Team

Leslie J. Williams

Co-Founder, Director, President & CEO

Leslie J Williams is a biopharmaceutical industry veteran.  As a serial entrepreneur, an experienced biotech CEO and board of directors’ member, she has proven expertise in building companies, raising funds, and negotiating strategic collaborations both domestically and internationally.  Leslie is founding CEO, President & Director of hC Bioscience, Inc. a pioneer, innovator and leader in protein editing with tRNA based therapeutics targeting genetically defined diseases including cancer.  

She serves on the Board of Directors for Ocular Therapeutix (Nasdaq: OCUL), Windtree Therapeutics (Nasdaq: WINT), and Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), CSCRI (Coral Sea Clinical Research Institute) and the Board of Advisors of Life Science Cares.  In addition, she serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Life Science Leader, is a founding Ambassador of BioBoost and serves as a mentor at the GLG Institute.  She is an EIR at University of Iowa and University of Virginia and is an Operating Partner at Accelerator Life Science Partners. Ms. Williams was formerly Founder, Director, President and CEO at ImmusanT developing immunotherapies for autoimmune diseases until the reverse merger in 2019.  Prior to that she was President & CEO at Ventaira Pharmaceuticals developing therapies using the lung as a portal for delivery until it was sold the end of 2007. Williams was a founding member of the INO Therapeutics team developing a treatment for pulmonary hypertension in newborns. The Nobel Prize was given for the discovery around nitric oxide’s signaling role in the cardiovascular and nervous systems.  INO Therapeutics was sold to Ikaria for $670M in 2007 and then Mallinckrodt in 2015 for $2.3B.  She has prior pharmaceutical experience at Merck and GSK, and drug-delivery and monitoring experience at Datex Ohmeda.  She was a venture partner at Battelle Ventures where she sourced and evaluated deals and assisted early-stage technology companies with strategy, management, business development and M&A. 

Williams holds an MBA from Washington University, John Olin School of Business, where she initiated, built, and sold her first technology to Hewlett Packard.  Williams graduated cum laude with a B.S. (biology) degree and multiple scholastic and leadership honors from the University of Iowa including membership to Omicron Delta Kappa and Sigma Theta Tau.  She was given the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Iowa in 2015.  Williams served on the College of Pharmacy Board at the University of Iowa and was presented an Honorary Alumni Award from the College in 2019.  Before entering industry, she was a critical-care nurse at Duke University, Medical College of Virginia and at the University of Iowa.

Gautam Goel

Chief Data Science Officer

Gautam is a leader in translational computational biology and a seasoned professional with an impactful 20-year track record in biotech, academia and tech industry.

Most recently, Gautam built and headed an inter-disciplinary R&D/Consulting practice of five Ph.D. computational biologists to implement pipelines for analysis of multi-omics datasets including single-cell RNA-seq, CyTOF, proteomics and metabolomics from cross-sectional/longitudinal observation/intervention studies. Gautam advised biotech and pharmaceutical companies on challenges in early-stage target discovery, biomarker analysis and patient stratification for clinical development, and identification of mechanisms of action and resistance to treatments. Prior to that, he spearheaded biomarker research and platform development as Director of Precision Medicine at ImmusanT to accelerate clinical development of Antigen-specific Immunotherapies. He led the biomarker discovery program in Celiac Disease which resulted in the 1st blood-based diagnostic and an immune response monitoring toolkit to support Phase 2 clinical trials.

Gautam trained as a Research Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and The Broad Institute with Dr. Ramnik J. Xavier, where he investigated mechanisms of IBD pathogenesis to discover druggable targets and drug candidates. Gautam’s technical expertise includes Antigen-specific Immunotherapy, Systems Immunology, Dynamical Systems Theory, Machine Learning, and Systems Biology. Gautam’s work has led to over 45 publications in disease areas including Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Celiac Disease, Chronic Inflammation and Infectious diseases. Gautam holds a PhD and MS in Bioengineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, a MS in Computer Science from National Center for Software Technology, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from University of Pune. 

Jose Lora, Ph.D

Chief Scientific Officer

Jose M. Lora is a seasoned biopharmaceutical leader who brings 20+ years’ experience in Research and Development across multiple modalities and therapeutic areas. 

Most recently, Jose served as Chief Scientific Officer at Intergalactic Therapeutics, a non-viral gene therapy company focusing on multiple areas with a major emphasis in Ophthalmology. At Intergalactic, Jose was responsible for all aspects of Research, Preclinical Development and Manufacturing, and his team was able to demonstrate unprecedented safe and durable expression in the retina of a very large gene, ABCA4. Prior to Intergalactic, Jose was Chief Scientific Officer at enGene, a clinical-stage non-viral gene therapy company focused on gene delivery to mucosal surfaces. At enGene, he and his team contributed to the conception, development and advancement of EG-70, a plasmid-based nanoparticle therapeutic for the treatment of bladder cancer, to Ph1/Ph2 clinical trials. Prior to enGene, Jose was Vice President of Research at Synlogic, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the application of synthetic biology to the discovery and development of therapies for metabolic and immune-mediated diseases, and cancer. At Synlogic, Jose built and led the Immunomodulation therapy area, and he led a multidisciplinary team to conceive, develop and advance SYNB1891, an engineered bacterial cell therapy designed to engage the STING pathway in solid tumors, to Ph1 clinical trials. Prior to Synlogic, he served in several biotech and pharmaceutical companies in positions of increasing impact and responsibility (Constellation -acquired by MorphoSys-, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche and Millennium -acquired by Takeda).

Jose received his PhD from the University of Seville, Spain, and was a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University and The University of Utah. He has authored numerous patent applications, as well as publications including papers in Journal of Experimental Medicine, PNAS, Nature, Nature Immunology, Nature Communications and Nature Reviews.

Heather Hirsch

Heather Hirsch, Ph.D.

Senior Vice President, Translational Science and Cancer Biology

Heather brings more than 10 years of expertise in translational sciences in academia having worked at Merck, Jounce Therapeutics, CRISPR Therapeutics and most recently IMV Inc. She has a strong background in immune-oncology, tumor microenvironment, and integrative translational analyses designed to inform indication selection, mechanism of action, and responder identification. Heather also brings strong expertise in computational biology and ‘omics level analyses. Throughout her career, Heather has been involved in many preclinical and clinical stage small molecule, biologics (including Keytruda), cancer vaccines and cell therapy based programs. She has led translational efforts across drug development stages from Target Identification through to phase III trials including driving companion diagnostic development. 

 Heather holds a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from Michigan State University and completed post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School with much of her research focus on gene expression regulation in cancer.

John Robblee, PhD

Senior Vice President, CMC

Dr. Robblee brings nearly 20 years of development experience to the Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls (CMC) function at hC Bioscience. At the exosome gene therapy company Carmine Therapeutics, he was the first CMC hire and built the CMC team from scratch to create robust Process Development and Analytical functions. At the exosome therapeutics company Codiak BioSciences, he led the Analytical Development team and played a leading Regulatory and CMC role in the successful IND/IMPD submissions of their first clinical products exoSTING and exoIL-12.

Before leading the Analytical Development team at the non-viral gene therapy company Generation Bio, he spent over a decade at Momenta Pharmaceuticals in the Analytical Research, Analytical Development, and CMC Regulatory groups on the analytical and regulatory framework for most of their biosimilar products, including biosimilar versions of Humira®, Orencia®, and Eylea®.

Dr. Robblee received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in biophysical chemistry, and completed his postdoctoral training in the biochemistry department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Cindy Driscoll

Senior Vice President, Finance

Cindy has more than 20 years of strategic financial and operational experience in the life science industry, spanning early-stage through IPO and reverse merger transactions. Cindy joins the Company from Magenta Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: MGTA) where she was Senior Vice President – Finance, responsible for all aspects of finance and accounting. Prior to joining Magenta, Cindy served as Vice President-Finance for Tokai Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: TKAI) and held Controller roles at both Gloucester Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (acquired by Celgene Corporation) and Transmolecular (acquired by Morphotek). 

Cindy received an MBA from Suffolk University and an undergraduate degree in Economics from State University of New York College at Oswego.

Christopher Katanski, Ph.D.

Director of Discovery Platform

Chris is an RNA biochemist and expert in protein translation.
Prior to joining hC Bioscience, Chris was cofounder and CEO of 4SR Biosciences where he focused on tRNA therapeutics to treat missense mutations. Chris was previously a postdoctoral scholar with Prof. Tao Pan at the University of Chicago where he developed new technologies to study tRNA and developed tRNA-tools to correct missense substitutions.

Chris obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in biochemistry and molecular biophysics. He studied regulation of translation during stress, showing adaptive benefits of protein aggregation.

Conlin O’Neil

Senior Director, Drug Product Development

Prior to joining hc Bioscience, Dr. O’Neil was Director of Formulations at Codiak BioSciences, and worked as part of the CMC team developing programs in oncology/immuno-oncology, including exoIL-12™ and exoSTING™, and as CMC team leader for exoASO™-STAT6.  At Codiak he also supported the manufacturing and quality teams in building a fit-for-purpose dedicated GMP exosome manufacturing facility.  Prior to joining Codiak, he was head of formulations at Selecta Biosciences developing PLA/PLGA nanoparticle therapeutics.  This included leading development of a novel transmission blocking malaria vaccine targeting the Pfs25 antigen with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and discovery of immunomodulatory formulations to induce tolerance to adeno-associated virus for repeat dosing without neutralizing anti-drug antibodies.  

Dr. O’Neil completed his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland with a thesis focused on drug delivery applications of block copolymer self-assembling nanoparticles. 

Suchul Jang

Director, In Vivo Pharmacology

Prior to joining hC Bioscience, Dr. Jang was Director of Preclinical & Biomarkers and head of In Vivo Pharmacology at Codiak BioSciences. He has organized and oversighted operations of the preclinical group and collaborations within the company as well as external partners. In addition, he led and participated in multiple programs including exoSTING, exoIL-12, exoASO-STAT6, and exoVACC, testing efficacy, pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic properties as well as mechanism of actions of therapeutic candidates.

His research career was focused on how to utilize exosomes for therapeutics and diagnostics. He first invented exosome-mimetic nanovesicles to deliver anti-cancer therapeutics during his Ph. D. and co-invented the first clinical candidate of Codiak Biosciences, exoSTING. During his research career, he has invented about 20 patents and published 36 peer-reviewed articles.

Dr. Jang finished B.S. and Ph.D. degree at Pohang University of Science Technology in Republic of Korea and then did post-doctoral training at Dr. Jan Lötvall’s group at University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Ning Li, PhD

VP, Molecular Biology & Platform Discovery

Ning comes to hC Bioscience with a strategic vision, innovative thinking, and deep technical expertise of early drug development of various modalities. He brings over 11 years of industry experience and a unique combination in advancing platform technologies, including synthetic biology, protein design and engineering, pathway optimization, and therapeutic strain construction.

Before joining hC Bioscience, Ning served as the Senior Director of Therapeutic Protein Design at Selecta Biosciences. In this role, Ning built the therapeutic protein design team from scratch and led the early discovery work of various therapeutic protein pipelines, including enzymes, fusion proteins, antibodies, and cytokines through both internal teams and successful collaborations with renowned experts in the field.

At Synlogic Inc., Ning played a pivotal role in the engineering and pre-clinical development of therapeutic E. coli Nissle strains for the treatment of metabolic, immunomodulatory diseases and solid tumor. Prior to that, Ning’s scientific journey began with foundational roles at Joule Unlimited Inc., where he invented a particular biofuel molecule production method via cyanobacteria pathway engineering.

Ning received his PhD from the Pennsylvania State University. He has authored numerous patent applications, as well as publications including papers in PNAS, Nature communications, JACS, and Nature.