Passion for discovery
Dedication to science
Hope for cures
Commitment to community
Perlara was originally founded as Perlstein Lab, PBC in February 2014. Perlara, PBC is a biotech startup and Public Benefit Corporation based in the Bay Area that is on a mission to discover personalized cures for diseases rare and common.
We are a diverse team with expertise in genetics, pharmacology, cell biology, data science and automation. We share an enthusiasm for scientific discovery and a commitment to transparency and engagement.
Ethan Perlstein, PhD—CEO
Over the course of the last decade, first as a graduate student at Harvard University in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology with PhD advisor Professor Stuart Schreiber and then as an independent postdoctoral fellow at the Lewis-Sigler Institute at Princeton University, Dr. Ethan Perlstein developed an approach to studying old drugs and discovering new drugs in model organisms called evolutionary pharmacology. Ethan is an author on 19 peer-reviewed scholarly publications, including the discovery of a novel mechanism of action for the antidepressant Zoloft based on studies in yeast cells.
Nina DiPrimio, PhD—SENIOR SCIENTIST
Director of Outreach and External Collaborations
Nina leads the cell biology program at Perlstein Lab. She earned her PhD in Pharmacology, specifically AAV gene delivery, from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Following her PhD training, Nina taught molecular biology and cell and developmental biology laboratory courses at Carnegie Mellon University as well as ran multiple summer research programs. She completed her postdoctoral training at UC Berkeley in synthetic biology on biosensor development and organism engineering for small molecular production. Passionate about education and lowering the barrier of entry for biology innovation, she is also the lead editor for BioCoder, an O’Reilly media publication.
Tom Hartl, PhD—SENIOR SCIENTIST
Director of High-Throughput Screening
Tom directs research utilizing Drosophila for drug discovery at Perlstein Lab. He earned his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona, and was a Damon Runyon and American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University. He has 15+ years of experience in molecular genetics and cellular biology research, and has published numerous studies where he used Drosophila and other models to discover fundamental biological mechanisms.
Sangeetha Iyer, PhD—SENIOR SCIENTIST
Director of Business Development
Sangeetha received her PhD in Molecular Pharmacology from the University of Pittsburgh and completed her postdoctoral research at the University of Texas at Austin. She has over seven years of experience in model/assay development and drug screening for human disorders. At Perlstein Lab, she is focused on the nematode drug screening pipeline for rare diseases.
Alec Ludin—OPERATIONS MANAGER
Alec is a recent graduate from the George Washington University where he earned a B.S in Biology. Originally focused on emergency medicine, Alec is now taking a turn in the field of research, assisting team members with their individual research pipelines. For now Alec is focusing on worm (C. elegans) models. Outside of the lab Alec enjoys hiking and rock climbing.
Tamy Portillo Rodriguez—RESEARCH ASSOCIATE
I conducted my undergraduate studies at the University of California Davis obtaining a BS degree in Animal Biology with an emphasis in Biochemistry. I focused my last two quarters at UC Davis on the use of Drosophila melanogaster as a model system for human genetic diseases. My other passion besides science are my family and Soccer.
Feba Sam—RESEARCH ASSOCIATE
Feba recently graduated from Arizona State University with a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering. During her Masters thesis, she focused on building a platform to study the migration and invasion of breast cancer cells. She uses her experience in cell culture, immunofluorescence and microscopy to supplement the cell biology research program at Perlstein Lab.
Hillary Tsang — RESEARCH ASSOCIATE
Hillary is a recent graduate from Northwestern University where she studied Biological Sciences, concentrating in Neurobiology, and Statistics. She spent her undergraduate years working with C. elegans and has joined the worm team at Perlstein Lab. She appreciates black coffee, the Millennial Whoop, and an occasional Twin Peaks run.
Board of Directors
Matt is a Silicon Valley angel investor and advisor. Previously, Matt was Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer of CardSpring, a payment infrastructure company that was acquired by Twitter. Prior to CardSpring, Matt ran West coast sales and business development for Howcast.com. He was responsible for building Howcast’s instructional content library, distribution network, and strategic relationships. Before Howcast, Matt worked for Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) on the Capital Markets team focused on new product development, capital raising, and investor relations. Prior to that, Matt spent five years as Co-Founder and Vice President of Business Development at Zazzle.com, where he was responsible for all content and distribution deals.
He started his career serving in various roles at the White House and the Department of Defense. Matt became a rare disease hunter and advocate after his daughter Grace was born with NGLY1 Deficiency. He has since funded over 40 scientists at 7 medical centers in 3 countries with the sole purpose of curing the disease. Matt holds a BA from Stanford University and a MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. In addition to Global Genes, Matt sits on the Board of Directors of the Grace Wilsey Foundation where he is President, The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases, and Perlstein Lab.
The age of ‘precision’ healthcare, where use of an individual’s metrics are used to target therapy and design preventive recourse, is still in its infancy, but Linda helped push it forward. She’s the co-founder of 23andMe, the leading personal genetics company. 23andMe was chosen as Invention of the Year in 2008 by TIME magazine and has been the subject of many in-depth articles and media interviews. Linda’s current start-up is We Are Curious, Inc., which she co-founded in 2011 with Heather Anne Halpert and Mitsu Hadeishi. Curious is an online platform where diverse data from sensors, wearables, trackers, apps, social media, biometrics, and other sources of personal data can be gathered, explored, and shared. Curious provides analytics, a social graph, and an infrastructure for people to get the most out of that data. Prior to her start-up experience, Linda spent over two decades working in the pharma/biotech and biomedical research field, directly interfacing with scientists who sequenced the human genome to protein biochemists mapping the proteome. Those experiences motivated her to create new and disruptive research strategies.
Tom Ruginis—FINANCE & OPERATIONS
Tom is the CEO of HappiLabs, creator of the Virtual Lab Manager. After dropping out of a PhD program in Pharmacology at the University of Illinois, he started HappiLabs. His experience encompasses new lab setups, purchasing, supply chain management, internal lab communications, cost and financial analysis, supplier negotiations, lab relocation, and employee happiness. HappiTom provides us with guidance and ideas for maintaining efficient operations.
Laura Shawver, PhD—BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
Dr. Shawver is an experienced Biotech executive with more than 25 years of experience in the development of small molecule drugs for cancer and other serious diseases. Prior to joining Cleave Biosciences as Chief Executive Officer and driving the $54M Series A financing, she was an Entrepreneur in Residence for 5AM Ventures beginning October 2010. From 2002 – 2010, Dr. Shawver was the Chief Executive Officer of Phenomix Corporation where she also served on the Board of Directors. Phenomix was a venture-backed company that developed dutogliptin through a successful Phase 3 clinical trial and attracted collaborations from Forest Laboratories and Chiesi Farmaceutici. Previously, Dr. Shawver was the President of SUGEN Inc. from 2000 after holding various positions since 1992. SUGEN focused on understanding key molecular pathways of cancer cells and developed the drugs Sutent™ and Palladia™. The company was acquired by Pharmacia in 1999. Prior to SUGEN, she was employed at Berlex Biosciences, formerly known as Triton Biosciences. She is an active member of the American Association for Cancer Research and also a member of American Society for Clinical Oncologists. Dr. Shawver is the Founder of The Clearity Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing access to molecular profiling for ovarian cancer patients to improve their treatment options. Shawver received her PhD in Pharmacology and a BS degree in Microbiology, both from the University of Iowa.
John Alan Tucker, PhD—MEDICINAL CHEMISTRY
John Tucker received his PhD in chemistry in the research group of Nobel Laureate Donald Cram in 1987 and his MBA from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA in 2009. His research career spans 25 years performing drug discovery research in metabolic diseases, cancer, HIV infection, anti-bacterials, Alzheimer’s disease and inborn errors of metabolism. John led the medicinal chemistry effort leading to the discovery of the CBLC102 series of anticancer compounds, currently in clinical trials for the treatment of prostate cancer. He has authored 20 peer-reviewed scientific articles, and is listed as an inventor on 19 granted and 12 pending U.S. patents.
Greg Wagner, PhD—TOXICOLOGY & PHARMACOLOGY
Dr. Wagner spent his first 15 years working for large pharmaceutical companies (Procter & Gamble, Upjohn, Bayer) where he was involved in both early stage drug discovery as well as later stage pharmaceutical and clinical development. Between 1991 and 2014, he served at the Director and Vice President level for several small biotech companies, where he was responsible for selecting small molecule drug candidates, and progressing them through clinical development. While his core scientific expertise is in preclinical development (pharmacology, toxicology, DMPK) he has extensive experience in project management and regulatory affairs. His drug development experiences have involved a range of therapeutic areas including oncology, immune-based and inflammatory diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, dermatology and dyslipidemia. SUGEN, Rigel, Resverlogix and Zenith Epigenetics, where he was Sr. Vice President of R&D, are among the biotech companies where he has served in leadership position and built drug development teams. He currently serves as a consultant and advisor for biotech companies and universities. He earned a B.S. in biochemistry from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in pharmacology & toxicology from University of Iowa.
Scientific Advisory Board
Harmit Malik, PhD—PROFESSOR, FRED HUTCHISON CANCER RESEARCH CENTER
Harmit Malik grew up in the city of Bombay in India. He attended the Indian Institute of Technology where he received a degree in Chemical Engineering. He then joined the PhD program in Biology at the University of Rochester, under the mentorship of Tom Eickbush, studying the evolutionary origins of retrotransposable elements. He then worked on the evolution of centromeric histones and other assorted problems in Steve Henikoff’s lab, funded by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. He decided to stay at the Hutch after his postdoctoral term and started his lab in fall of 2003. Harmit is interested in a variety of problems that could all be classified under the genetics of evolutionary conflict. He studies rapidly evolving proteins as a hallmark of this kind of conflict, hoping to better understand the molecular nature of the conflict, as well as uncover previously unrecognized sources of conflict. His lab is currently working on several rapidly evolving projects—including centromeres and heterochromatin, nuclear import and variant histones, and innate defense strategies against retroviruses.
David Spiegel, PhD—PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY
David attended Harvard University where he conducted research under the guidance of Professor Yoshito Kishi. After graduating from Harvard, David began in Yale University’s MD/PhD program. There he conducted graduate research in Professor John Wood’s laboratory focusing on developing synthetic approaches toward the phomoidrides. Following graduation from Yale, Professor Spiegel moved back to Harvard for postdoctoral studies under the guidance of Professor Stuart L. Schreiber. There he focused on developing an oligomer-based method for small-molecule synthesis to enable the rapid assembly of skeletally diverse small molecules starting from simple monomers.
David began as an Assistant Professor at Yale in June of 2007, was promoted to Associate Professor in 2011, and then to Full Professor (with tenure) in 2014. David has led the Spiegel Group’s research efforts in a number of successful directions, ranging from the development of antibody-recruiting molecules to fundamental studies of advanced glycation end-products. He has also served as a consultant for International Flavors and Fragrances, Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Pharmaseq. He has been recognized with various awards and honors, including the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the Department of Defense Era of Hope Scholar Award, the Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award in Aging Research, the Novartis Early Career Award in Organic Chemistry, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, and others.
Hopi Hoekstra, PhD—PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Hopi received her BA in Integrative Biology from UC Berkeley. She completed her PhD in 2000 as a Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington. She then moved to the University of Arizona as a NIH Postdoctoral Fellow where she studied the genetic basis of adaptive melanism in pocket mice. In 2003, she became an Assistant Professor at UC San Diego. Three years later, she moved to Harvard University, where she is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology in the Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology as well as the Curator of Mammals at the Museum of Comparative Zoology. She is broadly interested in the genetic basis of adaptation and speciation in vertebrates.
Carolyn Bertozzi, PhD—PROFESSOR, STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Carolyn Bertozzi is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Chemical & Systems Biology and Radiology (by courtesy) at Stanford University, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She completed her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Harvard University in 1988 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1993. After completing postdoctoral work at UCSF in the field of cellular immunology, she joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1996. In June 2015, she joined the faculty at Stanford University coincident with the launch of Stanford’s ChEM-H institute.
Prof. Bertozzi’s research interests span the disciplines of chemistry and biology with an emphasis on studies of cell surface glycosylation pertinent to disease states. Her lab focuses on profiling changes in cell surface glycosylation associated with cancer, inflammation and bacterial infection, and exploiting this information for development of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, most recently in the area of immuno-oncology. She has been recognized with many honors and awards for her research accomplishments. She is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has been awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize, the Heinrich Wieland Prize, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, among many others.