External Advisory Committee Members


Bill Hipkin, PhD

Dr. Bill Hipkin is an expert pharmacologist with over 17 years’ experience leading multidisciplinary teams toward the identification & development of novel therapeutics for Immuno-oncology, Oncology (blood & solid), Autoimmunity/Inflammation & Neuroscience. Dr. Hipkin is an authority in GPCR pharmacology and signal transduction, specializing in allosterism and nonconventional modes of agonism (biased, inverse, protean). He has developed countless in vitro assays in multiple formats in support of new target ID, HTS, hit-to-lead, lead optimization, ADME and pre/clinical target engagement. Dr. Hipkin has broad clinical experience in Oncology (Ph1-3 blood & solid tumors), Immunology (Ph1-2; COPD, psoriasis, asthma), & Neuroscience (Ph1-2; pain) with strategic & hands-on experience in Translational Medicine.



Rick Keenan, PhD

Rick Keenan has over 30 years experience in drug discovery including seven years as a drug discovery consultant working with biotech, venture capital, philanthropic groups and large pharmaceutical company clients in the US and India/China.  Rick brings a critical approach to scientific problem solving derived from an integrated understanding of the entire drug discovery and development process.  Over the course of his research career in medicinal chemistry, he has contributed directly to the discovery of numerous clinical development compounds from a variety of therapeutic areas, including two marketed drugs: the Angiotensin Receptor blocker Teveten and the TPO receptor agonist Promacta.  

Previously at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Rick was a founding member and Vice-President of the Center of Excellence for External Drug Discovery (CEEDD) and part of the leadership team responsible for managing a diverse drug discovery portfolio of external research alliances.  In the CEEDD, he helped design GSK’s initial externalization strategy and gained valuable business development experience.  Rick also spearheaded open and collaborative approaches to industry-wide research on neglected tropical diseases and led the efforts to publish whole cell malaria screening data online. He is listed as an inventor over thirty patents and has co-authored more than fifty research publications.  Rick obtained a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Stanford University with Professor Paul Wender and earned a BS in Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania.


Karen Leach, PhD

Dr. Leach is a molecular pharmacologist with over 30 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry with a strong track record of successful project leadership.  Her research has focused heavily on pathways of signal transduction, particularly kinases, which afforded her the opportunity to contribute across multiple different therapeutic areas.   She has led drug discovery project teams in Oncology, Alzheimer’s and Innate Immunology and successfully advanced 2 compounds to clinical candidacy.  As a director of Academic Research Collaborations at Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation, she led outreach efforts to identify academic partners, and established joint pharma-academic project teams that were focused on advancing novel targets through the drug discovery process toward clinical candidates.  She has co-authored over 40 publications and received her Ph.D in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Cancer Institute. She is currently an independent consultant for emerging biotech.


Alasdair M. Naylor, PhD

Alasdair Naylor has over 30 years experience in drug discovery with Pfizer Global Research and Development, Solace Pharmaceuticals and more recently as an independent consultant working with biotech, venture capital and research organizations across the globe. During his time at Pfizer and beyond, Alasdair had a proven track record of target validation, application of translational science into drug discovery and successful delivery of drug candidates into development (25+), including leadership and membership of early clinical development teams responsible for taking compounds into Phase 1 and POC.   This knowledge and experience guides Alasdair’s approaches on how to build confidence in rationale for a target, research plans for a project and translational plans to maximize clinical success.  This experience includes a deep understanding of success factors and reasons for attrition and how this impacts on candidate and program survival.  A neuroscientist by training, Alasdair has a deep technical knowledge of autonomic pharmacology, CNS pharmacology, pain and inflammation biology with an ongoing research contribution, combined with a demonstrated understanding of the business and market drivers for the industry.  He is a regular reviewer of scientific articles for peer reviewed journals with wide experience of working with pharma companies, biotechs, VCs, Boards and managing research collaborations with academia and outsourcing research projects.



Jessie M. English, PhD

Dr. English is Chief Scientific Officer of Bakx Therapeutics, a start-up developing novel cancer therapeutics targeting apoptosis. Dr. English is also currently on the Board of Sensei Biotherapeutics.  Dr. English was most recently Chief Scientific Officer of Tilos Therapeutics which was acquired by Merck in 2019. Prior to Tilos she was Vice President and Head of Discovery Research Immuno-Oncology Translational Innovation Platform (IONC TIP) at EMD Serono/ Merck KGaA.  Her previous positions include Head of Research at the Belfer Center for Applied Cancer Science at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, VP of Kinase Biology at ArQule, Oncology Site Lead for External Discovery at Merck and Head of Pfizer’s Kinase Center of Emphasis.  Dr. English began her career in industry at Schering-Plough Research Institute in Oncology Discovery.  Dr. English earned a BS in biochemistry at KSU, a PhD in neurobiology from UNC, and trained as a post-doc at UT Southwestern Medical Center where she discovered the WNK family of protein kinases and the MEK5 MAPK pathway.