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.
Joseph Barberio is a biochemist and molecular biologist with a proven track record of solving complex problems with innovative solutions. He is the Director of mRNA Process Development at Strand Therapeutics and oversees Strand’s manufacturing strategy to support clinical development. With over fifteen years of industry experience, Joe specializes in process and analytical development and has extensive expertise in manufacturing of both viral and RNA based gene therapy medicinal products. The majority of Joseph’s career has been focused on building platforms for small biotech organizations. Most recently at bluebird bio, he constructed and led the mRNA process development team, a group designed to enable gene editing programs. Earlier in his career, Joe held process development roles at Moderna, Percivia, and Acceleron Pharma. In addition to his work at Strand, Joseph also serves on the Board of Directors of Sophie’s Hope Foundation, a non-profit charity supporting research for Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD). He received his B.A. in Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology at Connecticut College, graduating Cum Laude with distinction.
Aalok has been leading the Formulation and Delivery effort at Strand since June 2020. Aalok brings along more than 10 years of experience in lipid nanoparticle delivery working at leading gene therapy companies. Prior to Strand, he was at Beam Therapeutics where he was an integral part of Beam’s delivery efforts aimed at advancing base editing technology to cure liver diseases. Previously, he was at Intellia Therapeutics, where he was a key contributor in advancing CRIPSR/cas9 applications and demonstrated the first in-vivo proof of concept for the technology. Earlier in his career, he spent time at Dicerna Pharmaceuticals where he was on the team that advanced siRNA programs to the clinic. His broad exposure to multiple therapeutic modalities spanning protein, siRNA and mRNA gives him an impactful lens with which to address and solve scientific challenges facing the field of gene therapy delivery systems. Aalok received his M.S. in Drug Delivery from Northeastern University and B.S. in Pharmaceutical Science from Nirma University.
Jaspreet Khurana is a molecular biologist with over 15 years of combined academia and industry research experience in target discovery and validation. He is skilled at mRNA therapeutics, genome engineering as well as next-generation sequencing. At Strand Therapeutics, he is leading the in vitro molecular biology platform, which encompasses vector development, mRNA production and in vitro POC studies for target validation. Previously, he was at Omega Therapeutics as the Senior Scientist in the Biology team. During his academic career, he elucidated novel functions for various epigenetic pathways including non-coding RNAs using cutting edge genomics. He received his Ph.D in Biomedical Sciences from University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, followed by a postdoc focused on RNA biology and genomics at Princeton and Columbia Universities. He also holds a Masters in Biotechnology from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), India. He has published several high profile peer- reviewed publications in journals such as Cell, Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, PLoS Biology, PLoS Genetics and has been cited more than 1200 times.
Anna Simon is a Scientist, in the Synthetic Biology group at Strand Therapeutics. Anna takes inspiration from nature to design new, technologically useful functions into biological molecules. In particular, Anna’s work has focused on combining rational design and synthetic evolution to design minimalist sets of nucleic acids and proteins that cooperate and assemble in response to changes in their environment. Before joining Strand Therapeutics, Anna was an Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, where she engineered natural systems into tools to create novel synthetic biosystems, specifically engineering bacterial retroelements for gene editing and evolution-inspired protein assembly strategies. She received a B.S. in Biological Engineering from MIT and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Santa Barbara. Anna has authored numerous publications, including in the journals <i>Nature Biotechnology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Angewandte Chemie, ACS Synthetic Biology, Nucleic Acids Research, and Nature Chemistry,</i> where her publication was featured on the cover of the March 2019 issue.
Ryan is an immunologist focused on next-generation immune medicines for cancer and responsible for supporting Strand’s immuno-oncology programs. Prior to joining Strand, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale School of Medicine where he developed cutting edge ‘immune avatars’, an in vivo model system constructed from individual patients’ tumors and their immune systems to enable personalized parallel evaluation immunotherapy combinations. His research interests include T cells and how they adapt to different tissue microenvironments. Ryan earned his Ph.D. in Immunology at Rush University in Chicago, where he identified a novel approach to redirect T cells to mucosal tissues where they are positioned to serve as a barrier to infection. He also holds a M.S. in Biomedical Sciences from University of Texas, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, and a B.S. in Cell & Molecular Biology from University of Northern Colorado. He has authored numerous publications, including in the journals Cell, Nature Medicine, Nature Communications, Blood, Cancer Discovery, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Cell Reports, Journal of Immunology, and has been collectively cited over 1000 times.
Zhijun Su is an associate scientist at Strand Therapeutics. She is currently supporting Strand’s cancer immunotherapy program. She is adept at RNA synthesis, immunological analyses, running mouse models, and keeping the lab organized. Prior to Strand, she worked at Koch Institute of Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, Irvine Lab, where she worked on a number of mouse animal studies, and supported cell culture and molecular biology experiments. She earned her B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Michelle Kerns is an Associate Scientist, In Vivo Discovery at Strand Therapeutics. She has experience working as a biochemist and assisting with in vivo pharmacology studies, supporting academia and industry alike. Previously, she was at Agios Pharmaceuticals and UMass Medical Center. Michelle joined Strand to continue her passion of exploring novel therapeutics. She received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Ashley Njiru is an Associate Scientist for the Molecular Biology Department at Strand Therapeutics. She has previously worked in developing gene editing constructs and dermatological cancer models at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She received her B.S. in Molecular Biology at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University in Boston, MA.
Alexander Lemaire is an experienced process and analytical development associate in Strand’s Process Development group. He’s tasked with building Strand’s mRNA production and analytical platform. Alexander has experience in developing robust analytical assays and release strategies for regulatory interactions and IND enabling activities. Additionally, Alexander prides himself on making processes and analytics higher throughput and scalable through the use of automation and robotics. Previously, Alexander was at bluebird bio, where he developed, qualified and implemented novel release assays to evaluate clinical grade mRNA. Alexander graduated with a B.S. in Biology.