Chief Executive Officer Rob is the manager of Mooney Capital Investments, one of the Company's founding members. Rob served as Curza's Executive Vice President and General Counsel until 2015, when he left Curza to serve as General Counsel for PetIQ, Inc. (NASDAQ:PETQ), one of the largest U.S. pet healthcare companies. From 2017-2019, International Asset Management recognized Rob as one of the world's leading intellectual property strategists for the development and implementation of strategies to maximize the value of intellectual property portfolios. In 2019, Rob resigned from PetIQ to focus on public interest work. In late 2020, Curza engaged Rob to consult on a number of business initiatives, and in July 2021, the Company's Board appointed Rob as the Company's CEO. Rob received both a B.S. in Business Management - Finance and a Juris Doctor from Brigham Young University, a Master of Laws from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and a Certificate of Business Administration from IE Business School in Madrid, Spain.
Ken Bartizal, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer Ken has over 30 years of anti-infective (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral) drug discovery, evaluation and development experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Most recently, he was the Chief Development Officer at Cidera Therapeutics from 2014-18 when he started his own independent consulting company (K&D Consulting). From 2007-13 he served as the Chief Development Officer at Trius Therapeutics leading the development of tedizolid phosphate (SICEXTRO) from pre-IND to NDA filing. After the acquisition of Trius by Cubist Pharmaceuticals he continued as an Executive Consultant through the transition period ending in 2013, after which Cubist was acquired by Merck. At Trius he was the Stage 3 Nonclinical Leader for 2 NIAID sponsord contracts. Prior to joining Trius, Ken was the Executive Director and Head of Infectious Diseases at Merck. Key accomplishments included discovery through Marketing approval of the first echinocandin antifungal caspofungin acetate (CANCIDAS). Similarly, he oversaw the development for Marketing approval of ertapenem (INVANZ), Merck's carbapenem antibiotic for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and was a key contributor to IND and NDA filings. At Merck he also brought to Clinical development an azalide antibiotic gamithromycin (ZACTRAN) in animal health for the treatment of Bovine Respiratory Disease, and also a semisynthetic insecticide for oral treatment of flea and tick infestations in companion animals. Prior to joining Merck, Ken stated his pharmaceutical career at Pfizer Central Research in Antibiotic Drug Discovery. Ken received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degress from the Unviersity of Notre Dame and a post-doctoral appointment at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison.
Ryan E. Looper, PhD
Senior Vice President of Discovery Ryan currently holds the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair in Chemistry at the University of Utah, where he has developed an integrated research program at the interface of natural product synthesis, chemical biology and medicinal chemistry. He has developed new synthetic methodology to prepare compounds of significant biomedical interest, particularly as anti-cancer and anti-microbial agents. His research is noted for the synthesis of complex guanidinium ion and alkaloid natural products. Ryan has received several Honors and Awards for this research most notably the ACS Teva Pharmaceutical Scholar Award, Amgen and Eli Lilly Young Investigator Awards and has been named both a Presidential Scholar and an Entrepreneurial Faculty Scholar at the University of Utah. Ryan received a B.S. and M.S. degree in Chemistry from Western Washington University and his Ph.D. degree at Colorado State University with Prof. Robert M. Williams. After completing his Ph.D., he joined the laboratories of Prof. Stuart L. Schreiber at Harvard University and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT as an NIH postdoctoral fellow.
Chad Testa, PhD
Senior Vice President of Research and Development Chad joins Curza after 12+ years at Echelon Biosciences where his industrial career began. Most recently, Dr. Testa served as Vice President of Research & Development after assuming positions of increasing responsibility from an initial role as Research Scientist. He has developed a diverse, multi-disciplinary chemical biology skill set, with particular emphasis on biological assay development for targeted biomarkers in antibacterial discovery, oncology and inflammatory disease pathways. Leading teams of scientists including external collaborators, Chad was responsible for administering multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary collaborations. Of particular importance was establishment of a proprietary antibacterial discovery platform targeting the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway for isoprenoid biosynthesis that included development and implementation of a cascade of assays, including a whole-cell phenotypic screening platform to identify pathway-specific leads, biochemical and MIC assays that were used to identify two series exhibiting MEP pathway selectivity. Additional efforts include development of a non-invasive imaging agent to visualize tumors, numerous product launches, leading efforts that resulted in awarding of federal grants exceeding $8M and creation of synergistic relationships. Dr. Testa has served as PI or co-PI on grants awarded by NIAID, DTRA, NCI, FDA and NSF and participates as a reviewer for NIAID study sections focused on antibacterial discovery/development, the NSF SBIR program and the state of Utah. Chad received a Bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College and a Master’s degree in Chemistry studying a member of the lipoxygenase family of enzymes. His PhD in Chemistry was obtained from the University of Utah working with Prof. C. Dale Poulter studying isoprenoid pathways, including the MEP pathway.
Paul Sebahar, PhD
Senior Vice President of Medicinal Chemistry Prior to joining Curza, Paul served as the Director of Quality for Medical Horizons, a leader in contract manufacturing of dietary supplements, where he was responsible for the implementation of quality strategy and corporate compliance with cGMP’s and federal regulations. Paul guided chemical and physical analysis of raw material, in-process samples and finished products and identified suitable test methods to elucidate active components and associated impurities and degradation products. Prior to Medical Horizons, Paul served as Scientist II in Medicinal Chemistry for Myrexis, a pharmaceutical development company, where he was the principal investigator on the Inhibitor of nuclear factor kappa-B kinase subunit epsilon (IKKε) drug recovery program. Paul helped developed 1st in-class IKKε inhibitors efficacious in a collagen-induced arthritis model utilizing structure-based drug design and synthesized compounds in support of pre-clinical IND enabling studies and was co-inventor on 3 patent applications. Dr. Sebahar was responsible for virtual screening and the streamlining of analog production through the use of predictive ADME modeling and also served as a liaison for external molecular modeling and international contract research service. Prior to his time at Myrexis, Paul served as an Investigator in the Metabolic and Virology divison for GlaxoSmithKline where was a Principal Investigator on the 2nd Generation NNRTI, CXCR4 and Human Papilloma Virus drug discovery programs. These efforts resulted in multiple patents and several co-authored manuscripts. Paul received the GlaxoSmithKline Research Excellence Award from the Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery. Paul graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from University of California, Davis and received a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Colorado State University.
Nick Skene, MBA
Vice President of Finance Nick joins Cūrza after holding various investment banking, private equity and corporate finance roles at both large and small companies including Pfizer, Tucker Anthony and Citicorp. Nick received his undergrad and MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Dustin Williams, PhD
Vice President of Microbiology & New Technologies Dr. Williams is an Associate Professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of Utah and Vice President of New Technologies at Curza. Dr. Williams’ publications include 17 peer-reviewed manuscripts on the development of antimicrobial strategies to treat and prevent biofilm implant-related infections as well as the development of a membrane biofilm reactor and flow cell system to model clinically relevant environments of device-related infections. Working with the late Dr. Bill Costerton, Dr. Williams has highlighted the importance of using biofilms as initial inocula in animal models of infection, as well as other systems. He has had the opportunity to assist in the development of an osseointegrated (OI) implant technology with the University of Utah and Department of Veterans Affairs, specifically as it relates to preventing infections at the percutaneous post of OI implants. The focus of his current work involves the development of bio-inspired socket prosthetic technology for patients with an amputation, the development of antimicrobial strategies to prevent biofilm implant-related infections using various animal models, and applying novel antimicrobial compounds to mitigate biofilm-related problems in industrial settings. Dr. Williams graduated with a B.S. in Microbiology from Weber State University and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Utah.
Board of Directors
John Kozarich, PhD
Director – Chairman John has 40 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical industry and academia. He is Distinguished Scientist and Executive Advisor at ActivX, was Chairman and President from December 2004 to March 2017 and served in senior management positions since February 2001. Prior to his role at ActivX, John was Vice President at Merck Research Laboratories where he was responsible for a variety of drug discovery and development programs and external biotech collaborations. Dr. Kozarich previously held full professorships at the University of Maryland and Yale School of Medicine. He was named Director of the Year for 2014 by the Corporate Directors Forum, has been an American Cancer Society Faculty Research Awardee, a recipient of the Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry from the Division of Biological Chemistry of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the Distinguished Scientist Award of the San Diego Section of the ACS. Dr. Kozarich currently serves as Chairman of Ligand Pharmaceuticals, Chairman of Intec Pharma and is Adjunct Professor of Chemical Physiology at The Scripps Research Institute. John holds a B.S. in chemistry from Boston College, a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University.
Robert Armstrong, PhD
Director Rob is the former CEO, board member and co-founder of Boston Pharmaceuticals. With over 20 years of experience working in research and development in the biopharmaceutical industry, Rob has been involved in the discovery and clinical development of programs across multiple disease areas. Rob created and led the small molecule R&D organization at Amgen in Thousand Oaks, CA. He subsequently co-led research at Lilly as Vice President of Global Medicinal Chemistry, was head of the translational medicine group Chorus and was the Vice President of Global Externa R&D. He served on the finance and scientific advisory boards of Lilly BioVentures. Prior to working in the industry, Rob was a tenured Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry a the University of California at Los Angeles. Rob received his BS in Chemistry at the University of California at San Diego, his Ph.D. in Chemistry at Colorado State University and was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. Rob is an advisor to Gelesis and serves on the board of directors of early stage biotechnology companies Curza, Cloud Pharmaceuticals, Entrega Bio and Artax Biopharma.
Director Rich McKeown co-founded Leavitt Partners and served as the firm's first CEO from 2009 - April 2017. In previous roles he served as chief of staff for Mike Leavitt at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). At HHS, he directed and coordinated the activities of the largest department in the federal government, serving as the Secretary's day-to-day manager for a department that employed 67,000 people and had an annual budget in excess of $840 billion. He also led the negotiations between China and the FDA regarding Drug, Device and Food issues which led to landmark agreements in 2008 and paved the way for the placement of US-FDA offices around the world. From November 2003 until January 2005, Rich served as senior counselor and chief of staff to Administrator Leavitt at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Rich co-authored with Mike Leavitt the highly-acclaimed book titled Finding Allies, Building Alliances. Prior to his public service in Washington, D.C., Rich served as chief of staff to Governor Mike Leavitt and as commissioner of the Utah State Tax Commission. His background is as a private practice lawyer and educator. Rich received his juris doctorate from the University of Utah and bachelor's degree from Ohio University.
Director Joe is the founder and CEO of Endeavor Capital Group, a Utah-based investment company which focuses on real estate investments, energy technology and health and wellness technologies. He has served as a board member of the Sorenson Legacy Foundation for more than 15 years where he has helped support a wide range of philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors at local, national and international levels. Joe played a vital leadership role in other Sorenson companies including serving as president of healthcare company Sorex Medical and led the development of new products for Sorenco Laboratories. Joe graduated from LDS Business College with a degree in accounting.
Director Flagg has over 30 years of experience in the medical device field as an entrepreneur, executive and advisor. He founded Flanagan Instruments in 1981, which he built into a leading neurosurgical device distribution business before selling it to Itochu International in 2005. Flagg is currently on the boards of TrueDigital Systems, Peleton Medical, Triad Life Sciences, Steribite, and the Neurosurgery Research & Education Foundation. He has also served on the boards of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, as well as TrueVision Systems and Image Stream Medical, which were acquired by Alcon and Olympus, respectively. He completed the Owner/President Management Program at Harvard Business School.
Director Lloyd has 27-years of biopharmaceutical and NCE discovery and development experience from concept to clinical evaluation across multiple therapeutic areas - including antiinfective indications. He has built and then sold an antibacterial company, hired outstanding teams, created SABs and has raised >£25m from UK, Europe, USA and Japan including charities (Wellcome Trust), Government (DTI, UK & NIAID, USA), Corporate (Astellas) and VC investment groups. He is an inventor on >25 patents and has authored >30 papers. He is currently the Founder and CEO of Abgentis Ltd which focuses on semi-synthetic aminocoumarin antibiotics; CSO of Persica Pharmaceuticals Ltd which focuses on chronic back pain, and a Founder and Director of Chemical Biology Ventures Ltd which provides consulting services to biotech, academia, charities and investors. He recently chaired a review into Alternatives to Antibiotics for Wellcome and the Department of Health which informed the O'Neill Report and is involved in several antibiotic R&D initiatives including GARDP and its Antimicrobial Memory Recovery Initiative, Antibiotic Research UK, The Pew Trust's Antibiotic Resistance Project and as a member of a CARB-X funding panel.
Scientific Advisory Board
Lynn Silver, PhD
Antibiotic Development Lynn had a successful career at Merck (Senior Investigator and other positions) and at the National Institutes of Health (Senior Staff Fellow) and is now the owner of an independent pharmaceutical consultancy for antibacterial discovery and preclinical development. Throughout her career, she has authored significant research papers and reviews in the field of bacterial genetics, physiology, biochemistry, and the discovery and analysis of antibacterial agents. Lynn Silver graduated Brandeis University with a BA in Biology and from Tufts University School of Medicine with a PhD in Molecular and Microbiology.
George Drusano, MD
Antibiotic Development George is the Director of the Institute for Therapeutic Innovation at the University of Florida. George is a reviewer for many prestigious peer-reviewed journals including: Science-Translational Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Medicine, Journal of Infectious Diseases, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. George is a Fellow at the Infectious Diseases Society of America and was a member of the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapeutics (ICAAC), IDSA and served on several review groups for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), as a consultant to the CDC on Biodefense issues and was the Chair of the Gordon Conference on New Antimicrobial Discovery and Development. George graduated magna cum laude from Boston College and graduated cum laude from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He completed his medical internship and residency at the University of Maryland Hospital where he was Chief Medical Resident. He was also a Fellow in Medicine in Infectious Diseases at the University of Maryland Hospital.
Paul Eckburg, MD
Infectious Disease Clinician Paul has worked in the clinical research and anti-infective drug development space for over 17 years. Paul currently serves as an Infectious Disease consultant in antibiotic development and was previously employed at Cerexa, a wholly-owned subsidiaary of Forest Laboratories, where he was the Senior Director of the ceftaroline fosamil (Teflaro®) program through FDA approval. In 2000, he formed Eckburg Medical Consulting to provide Phase 1-4 expertise to pharmaceutical companies and was involved in the development of multiple approved anti-infective products including: anidulafungin (EraxisTM), doripenem (Doribax®), inhaled levofloxacin (QuinsairTM), and ceftazidime-avibactam (Avycaz®). Paul received his Bachelor of Science in Cell and Structural Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his M.D. from Rush University. He completed his Internal Medicine residency and Infectious Diseases fellowship at Stanford University School of Medicine, where he continues to serve as an Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor.
Michael Barbachyn, PhD
Antibiotic Development Mike currently serves as a professor and Brummel Chair in Organic Chemistry at Calvin College and has extensive experience in developing antibiotics and is one of the inventors of Linezolid (ZYVOX) an antibiotic approved by the FDA in 2000. Mike served as Director of Infection Discovery for AstraZeneca, Director of Antibacterial Chemistry at Pfizer and Associate Director of Medicinal Chemistry at Pharmacia. Mike has a BA in Chemistry from Calvin College, a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Wayne State University and was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University.