The members of the Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network (BPN) External Oversight Committee (EOC) have executive level drug discovery and development experience with experience in portfolio level decision making in academia and industry. As individuals the committee members provide their perspectives independently on the oversight, strategy and implementation of the BPN program. Based on their deep understanding of the drug discovery and development process the members provide feedback on NIH plans for project progression based on developing and monitoring project plans and milestones progression for individual teams and the BPN program. As a link to the neurotherapeutic small molecule drug discovery/development research community, the EOC will help the BPN program adjust to changing landscapes to continue to provide a unique community scientific resource. Membership on this committee may be supplemented with ad hoc participation of individuals with expertise appropriate for specific programmatic matters within the BPN program and the Division of Translational Research.
Peter Farina, Ph.D., Committee Chair
Dr. Peter Farina served as Senior Vice President of Development at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in Ridgefield, CT where he was responsible for North American pre-clinical development of drugs in the therapeutic areas of Immunology/Inflammation, virology and cardio-metabolic diseases. His career spanned 28 years and retired from the company in 2008. During his tenure as SVP, his interdisciplinary team worked on the development and successful registration of Aptivus®, an HIV protease inhibitor, Viramune XR® for HIV and Atrovent HFA® for COPD/emphysema and Jardiance® for diabetes. Prior to this position, he served as Vice President of Research at the Ridgefield Center. He has also held positions as Director of Inflammatory Diseases and Director of Biochemistry. Prior to joining BI, Dr. Farina spent 6 years in the Corporate Research Laboratories and Medical Products Division of Union Carbide Corporation in Tarrytown, NY where he worked on immunodiagnostics. Dr. Farina’s research interests have been focused on chemical and biological mechanisms impacting human disease. He has worked over his career to develop drugs to modulate inflammatory and immunological processes and was also engaged in HIV virology research which led to the discovery and successful registration of one of the first non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors Viramune® (nevirapine). Dr. Farina is currently an Executive in Residence at Canaan Partners, a venture capital firm located in Westport, CT. He is also the managing partner of Salient Science & Technology, LLC which advises several US and Asian biotech firms on strategic and technical matters in pharmaceutical R&D. Dr. Farina currently serves as the Co-Chair and Board Member of BioCT; the Advisory Board of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy(Emeritus), member of the NIH Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network (BPN) Executive Oversight Committee; Emory University DRIVE Advisory Board, State of Connecticut Bioscience Innovation Advisory Board, and was a Founder and CEO of Developing World Cures, a nonprofit company focused on neglected diseases. Dr. Farina has a PhD in organic chemistry from SUNY Buffalo and did postdoctoral work in bioorganic chemistry at Pennsylvania State University. He also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Connecticut.
Michael J. Detke, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Detke is a board-certified psychiatrist and a clinical drug development scientist and executive with research experience since 1986, in biotech/pharma research since 1999, and an adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Indiana University School of Medicine since 2000. He has experience across clinical trials of many CNS disorders, and in all phases. He is the Chief Medical Officer at Cortexyme, a clinical-phase biotechnology company developing therapeutics targeting a specific pathogen tied to neurodegeneration, for the treatment of Alzheimer's and other degenerative disorders.
Dr. Detke also served as CMO at Embera NeuroTherapeutics and CoMentis, at which he led clinical development of treatments for addictions, Alzheimer's Disease and Cognitive Impairment Associated with Schizophrenia. As MedAvante CMO, he led a team dedicated to improving signal detection in CNS clinical trials. As Executive Director for Neuroscience Medical Research at Lilly Research Laboratories in Indianapolis, he oversaw all CNS assets in early phase development, including all psychiatric, neurological, and pain indications. Previously at Lilly, he was Senior Medical Director responsible for Phase III development for Cymbalta and Phase IV for Prozac, and a Clinical Research Physician in late-phase development.
Educated at Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania and trained in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, he has over 70 manuscripts published in peer-reviewed journals and is an active member of scientific organizations such as ACNP, ASCP and SOBP.
John McCall, Ph.D.
Dr. McCall’s expertise is drug discovery, risk minimization, and medicinal chemistry. He has worked in a number of disease areas including acute and chronic neurologic disorders. He is vice president, Reveragen BioPharma. He began his career as a medicinal chemist with Upjohn and has subsequently held positions with Pharmacia and Upjohn, Pharmacia, and Pfizer. Dr. McCall was Director of CNS Research with Upjohn, Vice President and Global Head of Chemistry for both Pharmacia and Pharmacia & Upjohn and Vice President Research with Pfizer. Dr. McCall is currently serves on ten administrative and scientific advisory boards, consults, and has co-founded ReveraGen, a company that is developing new therapies for muscular dystrophy and other inflammatory diseases.
Janie S. Merkel, Ph.D.
Janie Merkel is Director of Research Cores at the Yale University School of Medicine. Through her training and professional experiences in biotechnology companies, she has focused on applying large scale biology technologies to answer biological questions across many fields. She contributes an understanding of biophysical techniques to evaluate proteins’ structures and binding to other molecules. For over 13 years at the Yale Center for Molecular Discovery, she worked with the Center’s team of biologists and chemists in collaboration with faculty to develop biochemical and cellular assays for small molecule screening and to optimize molecules identified in screens. Her specific area of expertise is assay development and result interpretation. During that time, the Center embarked on State-funded collaboration to rapidly translate ideas for novel targets into proof-of-concept data to promote new biotech ventures in Connecticut. The program was open to projects across all therapeutic areas, with a focus on small molecule intervention. She serves as a mentor for a NIDA-funded training course to foster the next generation of entrepreneurs for Substance Use Disorder innovations. Janie received her Ph.D. from Yale University and her bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College.
Daryl Schoepp, Ph.D.
Dr. Schoepp has over thirty years experience in the discovery and development of innovative Neuroscience therapeutics in pharmaceutical industry. This includes 20 years at Eli Lilly as a scientist and leader of Neuroscience research department, and 11 years at Merck as the Neuroscience research therapeutic area leader.
As a scientist he has over 200 publications (>19,000 citations of this work) and is an inventor of 15 US patents. He is recognized for having made major contributions in the investigation of the excitatory amino acid neurotransmitter glutamate in disease pathophysiology, pharmacology and therapeutics. His bench and leadership roles have led to the discovery and introduction into patients of over 20 novel first in class agents for psychiatric and neurological diseases. These include the first AMPA/kainate and metabotropic receptor negative and positive modulators (e.g. tezampanel, talampanel, LY354740, LY341595, eglumetad and pomoglumetad) investigated for migraine, pain, cognition, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia. While at Lilly, he was a co-discoverer of the compound LY246736 (alipimovan/Entereg) a first in class peripherally restricted opioid antagonist for post-operative ileus.
At Merck as head of Neuroscience research, his team have built a pipeline of innovative first class agents for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, pain/migraine, and schizophrenia. Merck Neuroscience successfully developed and launched the first in class orexin receptor antagonist Suvorexant (Belsomra) for insomnia and created the novel first in class oral CGRP antagonists ubrogepant and atogepant currently in registration trials for migraine treatment and prevention (by Allergan). His group made important contributions to the pioneering trials of the BACE inhibitor verubecestat in prevention trials for Alzheimer’s disease.
Barbara Slusher, Ph.D.
Barbara Slusher is Professor of Neurology, Pharmacology, Psychiatry, Neuroscience, Medicine and Oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Director of Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery (https://drugdiscovery.jhu.edu/). She has published over 250 scientific articles and is the inventor on over 100 patents and patent applications.
Before joining Johns Hopkins, Barbara spent 18 years in the pharmaceutical industry, including several years as Senior Vice President of Research and Translational Development. She has extensive experience in drug discovery through early clinical development and was involved in the successful development, launch and/or post marketing support of four FDA approved medicines.
In 2009 she joined Johns Hopkins to lead the largest drug discovery program on campus with a veteran team of over 25 medicinal chemists, assay developers, pharmacologists, toxicologists, and pharmacokinetics/drug metabolism experts. The team is engaged in identifying novel drug targets arising from the faculty’s research and translating them into new small molecule therapeutics for clinical development.
Since joining JHU, Barbara has co-founded four new companies including Cerecor, Dracen Pharmaceuticals, Adarga, and Lorem Therapeutics amassing over $150M in funding. She also co-founded the first International Consortium of Academic Drug Discovery (www.addconsortium.org) with over 150 university-led translational centers and 1500 members. Dr. Slusher has served on multiple scientific advisory boards and steering committees including Janssen, Eisai, Inc., Bayer-Wilmer, Bluefield Innovations, Neurofibromatosis Therapeutic Acceleration Program, American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, Longeviti Neurosolutions, Ashvattha Therapeutics, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Barbara brings broad expertise in drug discovery, pharmacology, toxicology, drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics, and animal disease modeling to the BPN.