ASCEND2.0 will be led by the team of John Chavez (PD/PI), Managing Director of NMSUF, and UNM academic leads Dr. Eric Prossnitz (Distinguished Professor of Internal Medicine, Maralyn S. Budke Chair in Cancer Chemical Biology & Therapeutics, and academic lead of ASCEND1.0) and Dr. Robert DelCampo (Rutledge Endowed Professor in Management, Bill Daniels Business Ethics Fellow, and Executive Director of UNM's Innovation Academy), who serve as MPIs. This team possesses the expertise and experience to drive the design, testing, validation, and commercialization of health-related entrepreneurship educational products.

John Chavez

Managing Director - New Mexico Start-Up Factory

John Chavez, MBA (PD) has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Regulatory Economics from New Mexico State University and has been part of New Mexico’s economic development ecosystem since 2008. In 2013, he co-founded the New Mexico Start-Up Factory, a company that spins out technology start-ups based on innovations developed by New Mexico scientists and entrepreneurs. Mr. Chavez was the lead PI on an EDA Grant of Access to Capital program in New Mexico from 2017-2020. In 2017, Mr. Chavez was appointed by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to the New Mexico Research Collaborative for a four-year term. Mr. Chavez is an active angel investor and Co-Founder and Managing Director of Phase One Ventures, a Santa Fe venture capital fund; he is also Co-Founder and General Partner of NMA Ventures, a New Mexico catalyst fund focusing on technology investments. Mr. Chavez was appointed by Governor Gary Johnson to serve as the Cabinet Secretary of the Taxation and Revenue Department for the State of New Mexico for six years.

John Elling

CEO & Founder, Acoustic Biosystems, Quantum Solution - Molten Salt Solutions

John Elling has founded and led a series of technology-based start-ups, consistently building and exiting at a profit. He is a seasoned biotech entrepreneur with a proven ability to identify and develop technology and business opportunities. Dr. Elling was founder, CEO and President of Acoustic Cytometry Systems. Acoustic Cytometry Systems licensed technology from Los Alamos National Laboratory, developed it to a commercial proof of principle, and then was profitably acquired by one of the largest companies in the sector. Dr. Elling was founder and CEO of Mesa Biotech. Mesa Biotech also licensed technology from Los Alamos and developed it into a handheld DNA detector before being acquired by Thermo Fisher. He has also served in a Founder/CEO/President role with a number of companies including Greffen Systems, MitoTech, Integrated Genomics, Cytoprint and Bioreason. He has experience at Los Alamos National as both a Technical Staff Member and as a Visiting Entrepreneur, and as such is well versed in the process of licensing and commercializing technology from national laboratories. Elling currently serves as the CEO for GPER G-1, a company focused on the development of a novel therapeutic for the treatment of diabetes and obesity. He is also the founder and CEO of Molten Salt Solutions, a company formed to solve the challenges in advanced nuclear power leveraging the unique technologies, capabilities and expertise of the National Laboratories. John is an active member of the New Mexico Angels and a general partner at Phase One Ventures with investments in several of their portfolio companies. Dr. Elling received his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin and received his MBA from the Anderson School of Business at the University of New Mexico.

David Miller

Previous Senior Vice President, Corporate Operations – Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Biotechnologist with thirty plus years of international experience in successful company-building. Leadership roles with five biotechnology companies as they evolved from early stage to successful IPO. Hands-on responsibilities have included: biomedical and agricultural biotechnology, sell-side business development, research team leadership and strategy development, alliance management, product and market development, litigation and intellectual property management, venture capital and public market fund raising, facilities and IT development and management. Currently leveraging life’s experiences in advising early-stage companies and with civic activities that have sustainability impact. David W. Miller has been active in the biotechnology industry for over 40 years. He has held leadership roles in five biotechnology companies, each of which evolved from early stage to successful IPO during his tenure. Hands-on responsibilities have included: biomedical and agricultural biotechnology, sell-side business development, research team leadership and strategy development, alliance management, product and market development, litigation and intellectual property management, venture capital and public market fund raising, facilities and IT development and management. At EcoScience Corporation, a public agricultural biotechnology company, he was a founder and Chief Technology Officer. His most recent role was with Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, where, as senior vice president, he led this public company’s operations function and alliance management. Dicerna recently sold to a large pharma for $3.3 billion. Currently, Dr. Miller is an advisor to several biotechnology companies. He is also active in civic board roles with an environmental focus. Dr. Miller was an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis and an NSF pre-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. He received his PhD from Harvard University in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of Idaho, Moscow.

Dapo Tomori

Vice President of Medical Affairs – Akili Interactive

Dapo Tomori currently leads product development and commercialization of prescription digital therapeutics at Akili Interactive Labs. Prior to this role he was VP, Population Health, at Proteus Digital Health, where he led the collaboration with Otsuka Pharmaceuticals to develop and commercialize the first FDA-approved Digital Medicine. He has also held leadership roles in product development, strategy and operations across the healthcare ecosystem.

Earlier in his career, he held faculty appointments in Psychiatry at the University of Michigan School of Medicine and the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, where he remains Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry. He serves on the National Advisory Board of University of Michigan Depression Center.

He trained in psychiatry at the University of Michigan. He received an MBA degree from MIT Sloan School of Management and studied International Health Policy at The London School of Economics.

Cynthia Tsai

Chief Executive Officer – HEALTHQUEST and Tana Systems

Ms. Ekberg Tsai is the CEO of Tana Systems, a global software and IT company based in the U.S. and India. She is also CEO of Healthquest, a global biotechnology and medical technologies advisory firm, where she specializes in providing strategic introductions and advice to rising executives. Ms. Tsai spent 16 years on Wall Street as a Vice President with Merrill Lynch and Kidder Peabody. She is the former Founder and CEO of HealthExpo, the largest consumer healthcare event in the U.S., where she grew the enterprise from concept to execution, attracting more than 50 million consumers to HealthExpo. Previously, Ms. Tsai was a General Partner in MassTech Ventures, a multi-million-dollar equity fund focused on technology development at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ms. Tsai currently serves on the Board of Selectors for the Jefferson Foundation Awards and is on the board of the Prix Galien Foundation. In 1999, the Harvard Business School Alumni Chapter in New York recognized Ms. Tsai with an Early-Stage Honor Roll Award for Entrepreneurship. In 2004, she also received a “Leading Woman Entrepreneur of the World” Award from the Star Foundation in Overland Park, Kansas. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Missouri. Tsai currently serves as a director of Certus Critical Care and Navigation Sciences as well as Ethan Allen Global on the NYSE.
Ms. Tsai brings to the Board her strategic thinking and unique hands-on experience in investment banking and brand building.

Heidi Chapman

Program Officer, Global Health Division – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Heidi Chapman is Program Officer with the Accelerator for Global Heath team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. At the foundation she manages investments (grant and equity) focused on disease sensing platforms and emerging technologies for global health. Heidi earned a Bacehlors in Science in Biochemisty from Saint Michael's College and a PhD in Experimental and Molecular Medicine from Dartmouth College. At Dartmouth, Heidi was awarded the Celdara High-Potential Entrepreneurial Fellowship. This Fellowship focused on providing entrepreneurial training to graduate students. After her PhD, she joined a startup company, Virtici, as a Postdoctoral Business Development Fellow. During her postdoctoral fellowship she obtained non-dilutive funding to de-risk early-stage investments, in-licensed academic technologies for commercial translation, and managed a grant focused on entrepreneurial education for academic investigators. While at Virtici Heidi served as Program Manager for the first version of the ASCEND grant. Immediately prior to joining the foundation, she managed external partnerships for a diagnostic company focused on immune sequencing, Adaptive Biotechnologies. At Adaptive she helped to create external partnerships with academic investigators, non-profits, and hospital systems to support T Detect's research and development pipeline and new disease focus areas.