John Kozarich, PhD - Chief Executive Officer
John has 40 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical industry and academia. He is Distinguished Scientist and Executive Advisor at ActivX, was Chairman and President from December 2004 to March 2017 and served in senior management positions since February 2001. Prior to his role at ActivX, Dr. Kozarich was Vice President at Merck Research Laboratories where he was responsible for a variety of drug discovery and development programs and external biotech collaborations. Dr. Kozarich previously held full professorships at the University of Maryland and Yale School of Medicine. He was named Director of the Year for 2014 by the Corporate Directors Forum, has been an American Cancer Society Faculty Research Awardee, a recipient of the Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry from the Division of Biological Chemistry of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the Distinguished Scientist Award of the San Diego Section of the ACS. Dr. Kozarich currently serves as Chairman of Ligand Pharmaceuticals, Chairman of Intec Pharma and is Adjunct Professor of Chemical Physiology at The Scripps Research Institute. Dr. Kozarich holds a B.S. in chemistry from Boston College, a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University.
Todd Kinard – Executive Vice President
Todd is an expert 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.
Ken Bartizal, PhD - Chief Scientific Officer
Ken has over 30 years of anti-infective (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral) drug discovery, evaluation and development experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Most recently, he was the Chief Development Officer at Cidera Therapeutics from 2014-18 when he started his own independent consulting company (K&D Consulting). From 2007-13 he served as the Chief Development Officer at Trius Therapeutics leading the development of tedizolid phosphate (SICEXTRO) from pre-IND to NDA filing. After the acquisition of Trius by Cubist Pharmaceuticals he continued as an Executive Consultant through the transition period ending in 2013, after which Cubist was acquired by Merck. At Trius he was the Stage 3 Nonclinical Leader for 2 NIAID sponsord contracts. Prior to joining Trius, Ken was the Executive Director and Head of Infectious Diseases at Merck. Key accomplishments included discovery through Marketing approval of the first echinocandin antifungal caspofungin acetate (CANCIDAS). Similarly, he oversaw the development for Marketing approval of ertapenem (INVANZ), Merck's carbapenem antibiotic for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and was a key contributor to IND and NDA filings. At Merck he also brought to Clinical development an azalide antibiotic gamithromycin (ZACTRAN) in animal health for the treatment of Bovine Respiratory Disease, and also a semisynthetic insecticide for oral treatment of flea and tick infestations in companion animals. Prior to joining Merck, Ken stated his pharmaceutical career at Pfizer Central Research in Antibiotic Drug Discovery. Ken received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degress from the Unviersity of Notre Dame and a post-doctoral appointment at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison.
Ryan E. Looper, PhD – Vice President of Discovery
Ryan currently holds the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair in Chemistry at the University of Utah, where he has developed an integrated research program at the interface of natural product synthesis, chemical biology and medicinal chemistry. He has developed new synthetic methodology to prepare compounds of significant biomedical interest, particularly as anti-cancer and anti-microbial agents. His research is noted for the synthesis of complex guanidinium ion and alkaloid natural products. Ryan has received several Honors and Awards for this research most notably the ACS Teva Pharmaceutical Scholar Award, Amgen and Eli Lilly Young Investigator Awards and has been named both a Presidential Scholar and an Entrepreneurial Faculty Scholar at the University of Utah. Ryan received a B.S. and M.S. degree in Chemistry from Western Washington University and his Ph.D. degree at Colorado State University with Prof. Robert M. Williams. After completing his Ph.D., he joined the laboratories of Prof. Stuart L. Schreiber at Harvard University and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT as an NIH postdoctoral fellow.
Paul Sebahar, PhD – Director of Chemistry
Prior to joining Curza, Paul 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. Paul 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, Paul 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. Paul helped 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, Paul 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. These efforts resulted in multiple patents and several co-authored manuscripts. Paul received the GlaxoSmithKline Research Excellence Award from the Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery. Paul graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from University of California, Davis and received a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Colorado State University.
Chad Testa, Director of Chemistry
Chad 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, Chad 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. Chad received a Bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College and a Master’s degree 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.
Dustin Williams, PhD – Vice President of Microbiology & New Technologies
Dr. Williams is an Associate Professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of Utah and Vice President of 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.