Jeff Bird, M.D., Ph.D.
General Manager, Verinata
Jeff Bird has been a healthcare investor at Sutter Hill Ventures for ten years where he has worked with early-stage, rapidly growing companies. Dr. Bird joined Sutter Hill Ventures in 2002 after 14 years in the biotechnology industry. As a managing director, he focuses on investment opportunities in healthcare, including biotechnology and medical devices. He was a founding member of Gilead Sciences where he worked from 1988 to 1990 and 1992 to 2000. He was primarily responsible for several alliances with major pharmaceutical companies and helped Gilead acquire NeXstar. He was also responsible for direct sales in the U.S. and Europe. Dr. Bird received a degree in biological sciences from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in cancer biology and an M.D. from Stanford Medical School.
Vance Vanier, M.D.
VP, Global Commercial Operations
Most recently, Dr. Vanier served as President and CEO of Navigenics, a preventative genomics company acquired by Life Technologies in July 2012. Dr. Vanier joined Navigenics as Chief Medical Officer in 2008. He was appointed CEO in late 2009, subsequently raised three rounds of venture capital financing and brought on strategic investors and distribution partners. Prior to Navigenics, Dr. Vanier served as a partner in the life sciences practice at Mohr Davidow Ventures (MDV), where he invested in, and worked together with, diagnostic service businesses including CardioDx and Crescendo Biosciences. Dr. Vanier received his M.D. from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and completed his residency training at the University of California, San Francisco, and Highland Hospital in Oakland. He received an M.B.A. from Stanford University, as well as dual bachelor’s degrees with honors. He was named a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute in 2011, and continues to serve on the clinical faculty of Stanford Medical Center in Emergency Medicine.
Richard Rava, Ph.D.
VP, Research and Development
Dr. Rava joined Verinata Health after over 16 years at Affymetrix where he was a scientific co-founder and most recently senior vice president of research and development. While serving in various positions at Affymetrix, he led the research, development and manufacturing scale-up of the Affymetrix GeneChip® technology. He was responsible for the delivery of multiple products involving complex assays, microarrays, instrumentation and software that merged scientific technology with the needs of the gene expression, genetics research and clinical markets.
Prior to joining Affymetrix, Dr. Rava served as a senior scientist at Affymax Research Institute. Earlier, he served as principal research scientist at the George R. Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). During that time, he was also the research coordinator for the National Institutes of Health Laser Biomedical Research Center at MIT. Dr. Rava has published more than 60 papers in refereed scientific publications and has over 30 issued U.S. patents. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. in chemistry from Rutgers University.
Keith W. Jones, Ph.D.
Dr. Jones brings more that 20 years of scientific experience in the biotechnology industry to Verinata. Prior to joining Verinata Health, Dr. Jones was Vice President of Assay Product Development at Affymetrix, where he led the Molecular Biology group and various project teams focused on DNA analysis. During his tenure at Affymetrix, Dr. Jones was involved in the invention and development of SNP genotyping products that enabled the first comprehensive genome wide association studies and also led the Affymetrix team that first demonstrated the ability of microarrays to measure chromosome copy number. This work led to the commercialization of multiple products used to measure changes in the DNA of cancer patients and patients with cytogenetic aneuplodies. Prior to working at Affymetrix, Dr. Jones led the Molecular Genetics effort at Affymax where his team developed highly-multiplexed tools for genetic analysis.
Dr. Jones received both a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Jones went on to receive his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Stanford University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Molecular Genetics at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA.
Suchetta Bhatt, M.D.
Dr. Suchetta Bhatt joined Verinata from Genzyme Genetics (now Integrated Genetics, part of Labcorp), where she was most recently Medical Director and Director of the Prenatal Diagnosis Centers, responsible for the quality of testing, counseling and medical care provided by all clinical staff members, including satellites. In addition, she served in a variety of senior positions over her almost twenty year tenure. Prior to Genzyme, she was in pediatric practice. Dr. Bhatt earned a Master of Surgery in Ophthalmology, a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree all from the University of Bombay. She completed residencies and held a fellowship at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine.
Eileen DeFeo, Ph.D.
Director, Verinata Operations
Dr. DeFeo has more than 15 years of experience in building ‘best in class’ quality systems and running efficient operations teams. She has a deep knowledge of the molecular device regulatory environment and molecular technologies.
Prior to joining Verinata Health, Dr. DeFeo was senior director, quality and regulatory management and senior director, operations at NuGEN, Inc. During her time there, she built and ran the Operations Department, built a ‘best in class’ quality system and organization, and successfully shepherded the organization through ISO 13485 registration. She spent more than six years at Clontech/Becton Dickinson performing various management functions ultimately leading to the management of the Quality Department. In addition to this critical function, she managed the product launch cycle for expression products, ISO 9000 registration and managed the Technical Support Department responsible for providing high-quality customer support across all Clontech product lines, which included more than 1,000 products.
Dr. DeFeo received B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in molecular biology from UCLA. She is RAC certified and is a member of RAPS, ASQ, and APICS.
Norman Kruse, Ph.D., J.D.
Sr. Director, Intellectual Property
Dr. Kruse has more than 30 years of experience in diagnostics and biotechnology. Prior to joining Verinata Health in 2010, Dr. Kruse was vice president of intellectual property and chief patent counsel at Maxygen, Inc. During his 12 years at Maxygen, he successfully developed, defended and enforced an industry-leading patent portfolio in directed molecular evolution (ranked #1 in the MIT Technology Review Patent Scorecard in 2003 for biotechnology patent estates). This patent portfolio formed the basis for several companies in addition to Maxygen, including Codexis, Verdia (acquired by Dupont) and Avidia (acquired by Amgen). Prior to Maxygen, Dr. Kruse was a patent attorney at Chiron Corporation where he managed Chiron’s gene therapy patent portfolio. He began his legal career as an attorney at Townsend and Townsend and Crew working on biotechnology patent prosecution and strategy. Prior to his legal career, Dr. Kruse worked in management in both the diagnostics and biotechnology industries. He holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Washington and a J.D. from Golden Gate School of Law in San Francisco.
Global Sales Leader
Noah Nasser brings over fifteen years of commercial and management experience in the life science and diagnostic industries to Verinata. Mr. Nasser was most recently the Business Unit Manager for Molecular Diagnostics at Quidel Corporation. In this role, he led the de novo development and implementation of the company’s molecular strategic plan, and directed the activities of commercial, operational and development teams. Prior to this, Mr. Nasser served as General Manager of Quidel’s Specialty Products Group, where his focus was on the development and commercialization of novel, esoteric diagnostic products for women’s health, including products for autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, and ovarian cancer. Mr. Nasser has held additional leadership positions in sales and marketing at Quidel and at Wako Diagnostics. Mr. Nasser holds a B.S. in Molecular Biology from University of California, San Diego.
Amy Sehnert, M.D.
Director, Clinical Affairs
Dr. Sehnert joined the Verinata Health team with more than 10 years of experience in basic and clinical genetics research across academia and biotech, including expertise launching commercial molecular diagnostic tests. In her role at Verinata, Dr. Sehnert leads clinical research as principal investigator and medical director of clinical studies and programs.
Prior to joining Verinata Health, Dr. Sehnert served as director of clinical research and development at CardioDx, Inc. where she conducted clinical studies in heart failure pharmacogenomics and established two U.S. multicenter trials (PREDICT and DISCERN) enrolling more than 5,000 subjects to support genomic diagnostic test development in the areas of coronary artery disease and arrhythmia genetics. The PREDICT study led to validation and release of a blood gene expression test used to evaluate patients with stable chest pain. Prior to her five years at CardioDx, Dr. Sehnert was assistant professor in pediatric cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where she conducted academic research and published in the areas of heart development and inherited cardiomyopathies in children. As a pediatric cardiologist she specialized in the diagnosis and care of newborns and children with chromosomal and genetic disorders, including fetal diagnoses and reproductive counseling. She has also been a consulting assistant professor in pediatric cardiology at Stanford University.
Dr. Sehnert graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, with distinction from the University of Minnesota, Institute of Technology. She received her M.D. from the University of Minnesota, School of Medicine and completed residency training in pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital, University of Colorado. She completed a combined research/clinical fellowship in pediatric cardiology at UCSF where she was the March of Dimes fellow of the Pediatric Scientist Development Program. She is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric cardiology and is a member of the American Heart Association.
Head of Marketing and Customer Solutions
Ms. Yokota has more than 20 years of commercial leadership experience in clinical diagnostics and life sciences. Most recently she served as commercial director at Satoris, Inc., a molecular diagnostics company focused on neurodegenerative disorders, where she was responsible for sales and marketing of its plasma protein-based neurological panels. Prior to Satoris, Ms. Yokota held several leadership positions at Affymetrix. As senior director of global marketing for the molecular diagnostics business, she launched the CLIA Services Laboratory for diagnostic services of microarray-based array products. As senior director of the North American Marketing Group, she expanded Affymetrix’ international presence by setting up a distributor network in Japan and Asia. Earlier in her career, Ms. Yokota held key management positions in product marketing, business development and technical service and operations at Syva and Behring Diagnostics. Ms. Yokota received a B.A. in molecular biology from San Jose State University.
Myla Puyat, MBA
Director, Financial Planning
Ms. Puyat has more than 18 years of management experience in finance, accounting, human resources, legal and office administration at companies ranging from early-stage biotech and high-tech startups to Fortune 500 corporations. Prior to joining Verinata Health, Ms. Puyat was the director of finance and administration for ForteBio, Inc. Earlier in her career she was controller and director of operations for GeneTrol Biotherapeutics, Inc. By managing multiple functional areas, she has helped build the infrastructure of many companies from inception through revenue. Ms. Puyat received her B.S. in computer engineering and an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University.