The Life Sciences Advisory Board added three new members, Ellington West of Sonavi Labs, Michael Weingarten of the National Cancer Institute and KaShauna G. Rohlehr of GlaxoSmithKline.
West was chosen to serve as CEO of Sonavi Labs in 2018. Along with Ian McLane, she is the co-founder of the Johns Hopkins digital stethoscope technology startup. West was the founder of the West Labs research group at Johns Hopkins, where the company’s core Feelix technology was developed.
Under his leadership, Sonavi secured its first financial investment, as well as a partnership with Johnson & Johnson. Through this partnership, Sonavi has taken up residence at JPOD, a lab co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania and JLABS.
Most recently, the company won a pitch competition at South by Southwest in March. Sonavi won both the Health, Wearables & Wellbeing category for its digital stethoscope, as well as “Best DEI”. The prizes came with a small bonus of $4,000 for the first category and $1,000 for the DEI category, Technically reported. The AI-powered stethoscope is designed to detect and manage respiratory illnesses by listening to body sounds and identifying abnormalities in seconds.
In an interview with the publication, West said it was time for Sonavi to replicate the success she had at SXSW in the commercial space.
“We are at this point now where we have all grown up. We’ve navigated this space significantly, but now it’s time for us to execute. [We must] make sure these devices are in the hands of the people who need them most, but that we are partnering with the right people,” she said, according to the report.
Michael Weingarten is director of the Small Business Innovation Research Development Center (SBIR) at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. At SBIR, Weingarten leads a team that oversees all aspects of the group’s programs, as well as an annual grants and awards portfolio valued at $182 million. The programs overseen by the SBIR are considered the engines of innovation at the National Cancer Institute. These programs are used to develop and commercialize new technologies and products for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
At SBIR, Weingarten has implemented a set of initiatives to facilitate the success of small companies developing cancer-related technologies. According to SBIR, some initiatives include the launch of the NIH I-Corps pilot program that drives a hypothesis-driven approach from budding entrepreneurs.
KaShauna G. Rohlehr
KaShauna G. Rohlehr, associate director of alliance, program and project management at GlaxoSmithKline, has spent the past 11 years with the pharmaceutical giant in roles of increasing responsibility. Previously, she spent two years as a Senior Manufacturing Specialist at Human Genome Sciences in Rockville, and prior to that, she spent over five years at Merck.
As she previously told BioBuzz, Rohlehr oversees the Rockville site’s project management office (PMO), alliances, and contract manufacturing (CMO) communications. His team contributes to the strategic objectives and business priorities of the GSK site by managing the various programs and projects that they oversee.
In his role, Rohlehr is working hard to support his site as the company undergoes a strategic transformation that will see the consumer healthcare sector separate from the pharmaceutical sector. GSK’s Rockville site, which includes GSK Vaccines and GSK Biopharm, is firmly rooted in the pharmaceutical side of the company’s business operations. She also told BioBuzz that she was excited about the overall response from the pharmaceutical industry, academics and government to fill a need for talent in the region.
“It’s very promising because it illustrates an underlying common goal of improving lives,” she said.
As a member of the LSAB, Rohlehr will be able to contribute his own ideas to the Workforce Development Task Force led by two other board members, Joe Sanchez of AstraZeneca and Brian Stamper of Kite Pharma. The task force pointed out that over the next five years, there should be hundreds or thousands of positions available within the state’s life sciences companies.
Before these three people were appointed to the LSAB, Mark G. Mortenson of Clene, Inc. was asked to serve on the board of directors. Like Rohlehr, he is excited to increase job readiness in Maryland. As a member of the Cecil College Board of Trustees, Mortenson has a keen interest in expanding opportunities for students within the state’s life sciences ecosystem.
“I’m really looking forward to teaming up with the LSAB and spreading the word about potential careers in the life sciences,” Mortenson previously told BioBuzz.
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Alex Keown is a freelance journalist who writes on a variety of topics including the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and life science industries. Prior to freelancing, Alex served as an editor and editor for several publications.