Jake Becraft is a synthetic biologist and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and CEO of Strand Therapeutics, and serves on its Board of Directors. Together with colleagues at MIT’s renowned Synthetic Biology Center, he led the development of the world’s first synthetic biology programming language for mRNA. Jake has been featured in Fierce Biotech, Bloomberg, the Boston Business Journal, and BioCentury, among others, for his vision and mission at Strand of applying this unique platform for real world disease applications. He has also been the recipient of prestigious national and international awards for his scientific and entrepreneurial achievements, including the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Award, the Andrew Viterbi Fellowship of MIT, Amgen Fellowship, and the Bristol-Myers Squibb 2018 Golden Ticket for recognition of Strand as an innovative startup. Beyond his work at Strand, Jake’s broader interests span synthetic biology, biologically engineered organism-machine interfaces, and the intersection of tech and biotech methodologies. He is an advocate among the life science entrepreneurial ecosystem for supporting young founders in biotech entrepreneurship. Currently, he serves on the advisory board of Starlight Ventures, an early stage venture firm, and also serves on the Executive Board of Public Health United, a non-profit focused on helping scientists better communicate their research for maximum impact. Previously, he served as a Science and Technology advisor to legislators in the Massachusetts State Legislature. Jake received his Ph.D. in Biological Engineering and Synthetic Biology from MIT and his B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduating Magna cum Laude with distinction. He is an author or inventor on numerous high profile publications, patents and white papers, including in top tier journals such as Nature Chemical Biology and PNAS.
Tasuku Kitada is President and Head of R&D of Strand Therapeutics. He co-founded Strand and serves on its Board of Directors. Prior to Strand, Tasuku was Senior Biotechnology Analyst at Candriam Investors Group, where he conducted due diligence for the company’s multi-billion-dollar biopharma public equity investment strategy. At Candriam, he focused on cell and gene therapy companies, and also covered numerous oncology companies. Currently, Tasuku continues to serve Candriam Investors Group as an advisor. Prior to Candriam, Tasuku was a researcher at the Synthetic Biology Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he became the first scientist to create synthetic gene circuits using synthetic mRNA. This was the first demonstration of post-transcriptional circuits that can be “wired” to create a variety of networks of increasing complexity, which enabled cell type specific expression as well as small-molecule based control of gene expression from synthetic mRNA. This important research led to publications in Science, Nature Biotechnology, and Nature Chemical Biology. The mRNA synthetic biology platform developed from this research has been exclusively licensed to Strand. Tasuku holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from University of California, Los Angeles and a B.S. in Biophysics and Biochemistry from University of Tokyo.
Samta Kundu is the Chief Operating Officer of Strand Therapeutics. She has nearly three decades of business strategy and operations experience spanning pharma and biotech. She spent over a decade at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), and was a member of the leadership team of Molecular Discovery Technologies, a department within BMS’ Discovery organization. During her tenure at BMS, she also led initiatives to increase the company’s visibility in the Cambridge/Boston life science community to support the opening of BMS' Cambridge R&D site. A key initiative she launched and executed was the company’s “Golden Ticket” contest to award lab space to innovative local startups, of which Strand was a 2018 winner. Previously, Samta was in business development at Adnexus Therapeutics, acquired by BMS in 2007, where she supported deal execution, management of the IP portfolio, and diligence operations. Post BMS acquisition, Samta led business operations for the newly acquired Adnexus-BMS site and executed a number of research transactions on behalf of the site. Earlier in her career, Samta held business development roles at Dyax and Consensus Pharmaceuticals, and was a project manager at Genzyme Tissue Repair. Samta began her career at LEK Consulting, providing strategic analysis to a number of healthcare and biotech clients. She received her MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Business and a B.A. from Princeton University.