The Executive Team

The Board

Mercaptor has been fortunate in the composition of its Board of Directors. Relying initially on two hapless founders, Mercaptor was mercifully introduced by friends to our board members. Possessed of extraordinary and fortuitously-apt skills for an endeavor like Mercaptor their accession to the Board provided encouragement to a team in need of a little validation and added decades of applicable experience to Mercaptor’s managerial team.

Erich Sager, MBA
Sara Isbell
Dr. Todd Zankel Ph.D.

 

The Advisory Board

A tiny company, a remarkable discovery, and a lot to do.  Mercaptor presented some interesting problems.  And not the kind familiar to scientists.  One such problem was in engaging the world and communicating our story; another, related, but a more existential problem, was in finding money.  We needed help.  People to show us a way, without ignoring some founding principles:  Avoid reliance on the sclerotic, inefficient approach to drug development common in the modern pharmaceutical industry.

James Kovach, MD, JD
Kim R. Tsuchimoto
Ralph O’Rear
Dr. Adriano Aguzzi, MD, PhD

Chair of the Board of Directors

Erich Sager, MBA

Erich Sager is an international private banking executive and has been a strong supporter of biopharma companies over the past 20 years. Currently Chairman at Coupolino AG, Sager previously served on the boards of Holding TwentyOne AG, Calltrade Carrier Services AG, BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. and Raptor Pharmaceuticals Inc. An influential advocate for emerging technologies, Sager also serves on the boards of several companies including Zecotek Photonics Inc.

Mr. Sager received an undergraduate degree and an MBA from the School of Economics and Business Administration in Zurich, Switzerland.

Board of Directors, Co-founder, CEO

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.

Board of directors, Co-founder, CSO

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.

Advisor to the BOD

James Kovach, MD, JD

James Kovach was introduced to Mercaptor in late 2016 and has since been a key advisor from a medical, R&D and business perspective.  Dr. Kovach serves as Vice President of Business Development for CrowdOptic, a venture-backed company using real-time sensor data from electronic devices and its own patented CrowdOptic algorithms to identify and track where devices are aimed (focus) and to identify groups of people with the same focus (clusters). Dr. Kovach also directs a program in entrepreneurship and innovation at UC Davis Health.

Dr. Kovach is also founder of Beneufit, a start-up company providing a personalized exercise system for people fighting chronic disease, tapping into the body’s natural ability to self-heal through exercise. He received his medical degree with distinction from the University of Kentucky while simultaneously playing in the National Football League.  After playing for seven seasons in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers, he attended law school at Stanford University and practiced corporate law in Palo Alto California.

Dr. Kovach has served as Chief Operating Officer of Athersys, Inc., a leading public biotechnology company developing stem cell therapeutics.  Two stem cell products initiated under his tenure now are in Phase II clinical development for inflammatory bowel disease and ischemic stroke. He has also served as President of the Buck Institute for Age Research.  Named by the National Institutes of Health as a national center of excellence, the Buck Institute is an independent research institute dedicated exclusively to research on aging and age-associated disease.  Dr. Kovach also previously served as a member of the NFL Concussion Committee.

Advisor to the BOD

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.

Advisor to the BOD

Ralph O’Rear

Ralph O’Rear provides Mercaptor strategic advice with regards to general business strategy, facilities, and operations.  After 18 years at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and nearly 10 years at Lucasfilm Ltd. and its subsidiaries and affiliates (Industrial Light and Magic, LucasArts Entertainment, THX), Mr. O’Rear began to independently consult with the goal of doing interesting work with good people working together for noble causes.

His expertise is in the areas of real estate and facility planning, organizational strategic planning, change management, budgeting, development and implementation of corporate facility initiatives and energy efficiency/sustainability measures.  At the Buck Institute, Mr. O’Rear was responsible for the facilities and operations of a research campus comprised of 3 buildings totaling 255,000sf on 417 acres of land.  During his time at the Buck Institute, he initiated and/or was a key player in the acquisition of more than $50,000,000 in grant funding and strategic partnerships to support the research conducted at the Buck Institute.

Scientific Advisor to the BOD

Dr. Adriano Aguzzi, MD, PhD

Dr. Adriano Aguzzi, MD, PhD, is heading up the formation of Mercaptor’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). Dr. Aguzzi is a world-renowned neuropathologist, whose research has garnered numerous accolades including the Marcel-Benoist Prize, the Robert-Koch Prize, the Antonio-Feltrinelli Award and the Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Medical Sciences, which are among the highest recognitions in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and United Arab Emirates respectively. He is also Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pathology at University of Zurich, Director of the Institute of Neuropathology at the University Hospital of Zurich and a Founder and Director of the Swiss National Center for Prion Diseases.

Dr. Aguzzi invented the first in vivo model of microglia depletion (Nature Medicine, 2005), which helped establishing that microglia possess a vigorous antiprion activity (Nature Neuroscience, 2008, Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2016). In a series of groundbreaking papers between 1997 and 2005, Aguzzi identified the cell types and molecules that enable invasion of the brain by prions (Nature, 1997, Nature Medicine, 2001; Neuron, 2001, Nature, 1997, Nature Medicine, 1998; Science, 2000 Nature, 2003, Nature Medicine, 2001). The discovery that follicular dendritic cells are the “prion factories” in extracerebral tissue led him to identify their function as providers of the “eat-me” factor Mfge8 (Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2008). He found that FDCs are derived from ubiquitous perivascular cells (Cell, 2012).

Dr. Aguzzi identified plasminogen as a prion carrier in blood (Nature, 2000, Lancet 2001). Also, Aguzzi improved the process for the differentiation of prion strains by fluorescence spectros- copy with polythiophenes (Nature methods, 2007). The affinity of polythiophenes for prions was the basis for preclinical therapeutic efforts, which proved that structural design can help finding anti-aggregation compounds (Science Translational Medicine, 2015). The Aguzzi lab found that PrP made by neurons prevents Schwann cells from developing chronic demyelination (Nature Neuroscience, 2010) by activating the G protein-coupled receptor Gpr126 (Nature, 2016). In addition to clarifying a question that had remained open for 30 years (“What is the normal function of PrPC?”), this finding could be important for the therapies of chronic neuropathies, common debilitating diseased with limited treatment options.

Impact of research: Aguzzi published >400 scientific articles, >30 of which appeared in Nature/Science/Cell. These papers were referenced >47,000 times. Aguzzi’s “h-index” (Google Scholar) is 114. Labor-Journal reported twice that Aguzzi was the most cited neuropathologist and third-most cited neuroscientist in German speaking countries.

Chair of the Board of Directors

Erich Sager, MBA

Erich Sager is an international private banking executive and has been a strong supporter of biopharma companies over the past 20 years. Currently Chairman at Coupolino AG, Sager previously served on the boards of Holding TwentyOne AG, Calltrade Carrier Services AG, BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. and Raptor Pharmaceuticals Inc. An influential advocate for emerging technologies, Sager also serves on the boards of several companies including Zecotek Photonics Inc.

Mr. Sager received an undergraduate degree and an MBA from the School of Economics and Business Administration in Zurich, Switzerland.

Board of Directors, Co-founder, CEO

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.

Board of directors, Co-founder, CSO

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.

Advisor to the BOD

James Kovach, MD, JD

James Kovach was introduced to Mercaptor in late 2016 and has since been a key advisor from a medical, R&D and business perspective.  Dr. Kovach serves as Vice President of Business Development for CrowdOptic, a venture-backed company using real-time sensor data from electronic devices and its own patented CrowdOptic algorithms to identify and track where devices are aimed (focus) and to identify groups of people with the same focus (clusters). Dr. Kovach also directs a program in entrepreneurship and innovation at UC Davis Health.

Dr. Kovach is also founder of Beneufit, a start-up company providing a personalized exercise system for people fighting chronic disease, tapping into the body’s natural ability to self-heal through exercise. He received his medical degree with distinction from the University of Kentucky while simultaneously playing in the National Football League.  After playing for seven seasons in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers, he attended law school at Stanford University and practiced corporate law in Palo Alto California.

Dr. Kovach has served as Chief Operating Officer of Athersys, Inc., a leading public biotechnology company developing stem cell therapeutics.  Two stem cell products initiated under his tenure now are in Phase II clinical development for inflammatory bowel disease and ischemic stroke. He has also served as President of the Buck Institute for Age Research.  Named by the National Institutes of Health as a national center of excellence, the Buck Institute is an independent research institute dedicated exclusively to research on aging and age-associated disease.  Dr. Kovach also previously served as a member of the NFL Concussion Committee.

Advisor to the BOD

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.

Advisor to the BOD

Ralph O’Rear

Ralph O’Rear provides Mercaptor strategic advice with regards to general business strategy, facilities, and operations.  After 18 years at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and nearly 10 years at Lucasfilm Ltd. and its subsidiaries and affiliates (Industrial Light and Magic, LucasArts Entertainment, THX), Mr. O’Rear began to independently consult with the goal of doing interesting work with good people working together for noble causes.

His expertise is in the areas of real estate and facility planning, organizational strategic planning, change management, budgeting, development and implementation of corporate facility initiatives and energy efficiency/sustainability measures.  At the Buck Institute, Mr. O’Rear was responsible for the facilities and operations of a research campus comprised of 3 buildings totaling 255,000sf on 417 acres of land.  During his time at the Buck Institute, he initiated and/or was a key player in the acquisition of more than $50,000,000 in grant funding and strategic partnerships to support the research conducted at the Buck Institute.

Scientific Advisor to the BOD

Dr. Adriano Aguzzi, MD, PhD

Dr. Adriano Aguzzi, MD, PhD, is heading up the formation of Mercaptor’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). Dr. Aguzzi is a world-renowned neuropathologist, whose research has garnered numerous accolades including the Marcel-Benoist Prize, the Robert-Koch Prize, the Antonio-Feltrinelli Award and the Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Medical Sciences, which are among the highest recognitions in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and United Arab Emirates respectively. He is also Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pathology at University of Zurich, Director of the Institute of Neuropathology at the University Hospital of Zurich and a Founder and Director of the Swiss National Center for Prion Diseases.

Dr. Aguzzi invented the first in vivo model of microglia depletion (Nature Medicine, 2005), which helped establishing that microglia possess a vigorous antiprion activity (Nature Neuroscience, 2008, Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2016). In a series of groundbreaking papers between 1997 and 2005, Aguzzi identified the cell types and molecules that enable invasion of the brain by prions (Nature, 1997, Nature Medicine, 2001; Neuron, 2001, Nature, 1997, Nature Medicine, 1998; Science, 2000 Nature, 2003, Nature Medicine, 2001). The discovery that follicular dendritic cells are the “prion factories” in extracerebral tissue led him to identify their function as providers of the “eat-me” factor Mfge8 (Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2008). He found that FDCs are derived from ubiquitous perivascular cells (Cell, 2012).

Dr. Aguzzi identified plasminogen as a prion carrier in blood (Nature, 2000, Lancet 2001). Also, Aguzzi improved the process for the differentiation of prion strains by fluorescence spectros- copy with polythiophenes (Nature methods, 2007). The affinity of polythiophenes for prions was the basis for preclinical therapeutic efforts, which proved that structural design can help finding anti-aggregation compounds (Science Translational Medicine, 2015). The Aguzzi lab found that PrP made by neurons prevents Schwann cells from developing chronic demyelination (Nature Neuroscience, 2010) by activating the G protein-coupled receptor Gpr126 (Nature, 2016). In addition to clarifying a question that had remained open for 30 years (“What is the normal function of PrPC?”), this finding could be important for the therapies of chronic neuropathies, common debilitating diseased with limited treatment options.

Impact of research: Aguzzi published >400 scientific articles, >30 of which appeared in Nature/Science/Cell. These papers were referenced >47,000 times. Aguzzi’s “h-index” (Google Scholar) is 114. Labor-Journal reported twice that Aguzzi was the most cited neuropathologist and third-most cited neuroscientist in German speaking countries.