2015 Speakers

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 12.54.25 PMIrina Antonijevic, M.D., Ph.D.
Senior Director, Translational Medicine and Early DevelopmentMS & Neurology, Genzyme

Dr. Antonijevic earned her MD at the Technical University of Munich, Germany (1991) and her PhD in neurophysiology at the University of Edinburgh, UK (1995). She is board certified in psychiatry and completed her residency training (in psychiatry/neurology) at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, before joining the pharmaceutical industry in 2001. Since then she has worked in different clinical development and translational roles with a focus on CNS indications in various pharmaceutical and biotech organizations, including a non-profit research organization. In her current role at Genzyme, a Sanofi company (since 2011), Irina leads a small team of translational scientists in the MS and Neurology development group. The team provides and implements the translational and development strategies for projects with a focus on Proof-of-Mechanism and Proof-of-Concept studies, but including design for phase 3 studies. Irina serves on translational and research leadership teams that appraise the organization’s global portfolio.

Irina is an adjunct associate professor at the Charité, Berlin University, and an advisor to the German Ministry of Research for biomarker and translational medicine.

GenzymeGenzyme has pioneered the development and delivery of transformative therapies for patients affected by rare and debilitating diseases for over 30 years. Genzyme’s portfolio of transformative therapies, which are marketed in countries around the world, represents groundbreaking and life-saving advances in medicine. As a Sanofi company, Genzyme benefits from the reach and resources of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, with a shared commitment to improving the lives of patients.

Erwan Bezard, Ph.D.
INSERM Research Director
Universite Victor Segalen-Bordeaux 2
Bordeaux, France 

Bezard, INSERM Research Director, has authored or co-authored over 190 professional publications in the field of neurobiology, most of which are on Parkinson’s disease and related disorders. Listed in the Top 1% of the most cited neuroscientists (H factor=46; Source: Scopus), he is best known for his work on the compensatory mechanisms that mask the progression Parkinson’s disease and on the pathophysiology of levodopa-induced dyskinesia. His current research interests include the study of the levodopa-induced dyskinesia, the intimate mechanisms of cell death in Parkinson’s disease, the modelling of disease progression and the development of new strategies to alleviate symptoms and/or to slow disease progression.

Bezard is the director of a CNRS research unit located in Bordeaux, the Institute of Neurodegenerative Diseases, which features preclinical and clinical researchers working towards development of therapeutic solutions. He is also a Visiting Professor at the China Academy of Medical Sciences (Beijing, China) where he has set-up and manages a non-human primate facility dedicated to Movement Disorders. He serves on the board of international organizations such as the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Parkinson’s UK. He is Associate Editor of Neurobiology of Disease and of Movement Disorders, two leading journals in the field. He serves on the editorial boards of several other neurobiology journals. Besides consulting for several drug companies in the field of movement disorders, he is a non-executive director of Plenitudes Sarl (France) and Chief Scientific Officer of Motac Neuroscience (UK).


 Erwan Bezard, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer, Motac Neuroscience

Motac is a preclinical research company dedicated to working with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that are developing new treatments for diseases of the central nervous system. Motac in-house personnel include internationally-recognised experts in neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neuropharmacology and neuropsychology. As a company, we have unparalleled expertise in the fields of movement disorders, such a Parkinson’s disease and dyskinesias, and in the field of neuropsychology and cognition. The senior scientific staff at Motac has approximately 50 years combined experience of active research in these fields.

Our expertise and research capabilities are offered at a number of levels:

  • We offer expert consultancy services in order to assist and advise with the planning and design of preclinical research within our areas of special expertise. This includes advising on the most suitable model systems, scientific end-points and protocol designs.
  • Laboratory-based research is undertaken on a flexible basis, ranging from simple fee-for-service to risk-sharing collaborations. The majority of studies are performed in our dedicated AAALAC-accredited research facility. Studies are performed in the spirit of GLP to agreed Standard Operating Procedures.

In addition, through our extensive network of clinical collaborators Motac offers ready access to clinical opinion-leaders and clinical trial specialists.

Katherine BickKatherine Bick, Ph.D. 

Katherine Livingstone Bick was born in Clyde River, Prince Edward Island, attended school there and later Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown. She graduated from Acadia University with both an Honours degree in Biology and her M.Sc. Later she earned her doctorate in Biology from Brown University in Rhode Island. She has held faculty appointments at UCLA, Cal State Northridge CA, and Georgetown University. She received an honorary Doctor of Science from Acadia in 1990. Her involvement in the dementias began at the Neurology Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda MD where she was Deputy Director for some years. Later she was appointed  Deputy Director for Extramural Programs for the NIH. She has also participated in international studies of dementia with colleagues in Italy and through the World Health Organization. She has served as a consultant to Dana Foundation for research in neuroscience. She is the author/editor of several books on Alzheimer’s Disease, notably Alzheimer’s Disease: Senile Dementia and Related Disorders, considered a seminal publication for later studies. Her more recent book (with her long-time friend and colleague, Robert Katzman) is  Alzheimer Disease: The Changing View, which  provides a personal look at both the scientists and the families who led the efforts for increased research in the dementias.

Gal BitanGal Bitan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Neurology
David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA

Gal Bitan did his graduate studies in organic chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, on unnatural amino acids and unconventional peptide cyclization. His patented inventions provided the core technology of Peptor, Inc. He then moved to Boston, MA for postdoctoral studies on the structural biology of ligand–receptor systems at Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center and continued to tackling the problem of protein misfolding and aggregation at Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Bitan has made fundamental contributions to the study of early events in the pathologic cascades that cause Alzheimer’s disease introducing the use of novel photochemical protein cross-linking techniques for investigation of amyloid β-protein assembly and discovered one of the earliest oligomers in the assembly cascade, the paranucleus. In 2004, Dr. Bitan joined UCLA where he is currently an Associate Professor of Neurology in the David Geffen School of Medicine. His research program focuses on structure-based drug design and development for proteinopathies. Dr. Bitan has published over 90 peer-reviewed articles. He serves as a reviewer for many scientific journals and funding agencies and as a member of the editorial boards of several journals. He is also a member of the scientific advisory boards of the American Federation for Aging Research and Give to Cure.

Neil Cashman photoNeil Cashman, M.D., FRCP(C), CAHS
University of British Columbia

Dr. Neil Cashman is a neurologist-neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute working in neurodegeneration and neuroimmunology. His special areas of work are the amyloid encephalopathies, such as the prion illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease, and motor neuron diseases, particularly amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). He joined the McGill Neurology and Immunology faculties in 1986, and accepted the Diener Professorship of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Toronto Department of Medicine (Neurology) in 1998. In July 2005, he was appointed Professor of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Neurodegeneration and Protein Misfolding Diseases, and has laboratories in the renowned Brain Research Centre. He is Scientific Director to PrioNet Canada, a Network of Centres of Excellence focused on basic and applied research related to prion diseases. He is Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Amorfix Life Sciences since 2005, a public company developing therapeutics and diagnostics for protein misfolding diseases. He is the author of over 300 publications, and provides expertise and guidance to numerous scientific, medical, and governmental committees related to his research interests. Special honors recently received include the Jonas Salk Prize in 2000 for “outstanding contributions to basic biomedical research,” his election to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in 2008, and in 2012 the Genome BC Scientific Excellence Award.

Jennifer Johnston, Ph.D.
Founder and CSO
An2H Discovery (US)

Dr. Johnston has been interested in the Ub-proteasome pathway, starting with work on protein folding and substrate degradation by the proteasome with Dr. A. Varshavsky at Caltech. Subsequently, her work with Dr. R. Kopito at Stanford resulted in the discovery and description of Aggresomes, the first example of cellular proteostasis and provided a link between the proteasome pathway and canonical neurodegeneration pathology phenotypes. At Elan Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Johnston directly applied the tenets of Aggresome biology, protein folding and cellular proteostasis to basic research and drug discovery for Parkinson’s disease and neurodegeneration in general. In addition to VP Research and Head of Exploratory Research, Dr. Johnston also lead the Parkin Project, a drug discovery program focused on the identification of specific small molecule therapeutics that modulate the activity of Parkin E3 ligase. Presently, Dr. Johnston is Founder and CSO of An2H Discovery, a Biotech company focused on the modulation of the Ubiquitin Pathway for critical unmet medical needs in Neurology and Oncology.

MontagDirk Montag, Ph.D.
Head Neurogenetics Special Laboratory
Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology (Germany)

With a degree in biochemistry from the University of Tübingen Germany, Dirk obtained his Ph.D. at the Max-Planck Institut for Biology Germany. He then joined the Research Institute of Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, USA, during a post-doctoral fellowship. From 1991-97, Dr. Montag investigated mouse mutants for neuronal cell recognition molecules at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland, as a senior research assitant. In 1997, he established a research group at the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology Magdeburg Germany and was appointed in 2007 as head of the Neurogenetics Special Laboratory. Dr. Montag’s work focuses on the investigation of learning and memory in mouse mutants and the preclinical evaluation of drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. His recent work established an essential role of neuroplastin for associative learning and resulted in the first genetically inducible model for retrograde amnesia.

Dave Morgan photoDave Morgan, PhD
CEO/Director of the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer Institute
Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology
Director of Neuroscience Research for the College of Medicine and at the University of South Florida

Dr. Morgan’s research interests are aging and brain function, focusing on drugs to treat Alzheimer’s dementia. His doctoral research investigated the neurochemistry of memory and his postdoctoral studies addressed aging-related changes in rodent and human brain. Morgan became a faculty member at the University of Southern California in 1986 where his research projects focused on astrocytes and microglia in aged brain, including Alzheimer’s tissues. After moving to South Florida in 1992, Morgan participated in the development of a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease (APP+PS1). He has developed methods to measure the damage that occurs in the brains of these mice and studied how this damage causes memory deficits in the mice. His work focuses largely on the neuro-immune interactions associated with the Alzheimer phenotype. He is presently testing amyloid dissolving agents, amyloid immunotherapy and gene therapy to treat the Alzheimer-like changes in transgenic mouse models of the disease. This work is supported by multiple grants from the NIH, private foundations and contracts from industrial partners. An antibody against the amyloid peptide that was characterized in his laboratory has entered clinical testing in AD patients. Morgan regularly sits on review panels for NIH and other agencies evaluating grants to develop new drugs to treat Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders. In addition to his research activities, Morgan has consulted with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies regarding the development of therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease, and advised capital investment organizations regarding the most promising therapeutic approaches to curing Alzheimer’s disease.

ParkerAlex Parker, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience, CRCHUM
Université de Montréal (Canada)

Dr. Alex Parker obtained his PhD at the University of British Columbia where he studied Huntingtin Interacting Protein 1. From there Dr. Parker pursued postdoctoral work at INSERM in Paris, France where he established some of the first models of Huntington’s disease in the nematode C. elegans. In this time he investigated chemical modulation of the sirtuins as a neuroprotective strategy. In 2008 established his laboratory at the CRCHUM, Université de Montréal. Dr. Parker expanded his approach to model additional neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, dementia and hereditary ataxias. Dr. Parker’s laboratory uses chemical-genetic approaches to discover small molecules that may aid drug discovery and development for neurological disorders.

Eric Parker Photo 2Eric M. Parker, Ph.D.
Distinguished Scientist, Dept. of Pharmacology, Screening and Protein Sciences
Merck Research Laboratories

Dr. Eric M. Parker joined the Merck Research Laboratories (MRL) in 1996.  During his career at MRL, Dr. Parker has led drug discovery efforts aimed at the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, metabolic disease and nausea/vomiting.  He has been at the forefront of Merck’s discovery and development efforts on MK-8931, a BACE inhibitor for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease that is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials.  He was also instrumental in the development of rolapitant, an NK1 receptor antagonist that is currently under FDA review for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced and post-operative nausea and vomiting.  In his present role, he leads key strategic initiatives to expand the pharmacological characterization of drug molecules and to improve the clinical translation of discovery research efforts.  Dr. Parker has published more than 80 scientific articles, reviews and book chapters, and has lectured extensively at many scientific conferences, universities and companies.  Dr. Parker was chosen to be a Merck Presidential Fellow in 2010 and was awarded the Research and Hope Award by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association in 2012 for his drug discovery work on Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Parker received his B.S. degree in pharmacy and his Ph.D. degree in pharmacology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has been recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of that institution.  He completed postdoctoral training at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.


Today’s Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visitwww.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 12.55.01 PMPeter H. Reinhart, Ph.D.
Founding Director, Institute for Applied Life Sciences (University of Massachusetts)

Peter H. Reinhart, PhD, has more than 20 years of R&D management experience in the neuroscience and orphan disease space. He has led drug discovery programs in academia, biotechnology, and large Pharma. As CSO at Proteostasis Therapeutics he implemented and directed drug discovery programs for the disease-modifying treatment of protein misfolding, sorting, trafficking and clearance-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and cystic fibrosis.

As head of neurodegeneration at Wyeth/Pfizer he directed a portfolio of drug development programs in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, neuromuscular diseases and stroke/regeneration, and developed more than a dozen small molecules, antibodies, and vaccines. During his leadership, Wyeth Neuroscience was named a “Top 10 Pipeline Company” for four consecutive years by R&D Directions. As head of neurodegeneration at Cogent Neuroscience, Dr. Reinhart initiated research programs in Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and developed a novel neuronal drug screening platform. Serving as a tenured professor of neuroscience at Duke University Medical Center, Dr. Reinhart investigated the contribution of ion channel dysfunction in neurological and respiratory disorders. He completed postdoctoral training at the University of Tubingen, as a Humboldt fellow, and at Brandeis University, studying ion channel plasticity. Dr. Reinhart received his PhD from the Australian National University, working on intracellular Ca2+ homeostasis and mitochondrial function.

Dr. Reinhart serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for Proteostasis Therapeutics and as an editor for multiple neuroscience journals including Brain Research and Journal of Neuroscience.

Amyn Sayani Photo

Amyn Sayani, Ph.D.
Director of R&D Alliances
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)

Dr. Amyn Sayani is the Director of R&D Alliances at GlaxoSmithKline Canada.  In this role, Amyn is responsible for identifying and establishing new R&D collaborations through innovation centers and academic institutions from across Canada to support growth of GSK’s early stage pipeline. Amyn has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 15 years and has developed a breadth and depth of experience, working in pharmaceutical product development, regulatory affairs and medical affairs.  During this time, he has led local and global teams in developing products across dosage forms for multiple markets and phases of clinical development, as well as leading the tech transfer of products from development into manufacturing.  Amyn has a proven track record in leading high performing, innovative teams, and has numerous publications and patents, including for a novel intranasal formulation and device, developed here in Canada for the global market, as well as leading value evidence projects to optimize patient use and market access for products in both primary and specialty care.  Amyn is a pharmacist by training, and has a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Rutgers University in NJ, USA.


GlaxoSmithKline Inc. (GSK) is a world leading research-based pharmaceutical company devoted to discovering and developing new and innovative medicines and vaccines for Canadians and people around the world. Every day, our employees strive to improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.

The vaccines, medicines and consumer healthcare products that we research and develop can improve people’s health and well-being, ultimately helping them to live life to its fullest and contribute to the prosperity of their communities.  Every day our scientists search for new ways to improve the treatment of diseases and illnesses.  GSK continues to invest in strong science and innovation across Canada, and we are committed to making significant contributions to preclinical, clinical and medical research and development.  GSK engages with Canada’s leading medical and pharmacy schools to identify new medicine opportunities, and collaborates with researchers across the country.


Denis Soulet, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Neuroimmunology and Neuroscientist
Centre Hospitalier de l’Université Laval (CHUL)

Denis Soulet, PhD, is currently Assistant Professor of neuroimmunology and neuroscientist at Laval University, Québec, Canada. As a neuroimmunologist, he is specialized in inflammation and neurodegenerative diseases. His research focuses on investigating the molecular and cellular origins of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease, which are characterized by aggregates of huntington and alpha-synuclein, respectively. During his postdoctoral position at the Wallenberg Neuroscience Institute (Dr Patrik Brundin’s laboratory), he studied the role of inflammation in graft survival and neurodegeneration. Since he got back from Lund University, he is leading a research team dedicated to study the role of peripheral inflammation in the enteric nervous system and its contribution to Parkinson’s disease.
Malú Gámez Tansey, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator
Emory University School of Medicine
Malú Gámez Tansey is a tenured Associate Professor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta and a member of the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (CND). She obtained her B.S/M.S in Biological Sciences from Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, and her Ph.D. in Cell Regulation from UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in Dallas, TX, where she studied the role of MLCK phosphorylation in regulation of smooth muscle contraction in the laboratory of Dr. James T. Stull in the Department of Physiology. After a short post-doc with Kate Luby-Phelps in the same department, she moved to Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, Missouri to the laboratory of the late John P. Merlie where she elucidated the signaling mechanisms required for ARIA/Heregulin-induced acetylcholine receptor epsilon gene expression at the neuromuscular junction before settling in the laboratory of Eugene M. Johnson Jr. in 1996.

She and her colleagues in the laboratory of Jeff Milbrandt identified new members of the GDNF Family of Ligands (GFLs: Neurturin, Persephin, and Artemin) and their paired GFR binding co-receptors (GFRalpha2 and 3) and demonstrated their potent bioactivities on multiple neuronal populations. Their work was the first demonstration that ligand-induced recruitment of a neurotrophic receptor (Ret) to lipid rafts for interaction with c-Src was functionally required for GFL-induced neuronal survival and differentiation. Prior to setting up her academic research lab in 2002, she was head of the Chemical Genetics group at Xencor, a private biotechnology company in Monrovia, California whose mission is to create superior biotherapeutics through protein engineering technology. She and her colleagues engineered soluble TNF-selective biologic inhibitors with a novel dominant negative mechanism of action which her lab has used as powerful tools to investigate the role of TNF signaling in neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases using in vitro and in vivo models. The translational research goal of these studies is to target soluble TNF with the brain-permeant lead clinical candidate XPro1595 in clinical trials for CNS diseases characterized by chronic central or peripheral inflammation. The general interests of her laboratory include investigating the role and regulation of neuroinflammatory and immune system responses in modulating the gene-environment interactions that determine risk for development and progression of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disease.

vande veldeDr. Christine Vande Velde, Ph.D.
Department of Neuroscience
Université de Montréal (Canada)

Dr. Vande Velde is a cell biologist with a focus on the pathogenic mechanisms underlying amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. She obtained her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Manitoba in 2001 where, with Dr. Arnold Greenberg, she described a novel programmed cell death mechanism mediated by a BCL-2 family member. She then pursued post-doctoral studies at the University of California, San Diego/Ludwig Institute in the laboratory of Dr. Don Cleveland where she developed an expertise in working with SOD1 rodent models of ALS and was involved in the initial characterization of Alsin/ALS2. She has made several contributions documenting the impact of misfolded SOD1 on mitochondrial function. In 2007, Dr. Vande Velde established her laboratory at the CHUM Research Center, an affiliate of the Université de Montréal, to explore novel pathways and genes in ALS pathogenesis. Her current work features TDP-43 and FUS in stress granule dynamics as well as misfolded SOD1 and mitochondrial dysfunction. She is currently a CIHR New Investigator and an associate professor in the Department of Neurosciences at the Université de Montréal.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 10.19.20 AMBenjamin Wolozin, M.D., Ph.D.
Boston University School of Medicine

Dr. Wolozin is a professor in the Department of Pharmacology. The goal of his research is to understand the mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases, and then to use this understanding to develop novel interventions for disease. Much of his research focuses on the central concept of regulated protein aggregation. Protein aggregation in neurodegenerative diseases is classically thought to occur as an unwanted byproduct of protein misfolding. Human genetic studies increasingly highlight the importance of RNA binding proteins in neurodegenerative diseases. This is important because RNA binding proteins use protein aggregation as part of a normal regulated, physiological mechanism controlling protein synthesis. Aggregated RNA binding proteins for stress granules, transport granules, P bodies, as well as participate in physiological functions, such as activity dependent protein synthesis.  Our research investigates the hypothesis that dysfunction of RNA granules causes neurodegenerative diseases.  Over active stress granule formation could contribute to neurodegeneration by altering patterns of protein synthesis and sequestering proteins that regulate cell death processes.  Hypo-active stress granules leads to inadequate neuroprotection.Dr. Wolozin has received numerous awards for his research including the Donald B. Lindsley Prize, Society for Neuroscience, the A. E. Bennett Award and a Merit Award from Alzforum. He serves on numerous editorial boards, including for the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Neurodegenerative Diseases, and is a standing member of the NIH CDIN study section.

Nathan YoganathanT. Nathan Yoganathan Ph.D.
Kalgene Pharmaceuticals (Canada)
KalGene Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a privately held company working in partnership with many of North America and Europe’s leading clinician-scientists and academic institutions. KalGene is focused on the development of targeted therapeutics and companion diagnostics. Its programs are aimed at improving clinical and survival outcomes through the use of personalized medicine.

Personalized medicine seeks to predict which patients will respond to a particular therapy in advance of treatment. This prediction allows physicians to prescribe treatment according to an individual’s specific biological signature, or needs.

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