EXECUTIVE TEAM

Ryan Davies – Chief Executive Officer
Ryan Davies has had a long and successful career as an entrepreneur, business executive and public servant.  Ryan founded and served as CEO for a renewable energy development company that built, owned and operated wind and solar projects throughout the United States. Ryan served as the Vice President of Market Research for one of the largest market research firms in the western United States conducting both qualitative and quantitative research and analysis for Fortune 100 and 500 companies.  Ryan co-founded and served as Vice President for an environmental commodity firm that created a technology platform to track, monitor and transact water and air pollution credits.  Ryan led the merger of his company with one of the largest OTC brokerage firms in the world where he remained as an employee running their environmental commodity desk.  Ryan co-created the “Olympic Cleaner & Greener” program for the 2002 Winter Olympics making it the cleanest Olympics in history and was hired by the Beijing 2008 Olympic Committee to help design facets of their environmental program.  Ryan co-founded and served as Vice President in a leading e-commerce and inventory management software company where he raised over $46 million in private equity from tier one venture capital firms (Accel Partners, Bain Capital and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts). Ryan helped lead the company through a successful acquisition of $110 million to a New York-based computer hardware company.  Ryan was the youngest person ever elected to the Draper City Council (a suburb of Salt Lake City) where he served a four-year term.  During his tenure on the City Council, the city was named one of the 100 best-run cities in the country (awarded by CNN).  Ryan served on the UGREEN board (appointed by Utah Governor Gary Herbert), the Oquirrh Institute Board (appointed by Utah Governor Mike Leavitt), the Living Planet Aquarium Board and the board of Contour, Inc.  Ryan was named by Utah Business Magazine as one of Utah’s top 40 business leaders under the age of 40 in 2012.  Ryan has worked on two U.S. presidential campaigns, three gubernatorial campaigns and two U.S. congressional campaigns.  Ryan graduated from Ricks College with a degree in Business Management, where he served as student body president and graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in political science, where he served as student body vice president.

Todd Kinard – Executive Vice President
Todd specializes in intellectual property law with technology expertise in the fields of biotechnology, chemical & chemical processes, medical devices, toxicology, genetics, microbiology and virology.  Prior to his legal career, Todd gained valuable industry and educational experience in the fields of biotechnology and chemistry.  One example includes working for Myriad Genetics developing high-throughput biochemical protocols on robotic platforms and aided in the discovery of a novel mutation in the BRCA1 gene found in persons of Spanish decent. Todd has held leadership roles as a member of the Utah State Bar serving as the Chair of the Cyberlaw Law Section, has published multiple articles the American Bar Association journal Tort Trial and Insurance Law, and has been named a Mountain States Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine. Todd graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in Microbiology, received a Masters degree in Experimental Pathology from the University of Utah for research focused on the HIV accessory protein VPR and its effects on cell cycle arrest and apoptosis and received his J.D., graduating with honors, from the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law.

Ryan E. Looper, PhD – Vice President of Discovery
Dr. Looper was born in Banbury, England.  After spending his formative years overseas, he returned to the United States to attend school.  In 2007, Dr. Looper joined the faculty at the University of Utah to begin his independent career teaching chemistry.  In 2009, he was awarded a Henry Eyring Assistant Professorship and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure and was named a Henry Eyring Fellow in 2013. Dr. Looper has received numerous honors and awards for his research most notably the Amgen and Eli Lilly Young Investigator Awards and the Thieme Chemistry Journals Award.  Dr. Looper has developed an integrated research program at the interface of natural product synthesis, chemical biology and medicinal chemistry. Dr. Looper has developed new synthetic methodology to prepare compounds of significant biomedical interest, particularly as anti-cancer and anti-microbial agents. Dr. Looper’s research is noted for the synthesis of complex guanidinium ion and alkaloid natural products. Dr. Looper has also developed a new technology to prepare guanidines, which has subsequently been commercialized by the Sigma-Aldrich Chemical Company.  Dr. Looper is widely published with over 27 publications (including publications in Nature and Science) with several other manuscripts in preparation.  Dr. Looper has been invited to deliver 45 academic presentations, is named on 3 patents and has received over $4 million in research funding.  Dr. Looper graduated from Western Washington university where he received a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry and a Masters Degree in Chemistry under the guidance of Professor James R. Vyvyan, working on the synthesis  of allelopathic sequiterpenes. Dr. Looper earned his Ph.D. from Colorado State University working with Professor Robert M. Williams. Dr. Looper’s doctoral studies centered on the synthesis of toxic cyanobacterial metabolites (the cylindrospermopsins) and the investigation of their mechanism of action as inhibitors of protein synthesis.  After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Looper joined the laboratories of Professor Stuart L. Schreiber at Harvard University as an NIH postdoctoral fellow.  While at Harvard, Dr. Looper worked on several projects using diversity oriented synthesis and chemical biology to study epigenetic modifications in collaboration with the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. 

Dustin Williams, PhD – Vice President of Microbiology & New Technologies
Dr. Williams is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of Utah and Vice President of Microbiology & New Technologies at Curza.  Dr. Williams’ publications include 17 peer-reviewed manuscripts on the development of antimicrobial strategies to treat and prevent biofilm implant-related infections as well as the development of a membrane biofilm reactor and flow cell system to model clinically relevant environments of device-related infections.  Working with the late Dr. Bill Costerton, Dr. Williams has highlighted the importance of using biofilms as initial inocula in animal models of infection, as well as other systems.  He has had the opportunity to assist in the development of an osseointegrated (OI) implant technology with the University of Utah and Department of Veterans Affairs, specifically as it relates to preventing infections at the percutaneous post of OI implants.  The focus of his current work involves the development of bio-inspired socket prosthetic technology for patients with an amputation, the development of antimicrobial strategies to prevent biofilm implant-related infections using various animal models, and applying novel antimicrobial compounds to mitigate biofilm-related problems in industrial settings.  Dr. Williams graduated with a B.S. in Microbiology from Weber State University and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Utah.

Chad Testa, Director of Chemistry
Dr. Testa joins Curza after 12+ years at Echelon Biosciences where his industrial career began.  Most recently, Dr. Testa served as Vice President of Research & Development after assuming positions of increasing responsibility from an initial role as Research Scientist.  He has developed a diverse, multi-disciplinary chemical biology skill set, with particular emphasis on biological assay development for targeted biomarkers in antibacterial discovery, oncology and inflammatory disease pathways.  Leading teams of scientists including external collaborators, Dr. Testa was responsible for administering multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary collaborations.  Of particular importance was establishment of a proprietary antibacterial discovery platform targeting the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway for isoprenoid biosynthesis that included development and implementation of a cascade of assays, including a whole-cell phenotypic screening platform to identify pathway-specific leads, biochemical and MIC assays that were used to identify two series exhibiting MEP pathway selectivity.  Additional efforts include development of a non-invasive imaging agent to visualize tumors, numerous product launches, leading efforts that resulted in awarding of federal grants exceeding $8M and creation of synergistic relationships. Dr. Testa has served as PI or co-PI on grants awarded by NIAID, DTRA, NCI, FDA and NSF and participates as a reviewer for NIAID study sections focused on antibacterial discovery/development, the NSF SBIR program and the state of Utah.  Dr. Testa is an inventor on two issued patents and has 11 publications in peer-reviewed journals. His education includes a Bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College where his research with Prof. Heinz Koch involved physical organic chemistry to study kinetic isotope effects for alkoxide-promoted dehydrohalogenations.  Under the guidance of Prof. Charles Clapp at Bucknell University, Dr. Testa began his career in chemical biology and received a Master’s of Science in Chemistry studying a member of the lipoxygenase family of enzymes.  His PhD in Chemistry was obtained from the University of Utah working with Prof. C. Dale Poulter studying isoprenoid pathways, including the MEP pathway.

Paul Sebahar, PhD – Director of Chemistry
Prior to joining Curza, Dr. Sebahar served as the Director of Quality for Medical Horizons, a leader in contract manufacturing of dietary supplements, where he was responsible for the implementation of quality strategy and corporate compliance with cGMP’s and federal regulations.  Dr. Sebahar guided chemical and physical analysis of raw material, in-process samples and finished products and identified suitable test methods to elucidate active components and associated impurities and degradation products.  Prior to Medical Horizons, Dr. Sebahar served as Scientist II in Medicinal Chemistry for Myrexis, a pharmaceutical development company, where he was the principal investigator on the Inhibitor of nuclear factor kappa-B kinase subunit epsilon (IKKε) drug recovery program.  Dr. Sebahar developed 1st in-class IKKε inhibitors efficacious in a collagen-induced arthritis model utilizing structure-based drug design and synthesized compounds in support of pre-clinical IND enabling studies and was co-inventor on 3 patent applications.  Dr. Sebahar was responsible for virtual screening and the streamlining of analog production through the use of predictive ADME modeling and also served as a liaison for external molecular modeling and international contract research service.  Prior to his time at Myrexis, Dr. Sebahar served as an Investigator in the Metabolic and Virology divison for GlaxoSmithKline where was a Principal Investigator on the 2nd Generation NNRTI, CXCR4 and Human Papilloma Virus drug discovery programs.   Dr. Sebahar's efforts resulted in multiple patents and several co-authored manuscripts.  Dr. Sebahar received the GlaxoSmithKline Research Excellence Award from the Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery.  Dr. Sebahar is listed on 5 patents and has been published 10 times in peer-edited journals.  Dr. Sebahar graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry from University of California, Davis and received a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Colorado State University.  

Ryan T. VanderLinden, Ph.D., Principal Scientist, Structural Biology
Dr. VanderLinden has been successful in purifying and determining the structure of multiple multi-protein complexes: UCH37/RPN13/Ub and RPN13/RPN2/Ub complexes which are subcomplexes of the 26S proteasome and UCH37/NFR?B of the INO80 chromatin remodeling complex. As a research specialist at HHMI/St. Jud Children’s Research Hospital, Dr. VanderLinden prepared complexes of the 1.2 MDa anaphase-promoting complex. Structures of these complexes were determined by cryo-EM in collaboration with Holger Stark at the MPI in Göttingen, Germany.  Dr. VanderLinden will lead efforts to determine ribosome-inhibitor complexes by both x-ray crystallography and cryo-EM.  Dr. VanderLinden received a BS in Chemistry from Boise State University and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Utah.