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Scientific Advisory Board

Aro's scientific advisors are distinguished research leaders across academia and biotech

Karyn O'Neil, PhD

Karyn O’Neil, PhD, has more than 30 years of experience in peptide, antibody and protein engineering. As the Venture Leader for Centyrex, a Johnson & Johnson Venture, Karyn focused on designer protein platform technologies. She is co-inventor on the Centyrin patents and has led the team advancing the Centyrin platform since its inception. She joined Centocor/Johnson & Johnson in 2001 where, prior to working on Centyrins, she held positions of increasing responsibility, ultimately becoming a Director of Antibody Therapeutics. There she played a leadership role in the discovery and optimization of multiple clinical candidates. Prior to Johnson & Johnson, Karyn was in the Applied Biotechnologies group at DuPont Pharmaceuticals. Karyn received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania where she focused on protein engineering and protein biophysics. She has authored more than 55 publications and holds over 30 patents. Karyn also serves as an editor for Protein Engineering, Design and Selection.  

Matthew Gentry, PhD

Matthew Gentry is the Antonio S. Turco Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry and Distinguished University Research Professor in the College of Medicine at University of Kentucky. He is a prominent brain metabolism scientist who has made seminal discoveries in the realm of brain glycogen and glucose metabolism and how perturbations in these pathways impact neuro-centric diseases. Matt has nearly 20 years of experience working on glycogen storage diseases (GSD). He did research on cell signaling and cell division at Syracuse University for his Ph.D in Molecular Biology (2003) and then worked on the GSD and childhood dementia called Lafora disease as a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Jack Dixon at UC-San Diego where he defined the biochemical properties of the genes mutated in the disease. Building on this foundational biochemistry, he has been continuously funded by NIH since 2007 via a K99/R00, multiple R01 grants, and a recent R35 that focuses on Brain Glycogen – Metabolism, Mechanisms, and Therapeutic Potential. He has also been continuously funded by NSF since receiving a NSF CAREER award in 2013 to study the enzymology of metabolic enzymes. His lab now works on a number of GSDs and the role of glycogen in cancer, focusing on defining disease mechanisms, pre-clinical drugs and clinical biomarkers. Matt was awarded the 2014 NIH IDeA Thomas Maciag Award and the 2018 NINDS Landis Award. He serves on multiple NIH, NSF, and foundation study sections. He is a Journal of Biological Chemistry Editorial Board member and a Council Member for the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He is also a science advisor for the Lafora disease patient advocacy group, Glut1 Deficiency Syndrome Foundation, and Adult Polyglucosan Body Disease Foundation in addition to several for-profit companies.

Phillip S. Low, PhD

Dr. Philip S. Low is the Presidential Scholar for Drug Discovery and the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Purdue University.  Dr. Low has spent over >40 years designing targeted imaging and therapeutic agents for the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases. He has published >550 scientific articles (H-index of 116) and has >150 US patents/patents pending. Eight drugs from Low’s lab are currently undergoing human clinical trials, two of which recently (Cytalux and Pluvicto) received approval by the FDA.  To accelerate the development of his drugs, Low has founded seven successful companies (Endocyte Inc., OnTarget Laboratories Inc., Umoja Biopharma, Morphimmune Inc., Novosteo Inc., Eradivir Inc. and ErythroCure Inc.). Low has also been recognized with many national and international awards, including the AACR Award for Chemistry in Cancer Research, the ACS Award for Cancer Research (Sosnovsky Award), the ACS Award (Esselen Award) for Chemistry in the Public Interest, and an NIH MERIT Award among many others. Dr. Low received his B.S. in Chemistry from BYU (1971) and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from UCSD (1975).

Masad Damha, PhD

​Masad Damha is Distinguished James McGill Professor of Chemistry and has over 35 years of experience in nucleic acid drug discovery and development. He graduated from McGill with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Chemistry (1983) and then a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry (1988) under the mentorship of Kelvin K. Ogilvie developing methods for the chemical synthesis of RNA and its analogues. His research group at McGill University focuses on synthesis and structural analyses of chemically modified oligonucleotides directed toward biomedical and diagnostic applications. His 200+ publications and dozens of patents issued have been widely cited and used in both fundamental sciences and oligonucleotide based therapeutic applications. Masad is the recipient of several awards from the Canadian Society for Chemistry, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (Governor General of Canada), and McGill’s Fessenden Professorship in Science Innovation. He is currently President of the International Society of Nucleosides, Nucleotides, Nucleic Acids, and has served as President of the Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society.    

Martin McMahon, PhD 

Martin McMahon’s translational cancer research program focuses on the mechanisms underlying the initiation, progression and maintenance of metastatic melanoma, lung and pancreatic cancer. Martin graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Biochemistry from Glasgow University in 1981 and a doctorate from King’s College, University of London in 1985. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of J. Michael Bishop at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) investigating the mechanisms of action of oncoprotein kinases such as SRC, ERBB and RAF. In 1991, Martin established an independent research group at the DNAX Research Institute in Palo Alto working on the RAF family of protein kinases, now known to be mutationally activated in many human cancers. In 1998, Martin joined the faculty of the UCSF/Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center where he served as the Efim Guzik Distinguished Professor of Cancer Biology, Co-Leader of the Experimental Therapeutics Program and Director for Professional Education. In 2015, he joined the faculty of the University of Utah where he currently serves as the Cumming-Presidential Chair of Cancer Biology in the Dept. of Dermatology, Senior Director for Preclinical Translation and Co-Leader of the Experimental Therapeutics Program in the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

​Ron Swanson, PhD

Ronald V. Swanson is currently Chief Scientific Officer at Tyra Biosciences a company focused on targeting acquired resistance in oncology. Ron graduated from UCSD with a B.A. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology in 1985 and from UC Berkeley in 1991 with a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology under the guidance of Alex Glazer studying post-translational modifications of proteins. His postdoctoral fellowship was done with Mel Simon at Caltech working on protein-protein interactions in signal transduction and characterizing thermostable proteins. Subsequently Ron was Director of Genomics and Protein Expression at then biotech startup Diversa working on enzyme discovery, environmental genomics, and directed evolution. In 2000, Ron joined the newly founded Syrrx as Director of Molecular Biology focused on high-throughput protein structure determination and structure based drug design. After Syrrx, he was co-founder and CSO at ActiveSight a pioneering structural biology contract research organization. In 2006, Ron joined Johnson & Johnson where he ran the Lead Discovery & Optimization group based in San Diego focused on engineering of antibodies, peptides and protein therapeutics. He was Senior Director of New Platforms and Technologies before retiring from J&J last year to return to a biotech startup environment. Ron is the author of over 50 scientific publications and an inventor on 30 patents with other applications pending.

Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board