The Team

The Pack

Grappling with conceptually-challenging new science, working for hours at the bench to complete impossibly-complex experiments designed to illuminate the dark, analyzing pages of data from the laboratory, and then synthesizing all that information into presentations that can be understood by the world; this is our challenge. And while it is one we embrace gladly, it can all be overwhelming if not kept in perspective. Nothing clears the head or brings real perspective more than a relationship with furry friends. Mercaptor takes full advantage of the opportunity to reap the benefits of a symbiotic relationship that began tens-of-thousands of years ago—with our best friends.

We value the team behind the team: Our dogs. They tolerate our quirks in exchange for love, reciprocated 100-fold, occasional treats and long hikes in the hills that rise behind Mercaptor and continue all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Read about our canine companions below:

The Discovery Team

We have a small, dedicated, cross-functional team. We have room to grow the business, but we are not keen to grow the team as we value our autonomy and feel strongly about maintaining scientific integrity. The Mercaptor espirit de corps is rooted in mutual respect and trust that has been cultivated over years of shared effort. Working in relative obscurity from the outside world, we have grown accustomed to drawing strength from within and leaning on each other to make us stronger. Not surprisingly, team members are as committed to each other as they are to the science and the mission. We all wear many hats - proudly.


The Tech Team

Our Tech Ops Team keeps everything behind the scenes running smoothly and looking good.

Canine

Skills

Master snuggler
100%

Boo

Australian Shepherd

Boo was born on Christmas 2009, was rescued from a ranch on Halloween 2010 and thinks he’s a cat. Boo loves people and lives to be petted. He’s an Australian Shepard that would wag his tail but only can shake his tail-less butt. Boo will take the stuffing and squeakers out of dog toys but gently chews his stuffed squirrel-friends keeping them 100% intact.

Brings to the Table:
Boo brings an always happy attitude!

Favorites

Lobster friends Squirrel-friends

Skills

Porpoising
100%

Buddhist “Buddha”

Staffordshire Terrier

Buddhist is the newest addition to the Mercaptor family, born September 2017. A hyper-dense force of nature who makes everyone feel as though they’ve never experienced a puppy before, Buddhist astonishes with boundless curiosity, cheeky mischief, and limitless love. Just when you think you’ve taken his measure, this little ball of gumption pulls off a new stunt, like making a pile of food vanishes in a display of voracious abandon.

Brings to the Table:
Puppy love and mayhem!

Favorites

Porpoising on the couch Piles of food Bella (his human sister)

Canine

Skills

Risk assessment
30%
Organizational management
30%
Problem solving
30%

Cassie

Aussie/Samoyed Mix

Cassie is the alpha-dog at Mercaptor, a position secured by an IQ at least 10 points higher than the company average. She is a generous leader, only asserting herself when respect or decorum are unforgivably lacking. She is always vigilant, missing nothing, connecting dots, working angles, calculating odds, doing the math. A formidable example for human and dog alike.

Favorites

Treats Hideouts with easily monitored routes of entry and egress

Canine

Skills

Destroying toys
30%
Giving an hour warning whine before evening treat time
30%
Alerting the household if someone gets too close to the house
30%

Dolce

Rat Terrier

Dolce is quick, smart and seems to have springs for legs. He loves being chased by Emma or his work friends but also jumping up in the laps of his human friends. He is an expert beggar and has his sad dog face mastered. He has his morning routine of going office to office where he knows he can snag a treat and pet.

Favorites

Going from office to office to get treats Laying in the sunshine Snuggling under a blanket Playing tug of war Laying atop multiple plush pillows

My Human Is

Canine

Skills

Tracking by scent
90%
Running and jumping around, all four legs aflail, just for the hell of it
100%

Ellie Rae

Plott Hound Mix

Ellie knows what is important and what is not. Chasing wildlife for miles while shrieking like a Banshee is important. People are not. Thankfully, her prejudices have begun to temper a bit. She will always prefer her normal friends, Cassie especially, Rosie, Chego, and Riley too, but she has started to make some accommodation for Mercaptor’s humans.

Brings to the Table:
Primal canine behavior, a deafening howl.

Favorites

Treats Cassie Memory-foam dog beds

Canine

Skills

Rolls over, will shake your hand, can play dead
50%
Sneaks treats like a ninja, gives puppy dog eyes like you wouldn't believe, can swallow any treat without chewing (as if magic, right before your eyes)
60%
Pretends as though she has never been fed before in her life when you are near the treat bowl
90%
Spins and twirls
40%
Will give you the warmest greeting after not seeing you for 30 seconds
90%

Kahlua “Lulu”

Yorkshire Terrier

Kahula is Mercaptor’s resident Momma’s girl (unless Dad is nearby). She is a ball of energy that loves to play with her tennis ball, squeaky toys, and anything she can eat. She is competitive, and frequently jealous when mom gives any attention to any other dog… Jealousy aside, you can typically find her napping on someone’s lap, dancing or doing tricks to earn treats, or waiting for mom to return from a meeting, the restroom, lunch, etc. She may be a bit asocial, but we all know she loves the pack here at Mercaptor.

Brings to the Table:
Kahlua brings lots of joy and laughter to the team with her quirky personality mixed with her sweet and sassy demeanor. She lives up to the saying, “small dog, big personality.”

Favorites

Her small tennis ball any and all treats warm laundry (fresh out of the dryer) walks food snuggling squeaky toys her house (pet carrier) cuddling under the blankets

Lucy

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Lucy is a big teddy bear who’s heart is as big as her stomach (that says something). She is stubborn, but loyal and loves her humans dearly.

Canine

Skills

Chego knows a lot of tricks, but will only do the ones he really likes, for example if you tell him to roll over he will pretend he didn't hear that and turn around instead. He learns fast, many members of his work and home family have taught him many tricks. He can high-five, speak, whisper and shake among many other tricks.
100%

Manchego “Chego”

Chihuahua Miniature Pincher Mix

Chego is a little prince, you will sometimes catch him being carried in and out of work wrapped in his blanket by mom. He is a sweet and playful boy with the occasional outburst of zoomies. Chego is an independent little man who likes to wander and explore but when he is over that he will search for any lap to sleep in by pawing at you to pick him up into your lap. He is afraid of loud noises and crowded places so if you see him in someone’s arms it’s because he wants to feel protected. He is Esme’s ray of sunshine at all times of the day.

Brings to the Table:
Always on alert, you can always count on Chego to notify you when someone has entered the building. He keeps Mercaptor Discoveries headquarters safe from “evil” birds bouncing and flying around the parking lot. You may catch him looking out the windows warning strangers to stay away. But don’t get him the wrong way he is truly a sweet and kind boy, he won’t ever hurt anyone he just loves to show off his “loud” roar.

Favorites

Anything that will keep him warm Warm blankets Laying under the warm sun and in winter time sleeping next to the heater Kale Carrots Spinach Doggy treats

Canine

Skills

Milo is a master of tricks since he is incredibly treat-motivated
100%
Shake
100%
High-five, leave-it, stay, crawl
70%
Turn around, beg, dance
60%
"Bang" (plays dead)
90%

Milo

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Milo, though not the smartest of the bunch, sure is one of the sweetest. He is always by his Mommy’s side, excited and ready to go on whatever adventure awaits him. He is timid and clumsy, but once he knows and loves you, he trusts you with his whole heart and has plenty of slobbery kisses to prove it!

Brings to the Table:
You can always count on Milo to make you chuckle with his awkwardness. He is a complete goof-ball, though we always say that is part of his charm. His innocence and devotion are refreshing and sweet and a reminder to us all to find joy in the simple things in life. 

Favorites

Going out on hikes/camping Chasing after Daddy and human-bro Tug-o-war Snuggling FOOOOOOD!!! 

Canine

Skills

Though Nani is as smart as they come and can do a variety of tricks, don't think she will do any of them unless she gets something out of it. While you are at it, can you walk the treat to her first?
90%
On second thought, she will just jump on the table while you aren't looking and can help herself- thank you. 
100%

Nani

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Nani is one of the original ‘aptor dogs. She’s incredibly affectionate and sweet, but don’t let that fool you- she’s as naughty as they come in the sneakiest of ways. She loves her human companions (much more than her fur-buddies), especially if you have treats to share. Take her outdoors and she has the energy of a little pup, but at home, she’s our little sloth. She gives the best kisses and snuggles and is more than willing to share the love!

Favorites

She loves jumping onto your face and snuggling into your neck The outdoors Wind in her face Wand on her feet Water in her hair

Oliver

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Oliver is a sweet boy, known for his expert cuddles. He is never far away, ready to take advantage of any available snuggles and treats! 

Canine

Riley

Staffordshire Terrier Mix

Riley is nothing short of a tom girl.  She has a quirky personality with big ears to match.  Riley will greet you with a huge smile on her face, whipping her tale from side to side (watch out!). She is a bit stubborn at times but has so much love for everyone, we cannot help but love her back. Riley has each and everyone of us wrapped around her paws.

Brings to the Table:
Riley’s spunky personality brings pure amusement to us all and brightens our day with her enthusiasm.  She is ready to smother anyone, humans or dogs, with kisses. Riley is genuinely a special girl and has molded into our Mercaptor family perfectly.

Favorites

Riley loves hiking with her fellow dogs and of course her favorite person: Todd   Just as much as she loves running she loves her dog naps Filling her stomach with only the best dog treats As long as she is near her people she is a happy pup

Canine

Skills

Rosie plays dead, shakes your hand, and "goes around" in a circle all on command (for treats only of course)
80%
She can destroy any toy in less than an hour (including the ones claiming to be indestructible) and can injest toy parts faster than you can blink.
90%
By far though she is most skilled at tug-of-war. To date she remains undefeated!
100%
Blowing snot rockets great distances through the air, sometimes even defying gravity (watch out!)
90%

Rosie

English Bulldog

True to her breed Rosie is a stubborn girl, but she has a heart of gold. She wiggles her butt with great enthusiasm when she greets her human friends, however, she can take or leave most dogs. When the other dogs are playing rough and getting rowdy Rosie steps in as regulator. Mostly, though she is content to wait patiently by the treat table for passers-by in hopes they won’t be able to resist her squishy face and sad eyes. 

Brings to the Table:
Rosie brings a personality as sweet as sugar to the Mercaptor family. She loves every single person here to death (although there’s no denying that Todd is her absolute favorite). She also brings copious amounts of slobber to the family! No one gets out without Rosie drool on their legs! 

Favorites

Treats Belly scratches New treats Playing tug-of-war with her rope More treats Playing fetch with her rope Are there any treats? Going for short walks in cold weather Treats

Skills

Vana can jump high with her whippet-like long legs
100%

Vana

Rat Terrier Mix

Vana was rescued at the age of two from the Marin Humane Society around Christmas 2008, so her nickname is Vana White Christmas or Vana Claus. She’s a rat terrier mix, has the legs of a whippet and weighs in at 12 pounds. She loves being a lap dog but scares easily. Vana barks at the birds and stray cats on our property and enjoys laying in the sun.

Brings to the Table:
Vana creates calm when she sits in your lap and curls up for petting.

Favorites

Green bones More green bones

Senior Scientist

Amanda Ko

Amanda has been an integral part of our close-knit team for more than 12 years. Her years of industry and academic experience have helped her gain a comprehensive understanding of important concepts and techniques relevant to our research. Her educational experience from her undergrad and masters programs includes an emphasis on neurobiology, oncology, and stem cell techniques. As a Senior Scientist, she is responsible for initiating, directing, and executing research and development, directly managing our bench team of researchers. She works with CRO’s to set up pre-clinical studies to aid in further exploring our mechanisms of action for our Captons®. Recently, she has been more involved in the translational research side, designs and coordinates animal studies, and helps plan the development path to get our Captons from bench to clinic. Additionally, she works closely with Victoria on Grant Writing.

Director, Finance and Administration

Annie Verde

Annie is the consummate caregiver of the team. She handles finance, benefits, accounting and the wide array of day-to-day operations that make this place run seamlessly. Annie is detail-oriented yet doesn’t sweat the small stuff. She supports the entire Mercaptor team, facilitating our research and helping to build a strong infrastructure and foundation for us to thrive and operate optimally. With nearly 40 years of experience in finance and administration, Annie is extremely experienced with auditing, resource management, budgeting, tracking financial resources, human capital management, financial software implementation, cash management, oversight of stock option plans. She has assisted in due diligence in preparation for Initial Public Offering (IPO), and has served on many cross-functional project teams. She also has extensive experience in overseeing facilities and purchasing to ensure the team has the equipment and reagents needed for experiments and general operations. Within the dynamic environment produced by a startup, she has been a vital and versatile team player within various departments and she also assists the team in achieving successful outcomes by fostering a nurturing learning environment through cross-training initiatives.

Vice President of Public Relations, Communications, and Investor Relations

Carole Barrow

Carole is a widely published writer and editor who has played a vital role in crafting Mercaptor’s voice, developing innovative marketing campaigns and creating our media outreach agenda. She is Editor of an award-winning regional magazine and has been a syndicated columnist for several prominent Bay Area publications. She has also held key positions in social media marketing and advertising copywriting for a wide range of industries from high-end event production to corporate finance. Her eclectic range of experience makes her the perfect ambassador to communicate Mercaptor’s mission in an “unbiased, unscripted and unexpected” way.

Jack of All Trades

Chris Rincon

As head of health and safety, Chris keeps us trained and fully compliant, keeps the lab running, and the laboratory equipment maintained. His resourcefulness and versatile skillset support Mercaptor’s mission and lay a solid foundation so that the research team can thrive.

Research Associate II

Esmeralda Ponce

Esme develops, performs, and analyzes experiments that analyze ROS levels, the activity of proteins, and cellular oxidation. Her work ethic is rivaled only by her extreme efficiency and commitment to helping team-members succeed. Her love for science began when she was first introduced to scientific research as an undergraduate and work-study lab technician at the Dominican University of California. She published her research findings and presented data at several conferences during her undergraduate and graduate career. She has applied her scientific research skills at a community-based level as she earned her Master of Public Health, positively impacting the communities in which she worked. Currently, as a Research Associate II at Mercaptor Discoveries, her focus is on how Captons® help to protect neuronal cells from excitotoxicity and oxidative stress. Esme has completed internships in the Occupational Health Internship Program and the California Department of Public health. She was also adjunct faculty at Dominican University and taught microbiology and human physiology labs.  

While at Mercaptor she has been team captain for all fundraisers we have participated in: Walk to Defeat ALS (2 years) and Parkinson’s Moving Day. She is a certified Domestic Violence Advocate, receiving her 40-hour training with the Center for Domestic Peace, an organization to which Mercaptor donated 25 journals to women living in domestic violence shelter or transition homes.  

Chief Financial Officer, Secretary, and Co-founder

Kim R. Tsuchimoto

Ms. Tsuchimoto co-founded Mercaptor Discoveries Inc. and is our part-time Chief Financial Officer. Ms. Tsuchimoto is also the Chief Financial Officer of Monopar Therapeutics since June 2015. Ms. Tsuchimoto has spent over nine years at Raptor Pharmaceuticals, as its Chief Financial Officer from Raptor’s inception in May 2006 until August 2012, as Raptor’s Vice President of International Finance, Tax & Treasury from September 2012 to February 2015, and lastly served as Raptor’s Vice President, Financial Planning & Analysis and Internal Controls from February to May 2015. At Raptor, Ms. Tsuchimoto completed: two reverse mergers, one to initially trade on the OTCBB, the second to gain Raptor’s Nasdaq listing; over $100 million of financings (primarily equity); one clinical asset purchase; and one clinical platform asset license, which later became Raptor’s first commercial product and lead program. Ms. Tsuchimoto has drafted numerous SEC mandated reports such as 10-Ks, 10-Qs, Form 4s, S-1s, S-3s and prospectus supplements. Prior to Raptor, Ms. Tsuchimoto spent eight years at BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. and its predecessor, Glyko, Inc., where she held the positions of Vice President-Treasurer, Vice President-Controller, and Controller. At BioMarin, Ms. Tsuchimoto provided due diligence for the company’s IPO in 1999 and helped close BioMarin’s first $500 million of financing between 1997 and 2005. Ms. Tsuchimoto was responsible for BioMarin’s SEC reporting, corporate compliance, 10(b)5-1 trading plans and was BioMarin’s primary liaison with external legal counsel and auditors in the company’s early years. Prior to Glyko, she served as Controller at a few companies outside the biotech industry. She began her career as a staff accountant at a local certified public accounting firm. Ms. Tsuchimoto received a B.S. in Business Administration from San Francisco State University. She holds an inactive California Certified Public Accountant license.

Research Associate II

Renée Kinkade

Renée has been a member of the Mercaptor Discoveries research team for two years and worked with the same group of core researchers at Raptor Pharmaceuticals for nearly three years before that. At Mercaptor and Raptor, she focuses on implementing small molecule thiol chemistry to treat diseases. While researching at SSU for Dr. Jon Fukuto, her research focused on the redox chemistry of two specific thiol enzymes and their enhanced activity after persulfide formation using hydrogen sulfide. Her experience has informed her proficient understanding of excitotoxicity, especially in the areas of calcium influx and oxidative stress. For these reasons, she is a vital contributor to Mercaptor in its commitment to developing novel small molecule treatments for brain injury and neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s Disease. While at Mercaptor, Renee’s main focus has been on optimizing and utilizing a Calcium influx cellular assay.

Chief Executive Officer, President, and Co-founder

Sara Isbell

Sara Isbell has an extensive background in neuroscience, with specific training and expertise in neurodegenerative diseases and conditions, including a recently published paper in drug design and development in Dove Medical Press. Over the course of her 22-year career as she developed novel experiments and consistently contributed to cutting-edge research. This experience was integral to her role as Senior Research Scientist/Co-founder of Research, Raptor Pharmaceuticals Inc., where she was at the helm of the research team, developing and bringing to the market Raptor’s $100 million per year product, Procysbi®, for the ultra-orphan kidney disease, nephropathic cystinosis. In the course of developing Procysbi® for Raptor, Sara and her research team studied a rare class of therapeutic molecules, which, in turn, led to the discovery of neuroprotectant molecules called Captons®. This discovery led to the establishment of Mercaptor Discoveries in 2016. As Chief Executive Officer, President, Co-Founder & Director of Mercaptor Discoveries, Inc., Sara leveraged her training and experience to develop Captons, including a recent study positive preclinical Proof of Concept (POC) in the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program (ETSP) run by the National Institutes of Health – National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH-NINDS). Sara holds a B.S. in Neurochemistry, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology from University of Irvine, Calif.

Research Assistant II

Sheana Nieh

Sheana joined our team as an administrator, but her enthusiasm and competence garnered her a promotion to a key position at the bench. She analyzes mitochondrial health, cellular respiration, and cell toxicity assays and keeps the lab running smoothly and efficiently.  

Working in the lab for the past four years, she has proven herself to be an unbiased scientist who is thorough, detail-oriented and works with integrity.  She excels working as part of a team as well as working independently. She finds working at the bench and being able to reproduce data to be the most fulfilling aspect of working in the lab. Coming together and giving back to the community also brings her a sense of gratification, so she enjoys raising money for causes such as the Walk to End ALS, Moving Day for Parkinson’s Disease and Augie’s Quest. Sheana holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services from the Dominican University of California.

Chief Scientific Officer and Co-founder

Dr. Todd Zankel Ph.D.

Dr. Zankel co-founded and seed-funded Mercaptor Discoveries in 2016.  He is also the company’s chief science officer (CSO). Dr. Zankel began his career in drug-development as the fourth employee of BioMarin Pharmaceutical, in 1997, completing his tenure there as Senior Director of Research in 2005.  He then co-founded Raptor Pharmaceuticals, in 2006, acting as CSO and head of discovery research until 2016, when Raptor was acquired. A direct descendant of the discovery group at Raptor, Mercaptor is focused on proprietary molecules conceived and developed to treat neuronal injury and degeneration.  As an academic, Dr. Zankel was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at both the Plant Gene Expression Center in Berkeley, California and the Chemistry Department of the ETH, Zürich, Switzerland. The author of a number of scientific publications and patents, Todd earned a B.A. in Chemistry from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Columbia University, New York.

Program Manager

Victoria Mendonca

Victoria Mendonca currently serves as the Mercaptor Program Manager assisting with Business Development and Portfolio Management initiatives. Prior to joining Mercaptor Discoveries, she served in Global Medical Affairs, Clinical Development and Research and Discovery with Raptor Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Horizon Pharma). Victoria holds a BS in Biochemistry from the University of the Pacific, an MS in Management with a concentration in Project Management and has nearly completed her MBA degree.

Director of Technical Operations & Web Development

Paul Zabierek

Paul directs the technical operations at Mercaptor and is our web developer. Paul learned how to design and code designing video games for George Lucas, learned web development building websites for e-commerce businesses, learned marketing building the California Closets brand, and mastered photography and video production developing content for patients of pharmaceutical companies who specialize in rare diseases. Along the way, he moonlighted as an IT professional and played drums in a local rock band, and somehow managed to raise six kids. As the son of a mother who died from complications with Alzheimer’s and a father who died from complications from Parkinson’s, he somehow miraculously managed to find a position at Mercaptor, whose scientific meanderings have led them down the path of a potential treatment for these diseases.

Technical Operations & Art Direction

Shawn Nelson

Shawn has worked in technology since obtaining his Master’s Degree from The University of Southern California. His intimate knowledge of the production cycle and the development atmosphere gives Shawn a unique perspective of the industry and provides the technical insight to exploit new opportunities. His work spans myriad forms of media such as web, mobile, television, film, and 3D Graphics and has been broadcast around the world. Shawn has developed games for Sony, PS4, Xbox One, the Nintendo Wii, as well as IOS and Android. He is skilled in many software packages such as Maya, Photoshop, etc. Nelson is a published author including books, numerous university courses in various technologies, and several articles on digital media production. He has been a media instructor for the last ten years at the university level, teaching at schools such as the Academy of Art University and the Art Institute of San Francisco. His credits include titles from EA, Lucasarts, 2K, Primavision, Linden Labs, Nexon Xcella.