesce.

Abalone Bio grew out of an “a-ha!” moment shared with Gustavo defining a technology that uniquely combine their skillsets and experiences to meet a long-standing therapeutic need- safe and effective drugs for promising yet difficult to drug targets.

Ph.D., Mol. Biochemistry & Biophysics, 2000
Yale University

Favorite outside work or activity:

Making or fixing things around the house or lab, rock climbing, motorcycling, tea and coffee obsessing

    Toshi Takeuchi, Ph.D.

    Toshi Takeuchi, Ph.D.

    CSO

      Head of R&D, Academic and industry partnerships

      Toshi brings nearly 20 years of industrial experience and expertise in antibody expression and engineering, therapeutic discovery and development, and project and departmental leadership to Abalone Bio.

      Prior to joining Abalone Bio, Toshi worked at companies ranging from small startups (Bioren, acquired by Pfizer) to large multinational companies (Bayer).  As VP of Discovery Research at XOMA Corporation, he was responsible for selection, engineering and characterization of multiple clinically developed antibodies. Most recently, as VP of Discovery Research at Second Genome, he helped develop therapeutics derived from the human microbiome.  

      Ph.D., Chemistry 1996
      California Institute of Technology

      Favorite outside work or activity:

      Cycling, playing violin, gardening, meditating and spending time with family (when they tolerate him)

      Lauren Schwimmer, Ph.D.

      Lauren Schwimmer, Ph.D.

      VP of PREclinical development

      Antibody development

      Lauren brings a wealth of antibody and immuno-oncology drug development experience to Abalone Bio.

      At Xoma and Distributed Bio, she was behind the development of two of the most well-regarded antibody libraries used for antibody drug discovery, and she managed multiple antibody drug discovery and preclinical drug development teams.

      At QLSF, she directed three pre-clinical stage bispecific antibody drug development programs for immuno-oncology.

      Ph.D., Biochemistry, 2005
      Georgia Institute of Technology

      Favorite outside work or activity:

      Dancing, reading, and coaching a Middle School robotics team

        Monica Schwartz, Ph.D.

        Monica Schwartz, Ph.D.

        director of antibody discovery

          Platform Technology Development, Antibody Discovery

          Monica has a deep background in early discovery and platform development.

          At Achaogen, she led the development of a microfluidic B-cell capture and screening platform, in addition to her efforts in target development and characterization.

          At Zymergen, she was project and portfolio leads for multiple teams to develop and scale cellular engineering technologies.

          Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2005, University of California, San Francisco

          Favorite outside work or activity:

          Hiking and biking

          Ron Burch, M.D., Ph.D.

          Ron Burch, M.D., Ph.D.

          SENIOR MEDICAL ADVISOR

          Dr. Burch has a 35 year history in biotech. His formal training was in pharmacology and chemistry, but quickly moved to the NIH and then into a prolific biotech and pharma career. In addition to senior research, director, VP, and C-suite roles (CEO and CMO) at large pharma Zeneca and Purdue.

          He was a founder or founding team member in numerous neurological and pain related biotech companies, including spectacular successes like Naurex, which developed an antibody-derived NMDA receptor partial antagonist for depression and was acquired by Allergan for $560M upfront in 2015, and was CMO at Pacira Pharmaceuticals and AlgoRx.

          Having developed two CIPN drugs through clinical trials, he has unique insight into particular clinical pain points and issues along the whole development path from discovery to market.

          Dr. Burch is leading the clinical development plan for our CIPN program, and providing general drug development and clinical development from his combined successful startup and large pharma experiences.

          He also currently serves as CMO of Gate Neurosciences.

          Favorite outside work or activity:

          Avid orchid collector and hybridizer

            Scientific Team

            Aaron Casey

            Aaron Casey

            Technician

            Molecular biology, Microbiology, and lab operations.

            Currently enrolled: Los Medonas College, Agricultural microbiology.

            Favorite outside work or activity:

            Auto repair 

              Miranda Cabanski-Dunning, B.S.

              Miranda Cabanski-Dunning, B.S.

              research associate

                Molecular biology, microbiology, and lab operations

                B.S., Cell Biology, 2020
                UC Davis

                Favorite outside work or activity: 

                Fitness and hanging with my cats 

                Abrahim El Gamal, Ph.D.

                Abrahim El Gamal, Ph.D.

                Sr. scientist

                Platform engineering, antibody discovery and development

                Lodo Therapeutics (Scientist)

                Ph.D., Marine Biology (Biochemistry), 2016
                UC San Diego

                Favorite outside work or activity:

                Coffee

                  Stephanie Lopez, Ph.D.

                  Stephanie Lopez, Ph.D.

                  SR. scientist

                    Platform development, antibody discovery

                    Synthex (Scientist)
                    Next Interactions (Scientist)
                    Kiverdi (Scientist)

                    Ph.D., Chemistry, 2015
                    UC Berkeley

                    Favorite outside work or activity:

                    Baking

                    Barbara McCormack, Ph.D.

                    Barbara McCormack, Ph.D.

                    scientist

                      Platform development

                      Ph.D., Biochemistry, 2020
                      University of Buenos Aires

                      Favorite outside work or activity:

                      Reading, playing with my dog, pottery, gardening

                      Bartholomew P. Roland, Ph.D.

                      Bartholomew P. Roland, Ph.D

                      scientist II

                        Antibody development and cell-based assays

                        Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Project Manager, Scientist)

                        Ph.D., Molecular Pharmacology, 2014
                        University of Pittsburgh

                        Favorite outside work or activity:

                        Hiking, kayaking, disc golf, playing with my dog

                        Clara Solari, Ph.D.

                        Clara Solari, Ph.D.

                        Operations Lead and scientist

                          Platform development

                          Ph.D., Biochemistry 2019
                          University of Buenos Aires

                          Favorite outside work or activity:

                          Singing

                          Advisors

                          Bob Kay, Ph.D.

                          CEO, Epalex, Origen; FoUNDING ROLES, GenPharm/Medarex, Genetics Institute/Wyeth

                          Expertise: Executive, growth and business development

                          Dr. Kay is nearly a 40 year veteran in the biotech industry. He was an early member of Genetics Institute, acquired by Wyeth, in the early 80s at the dawn of the biotech era, and quickly ascended to executive roles at GenPharm (VP), acquired by Medarex; Origen (CEO), and Epalex (CEO). Some of these companies were involved in cutting-edge platform technologies in the therapeutic antibody space, including some of the first biologic drugs and the first transgenic animals to produce humanized antibodies. He has a broad experience base across multiple indication areas, from discovery to clinical trials, with a firm rooting in antibody discovery platform technologies.

                          Nigel Beeley, Ph.D.

                          CCO, Arena; VP of Discovery, Senomyx; CEO/CSO Ab-vax

                          Expertise: Executive, drug discovery and development

                          Dr. Beeley is a 30+ year veteran in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. His scientific background started in organic chemistry, but over his years grew into both small molecule and antibody drug development, with particular experience in oncology and in GPCRs. Most relevant to Abalone, he was VP and Chief Chemical Officer at Arena Pharmaceuticals, a GPCR drug company; VP of Discovery at Senomyx, finding GPCR and ion channel small molecule agonists; and as CSO and CEO of Ab-Vax, which developed therapeutic antibodies. His experiences in both small molecules and antibodies gives us insight into the relative advantages of each and gives us clarity into indications and drug profiles that are especially well-suited for our discovery platform (i.e., functional antibodies). Dr. Beeley has co-authored over 70 scientific publications and abstracts and is a co-inventor on over 90 patent applications, including over 40 issued US patents.

                          David Rabuka, Ph.D.

                          CEO, Acrigen; Redwood Biosciences/Catalent

                          Expertise: Startup operations and growth, antibody drug development, and business development

                          Dr. Rabuka is a returning therapeutics biotech entrepreneur. Most relevant to Abalone Bio, his first company, Redwood Biosciences, developed antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) technology that was acquired by Catalent (2014). Through his run at Redwood as CEO then CSO, then at Catalent, he saw development of multiple programs, including the development from discovery to clinical trials of an anti-CD22 ADC for lymphoma. He has an amazing perspective from growing Redwood in its early days during the last financial crisis, so he has a lot of insights into creating value quickly and inexpensively, leveraging select pharma partnerships and non-dilutive grant funding.

                          Javier Szwarcberg, M.D.

                          Clinical Developer and Vice President, BioMarin; Ultragenyx, Intermune

                          Expertise: Portfolio development, clinical and regulatory guidance.

                          Dr. Szwarcberg is a clinical researcher and biotech executive with an exceptionally rich set of experiences in clinical research and drug development. He has led more than 22 clinical trials, many successful ones, for a variety of drugs, including small molecules, peptides and biologics. While trained as a pulmonologistr, his work spans many fields, including lung fibrosis and infectious disease (HIV).  In recent years, Dr. Szwarcberg has worked in orphan diseases, and has directed and managed preclinical and clinical pipelines, comprising small molecules, antibody drugs, enzyme therapies and gene therapy approaches. Dr. Szwarcberg presented and defended results at the FDA multiple times, including four drug approvals, one for pirfenidone (Esbriet) for lung fibrosis.

                          Dr. Szwarcberg advises Abalone in pre-clinical and clinical drug development, and also in target and indication choices and program and portfolio strategies, including research of unmet needs, market adoption, competition and risk assessment. Through his extensive network, Dr. Szwarcberg has provided invaluable connections to discovery, development and clinical researchers and business development and other executives in biotech companies.

                          Todd Morrill, B.A. M.B.A.

                          Faculty Director, NSF iCorps

                          Expertise: Business development, and partnerships.

                          Todd is currently leading the NSF iCorp program, a national program that teaches customer discovery and company development to early stage technical startup companies. His background in pharma and biotech finance at Burrill and Craves led to VP sales, executive, and senior BD development roles. Most important for Abalone, his roles at platform drug discovery biotech companies Trellis Biosciences and Crystal Biosciences (another antibody platform company acquired by Ligand Pharmaceutics) gives him unique insights and opinions in our early business development efforts as a therapeutics platform company ourselves.

                          Scientific Advisors and Partners

                          Cannabinoid Receptor Biology

                          Ken Mackie, M.D. Ph.D.

                          Distinguished Professor,  Jack and Linda Gill Chair at the Gill Center for Biomolecular Science, Indiana University
                          Pain biology; cannabinoid receptor biology

                          Immunology

                          Bonnie Dittel, Ph.D.

                          Senior Investigator, Versiti Blood Research Institute; Professor, Microbiology & Immunology, Medical College of Wisconsin.
                          CB2 in adaptive immunity and inflammatory disease

                          Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy

                          Andrea Hohmann, Ph.D.

                          Professor, Jack and Linda Gill Chair at the Gill Center for Biomolecular Science, Indiana University
                          CB2 biology; CIPN preclinical studies

                          Dr. Ellen Smith, Ph.D., ANP-BC, AOCN®

                          Professor, University of Vermont
                          CIPN clinical trial design expert

                          Dr. Noah Kolb, M.D.

                          Associate Professor of Neurology, University of Vermont
                          CIPN clinician; CIPN treatment and biomarker development; CIPN clinical trials

                          Liver Disease

                          Monty Bissell, M.D.

                          Professor and Clinician, Chief of Gastroenterology and Director of the UCSF Liver Center, UC San Francisco
                          Liver physiology and disease; liver fibrosis

                          Scott Friedman, M.D.

                          Professor, Dean for Therapeutic Discovery and Chief of the Division of Liver Diseases, Mt Sinai School of Medicine
                          Liver fibrosis

                          Lung Inflammatory Disease and Fibrosis

                          Dean Sheppard, M.D.

                          Professor, Chief, Pulmonary, Critical Care, Allergy, and Sleep Medicine, and Director of the Lung Biology Center, UCSF
                          Lung diseases, lung fibrosis, liver fibrosis

                          Erica Herzog, M.D. Ph.D.

                          Professor & Clinician,  Vice Chief for Basic and Translational Research, Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, and Director, Yale Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) Center of Excellence, Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Yale
                          Lung fibrosis, IPF

                          Jon Koff, M.D.

                          Professor & Clinician, Associate Director, Fellowship Research, Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, and Director, Adult Cystic Fibrosis Program, Yale
                          Lung disease, CF

                          Inflammatory Bowel Disease

                          Gary Mawe, Ph.D

                          Professor, University of Vermont
                          Gastrointestinal biology; inflammatory bowel disease

                          Keith Sharkey, Ph.D.

                          Professor, University of Calgary
                          Inflammatory bowel disease; CB2 in GI inflammation and pain

                          Chemokine Receptor Drugs, Immuno-Oncology and GPCR Oncology

                          J. Silvio Gutkind, Ph.D.

                          Professor, Associate Director of the Moores Cancer Center, UC San Diego
                          GPCRs and cancer

                          Tracy Handel, Ph.D.

                          Professor, UC San Diego
                          GPCR and chemokine structure-function; chemokine receptor drug design

                          Camelid Antibody Engineering and Development

                          Dr. Reza Hassanzdaeh-Ghassabeh, Ph.D.

                          Sr. Technology Expert, VIB, Belgium
                          Camelid development, optimization, and engineering

                          In memoriam

                          Gustavo Pesce

                          Gustavo Pesce, Ph.D.

                          Co-Founder and founding CSO

                          August 4, 1967 - February 18, 2021

                          Abalone Bio carries on the legacy of co-founder Gustavo Pesce. His scientific vision, rigor, and curiosity - and one-of-a-kind personality- are deeply encoded in Abalone Bio's DNA.

                          Gustavo started his scientific journey working on gene regulation with Alberto Kornblihtt at the University of Buenos Aires and then in cell biology and genetics with Peter Walter at UCSF. He then expanded his research toolset into experimental and computational systems biology and synthetic biology with Roger Brent and Sydney Brenner at the Molecular Sciences Institute, where he met co-founder Richard Yu in 2003. He co-founded the algae biofuel startup GPB in 2008 with Rich, and then worked on industrial synthetic biology projects at Bolt Threads and Amyris Biotechnologies before starting Abalone Bio in 2018.

                          Abalone Bio was seeded by his shared desire with Rich to apply their complementary skillsets, experiences, and personalities to developing uniquely impactful therapeutics. The company is the namesake of the delicacy that Gustavo, an avid open ocean swimmer and diver, used to hunt in Northern Californian waters.