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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.  

Miguel S. Barbosa, PhD

Miguel S. Barbosa, PhD, has more than two decades of experience leading drug discovery and development programs at major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Until his retirement in 2017, Miguel was Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), Microbiome at Assembly Biosciences. Prior, he was CSO of Mirna Therapeutics. Until 2015, he was Global Head and Vice President of Immunology Research and External Innovation at Janssen Research & Development, where he oversaw immunology R&D and new program initiatives. In addition, Miguel held positions of increasing responsibility managing new drug R&D programs at prominent biopharmaceutical firms, including Centocor, Signal Pharmaceuticals, TRL USA and Chugai Biopharma. Prior to joining the biotech industry, he was on the Faculty of Microbiology at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center. Miguel received a BS, Genetics degree from the University of California, Davis and a PhD, Microbiology & Immunology from the University of California, Los Angeles. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Cancer Institute.

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.    

Rob Kramer, PhD

Rob Kramer, PhD, has 27 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and is the former Head of Oncology Discovery Research at both Bristol-Myers Squibb and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, part of the Johnson & Johnson group of companies. He has been responsible for enabling the transition of more than 40 drugs from discovery into the clinic. Rob championed immunotheraphy at Bristol-Myers Squibb, resulting in the acquisition of Medarex, Inc. in 2009 and its portfolio of immune therapeutics that included Ipilimumab and Nivolumab. He received his PhD in pharmacology from the University of Vermont and undertook his post doctorate studies at the National Cancer Institute. Rob then held an Assistant Professorship at the Harvard Medical School from 1986-1991. He is currently CSO of the SalvaRx Group, a drug discovery and development company focused on immune-oncology, and serves on several Boards for both the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Industry. He is a grant reviewer for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and the State of Texas (CPRIT) and is also Vice President of the Cancer Molecular Therapeutics Research Association which organizes an annual conference on novel approaches to cancer therapy.

Lawrence Mayer, PhD

Lawrence Mayer, PhD, has played a lead role in the discovery and development of a number of oncology drugs, several of which achieved market approval, including CPX-351 approved by FDA in August, 2017. He held senior management positions at The Canadian Liposome Company and QLT Inc. before joining the BC Cancer Agency, where he established and directed the Health Canada-accredited Investigational Drug Program. Lawrence was Co-founder, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Celator Pharmaceuticals which was formed in 2000 as a spin-out of his laboratory at the BC Cancer Agency. Celator was acquired by Jazz Pharmaceuticals in July, 2016 after the successful Phase 3 outcome with its lead leukemia product CPX-351. He has authored more than 250 scientific publications and has over 35 patent families awarded or pending. Lawrence received his BS in both Chemistry and Biology, summa cum laude, from Wartburg College and his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota.

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.

Ted J. Torphy, PhD

Ted Torphy, PhD, has over 35 years of experience in the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology industry. He was formerly CEO and CSO of BioMotiv, a for-profit drug development accelerator associated with The Harrington Project. Prior to joining BioMotiv, he spent 12 years with Johnson & Johnson. His roles included Global Head of External Innovation & Business Models for Discovery Sciences, Vice President and Head of External Research and Early Development, Corporate Vice President and Head of Johnson & Johnson’s Corporate Office of Science & Technology, and Senior Vice President and Head of Discovery and Preclinical Development at Centocor, the biopharmaceutical arm of Johnson & Johnson. Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, Ted spent 17 years with SmithKline Beecham, most recently as Vice President and Head of Biological Research for the Cardiovascular, Metabolic, Pulmonary, Renal and Inflammatory Diseases therapeutic areas. He currently sits on boards of several for-profit and non-profit organizations. Ted holds a BS degree in Pharmacy from the University of Wisconsin and a PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology from West Virginia University. He completed his postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Diego.

Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board

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