Dr. Roy First, Chief Medical Officer

M. Roy First, M.D. was Vice President and Global Therapeutic Area Leader, Transplantation at Astellas Pharma Global Development, Inc. After graduating from medical school at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, he moved to Chicago in 1972 to take the position of Renal Research Fellow at the Michael Reese Hospital.

In 1974, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the University of Cincinnati, later becoming full Professor and Director of the Section of Transplantation, a position that he held until 2002, when he moved to Fujisawa (later Astellas). During his distinguished academic career, Dr. First has published more than 390 articles on transplantation, as well as 39 book chapters and two books. He is a past President of the American Society of Transplant Physicians (ASTP, subsequently AST) and has served on many United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) committees, including chairing the Organ Donation Committee, on the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as a reviewer for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), on the NIH Data Safety and Monitoring Board for Clinical Trials in Transplantation, and as a Councilor of the Transplantation Society. Dr. First has been on the editorial board of a number of journals including Transplantation, Transplantation Proceedings, Clinical Transplantation, the American Journal of Transplantation, and the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. In 2013 he received the AST Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michael Abecassis, MD, MBA – Chief Clinical and Scientific Advisor

Dr. Abecassis is the Founding Director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He is also the J. Roscoe Miller Distinguished Professor of Surgery and Microbiology/Immunology, Chief of the Division of Transplantation and Director of the Transplant Service Line at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  Dr. Abecassis has received continuous funding from the NIH for over 16 years for work ranging from studies in molecular virology to clinical and translational studies in transplantation.

A significant portion of this funding relates to studies in transplant genomics from a long-standing collaboration with Dr. Daniel Salomon. Throughout his career, Dr. Abecassis has served on numerous policy-making national committees, which include regulatory and financial issues related to transplantation and more recently to healthcare delivery and payment reform. He has published more than 200 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals and more than 20 book chapters. He has served on the Editorial Boards of several influential trade journals and is a Past President of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons. Dr. Abecassis received his undergraduate and medical degrees, followed by training in General Surgery, a Master’s degree in virology and a fellowship in Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation, at the University of Toronto. He also completed a fellowship in Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation and further research training in Immunology at the University of Iowa. He received an MBA degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern in 2000. Dr. Abecassis is a Founder and Director of Transplant Genomics Inc.

John Friedewald, MD – Clinical Advisor

John Friedewald advises TGI on tests related to kidney transplantation. Dr. Friedewald is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Surgery at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a transplant nephrologist at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Kovler Organ Transplantation Center. He is the immediate past Chair of the OPTN/UNOS Kidney Committee, which led the effort to substantially revise the national kidney allocation policy, and he continues to be actively involved in policy development for the allocation of kidney transplants.

In addition, Dr. Friedewald is a longtime member of the UNOS Committee for Kidney Paired Donation, a committee that is creating a unified, national KPD system for the United States. He is also the Director of Clinical Research for the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Northwestern University. His funded research activities include studies looking to advance the noninvasive diagnosis of rejection using proteogenomic biomarkers, genetic basis for transplant outcomes, and detection and treatment of chronic antibody-mediated rejection. Dr. Friedewald’s clinical interests include innovative methods to expand live donor kidney transplantation such as kidney paired donation (KPD) and incompatible transplants. He received his AB from Princeton University and MD from Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. Dr. Friedewald completed his residency in Internal Medicine and fellowship training in Nephrology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Steven Head, MS – Scientific Advisor

Steven Head advises TGI on technology development and CLIA laboratory operations. Mr. Head has been the Director of the Scripps Research Institute Microarray Core since its inception in 1998. He also is the co-director of the Next Generation Sequencing Core Facility at TSRI, a facility he established in 2008.

Mr. Head has participated in multiple NIH-funded projects at TSRI, has coauthored more than 40 peer-reviewed publications and is co-inventor on 5 sequencing/microarray-related patents. Prior to joining TSRI, he was a Staff Scientist at Molecular Tool Inc. in Baltimore, MD, where he developed microarray-based genotyping technologies. Mr. Head received his BS and MS degrees in Biology from the University of California at San Diego.

Sunil Kurian, PhD – Scientific Advisor

Sunil Kurian advises TGI on technology development and informatics. Dr. Kurian is currently a Staff Scientist in the Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine at the Scripps Research Institute. His research on biomarkers for Acute and Chronic Kidney Rejection was the foundation work for recently funded NIH program projects for the Transplant Genomics Collaborative Group (TGCG) and the Clinical Trials in Organ Transplantation (CTOT).

Dr. Kurian is an accomplished scientist with more than 35 published research and review papers. He is trained in biomarkers and genomics of varied disciplines and in the critical assessment and bioinformatics approaches needed to prioritize and validate biomarkers. His expertise in the biomarker and diagnostics field has also helped him secure funding from the NIH for a blood-based biomarker discovery project for fibromyalgia in collaboration with researchers at Oregon Health and Sciences University. He has also been actively involved in discovery of biomarkers for bipolar disease and schizophrenia in collaboration with the University of Indiana, liver regeneration biomarkers with the University of Pennsylvania and biomarkers of islet quality with the City of Hope. Dr. Kurian has been an active member of the American Society of Transplantation since 2005 and has given many talks at various AST and TTS conferences. His undergraduate and postgraduate training was from 1990 to 1995 at the Loyola College in Chennai, India. He later earned a scholarship for graduate studies at the Indian Council of Medical Research in 1996 to do his doctoral work on non-HLA gene polymorphisms in tuberculosis and how they affected susceptibility to develop or resist the tubercle pathogen.

Josh Levitsky, MD – Clinical Advisor

Josh Levitsky advises TGI on tests related to liver transplantation. Dr. Levitsky is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Surgery and Director of Liver Transplant Research at Northwestern University and Director of the post–liver-transplant program and fellowship at Northwestern. He is clinically active and treats pre– and post–liver-transplant patients.

Dr. Levitsky’s research interests include investigating biomarkers and complications in the post–liver-transplant setting, such as renal dysfunction, viral hepatitis recurrence and rejection. He runs a number of clinical trials, investigator-initiated studies and NIH-funded efforts to identify predictive biomarkers and minimize immunosuppression and its complications in this patient population. Throughout his career, Dr. Levitsky has published multiple peer-reviewed papers, book chapters and reviews based on his research in transplantation. He received his BS from the University of Michigan and MD at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Levitsky completed his residency and GI fellowship at the University of Chicago and transplant hepatology fellowship at the University of Nebraska.

Phillip Ordoukhanian, PhD – Scientific Advisor

Phillip Ordoukhanian advises TGI on technology development and CLIA laboratory operations. Dr. Ordoukhanian has been the Director of the Scripps Research Institute’s Protein and Nucleic Acid Core facility since 2001. He is also the co-director of the Next Generation Sequencing Core Facility at TSRI, a facility he established in 2008.

Dr. Ordoukhanian has participated in multiple NIH-funded projects at TSRI, has coauthored more than 25 peer-reviewed publications and is co-inventor on one sequencing-related and one biochemical-related patent. Dr. Ordoukhanian received his B.S. in chemistry from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He received his Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis under the direction of John-Stephen Taylor, synthesizing photochemical DNA damage products and studying their mutational spectrum using in vitro and in vivo systems. He subsequently joined the Scripps Research Institute in 1997 as a post-doctoral candidate in the laboratory of Gerald F. Joyce, where he studied the selection and molecular evolution RNA and DNA enzymes.