Featured Companies 

MERLIN Biotech
Randall N. Hyer, MD, PhD, MPH

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Dr. Hyer has two decades of experience with vaccines, biologics, biosimilars and small molecule development.  He was most recently the Senior Vice President for Vaccines at Moderna, where he helped gain approvals and launch the Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccine worldwide. Prior to Moderna he was pivotal to the 2017 approval of a two-dose adult hepatitis B vaccine (HEPLISAV-B), the first FDA approved vaccine with a truly novel adjuvant. Beyond development, his responsibilities have included directing vaccine and pharmaceutical safety programs, overseeing vaccine clinical operations and biometrics functions, engaging medical scientists and policy-makers and managing crises. After graduating with distinction from the US Naval Academy, he studied at Duke Medical School and then earned his PhD in molecular biology from Oxford University. At Oxford, he founded Alpha-Plus DNA, a biotech firm he later sold. He then spent 13 months on the “ice” in Antarctica as the Station Physician for the winter.  Dr. Hyer later served four years at the World Health Organization as a medical officer responding to outbreaks and emergencies including anthrax, Ebola, SARS, avian influenza, as well as tsunamis and earthquakes. In response to the need for effective communication, Randy co-authored a popular WHO handbook on risk and crisis communication during public health emergencies. Dr. Hyer's perspectives and contributions span his residing in eight and traveling to 100-plus countries in diverse roles across the public and private sectors.

MERLIN Biotech is an mRNA platform development-stage biotechnology spinout from the Blumberg Institute. The company is applying the proven mRNA platform to address important unmet medical needs where MERLIN Biotech has specific expertise. These targets include chronic diseases like hepatitis B, oncology such as liver cancer and other solid tumors and preventive vaccines for indications like Lyme disease.  MERLIN Biotech sciences combines highly-accomplished leadership consisting of former Moderna executives, Nobel Prize winners and world-class disease and technology experts along with solid technology, robust intellectual property and large potential unmet needs.  MERLIN Biotech is uniquely well situated.  It is located near major academic clinical research centers, supported scientifically by the Blumberg Institute, and assisted by the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center (PABC), one of the nation’s most successful life sciences incubators.

To learn more on MERLIN Biotech, click here.

Neuropathix Inc.
Dean Petkanas
CEO, Neuropathix Inc.

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Dean Petkanas is a corporate finance and executive management professional with over 25 years of investment banking, capital markets and pharmaceutical experience. In 2010 Mr. Petkanas co-founded Kannalife Sciences (now a Neuropathix subsidiary) and was recently awarded a $2.97 Million STTR study grant from NIH HEAL Initiative and NINDS for the Development of KLS-13019 for Neuropathic pain. Mr. Petkanas is the co-inventor of U.S. Patents #9611213 and #10004722 as part of a global patent estate on KLS-13019 and other KLS compounds. Mr. Petkanas also co-authored the following peer-reviewed articles: ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters (2016) “Discovery of KLS-13019, a Cannabidiol-Derived Neuroprotective Agent, with Improved Potency, Safety, and Permeability” and Journal of Molecular Neuroscience (2018) “Pharmacological Comparisons Between Cannabidiol and KLS-13019.”

Neuropathix Inc. is leading a revolution in the pharmaceutical and cosmeceutical industry with patented,
socially responsible, anti-inflammatory, non-opioid compounds. They are a  biopharmaceutical company focused on the research and development of a pipeline of next generation socially responsible pain management therapeutics to treat patients with significant unmet medical needs.

To learn more on Neuropathix, click here.

Manohar Katakam, PhD

Founder & CEO, Sterotherapeutics LLC

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Manohar Katakam is a biotech/pharma entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experience in developing and marketing diverse therapeutic area products. Dr. Katakam raised equity and debt capital and managed operations leading to successful high-valued corporate exit strategies. He has major pharmaceutical industry experience included successful tenures at Centocor, Aventis, Wyeth and Pfizer. Dr Katakam co-founded NuTherapeutics to develop and commercialize thin-film dosage forms of prescription products which he guided to a successful exit. He established the orphan disease product company, Makindus and led product development to Phase 3 readiness in both the US and in EU. He obtained his bachelor's degree in pharmacy from Kakatiya University, and his MS and PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Auburn University.

SteroTherapeutics is pursuing a novel drug therapy for major diseases related to metabolic syndrome, which afflicts 35% of the U.S. adult population. Those include Cushing syndrome which is caused by elevated levels of the hormone cortisol. It can promote obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and immune dysfunction. An orphan disease, Cushing's is poorly served by current therapies that only are modestly effective and have substantial side effects. SteroTherapeutics signed the CRADA agreement with NIH to develop a novel treatment for Cushing syndrome patients.

To learn more on SteroTherapeutics, click here.


Bill Whyte
Head, North America Pharmaceuticals Strategic Partnerships & Business Solutions, Janssen

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Bill is a results driven leader with proven ability to drive revenue through development of high performing teams. Bill’s had a distinguished career with Johnson & Johnson for over 30 years. Bill currently leads Janssen’s North America Strategic Partnerships & Business Solutions group for the North American Pharmaceutical business. In this role, his team is responsible for identifying commercial strategic partnerships across all therapeutic areas which will accelerate the growth of Janssen’s $30 Billion U.S. portfolio. Previously, he led Sales & Marketing for Janssen’s U.S. Oncology Business. Bill has held numerous commercial roles of increasing responsibility including Regional Sales Director, Director of Marketing and Director of Learning and Development and National Sales Director.

In addition to Bill’s extensive experience across our pharmaceutical business he has also led businesses in our medical device and consumer sectors. Bill spent 4 years leading our medical device business in the Asia Pacific region building the infrastructure which is contributing to today’s explosive growth.

Bill is an active member of his community and serves on the boards of the New Jersey Junior Tennis & Learning Association (NJTL) as Vice Chairman, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) and the Southern Delaware Performing Arts Society.

Bill and his wife Kathleen reside in Yardley, Pa. with their two daughters; Alexandria, a recent graduate of Hampton University and Lauren, a sophomore in the Tisch School of arts at New York University. Bill is a wine enthusiast, avid golfer, aspiring culinary chef and life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Bill attended Kansas State University and earned his BS in Biochemistry / Finance.

Matthew Burkhardt
B+labs Cira Centre

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Matthew has over 15 years’ experience in target and asset discovery across academic, startup, and Pharma organizations. He began in traumatic brain injury with the Neurosurgery Department at the University of Pennsylvania, moved into industry at Merck for in vivo Alzheimer’s Disease small molecule drug discovery and disease modeling, and then moved to iPierian, one of the first companies to use the induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) platform. Matthew has held further positions at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, Cellogy, and Novartis. He is currently the Director at B+labs in Philadelphia, PA, an incubation site for companies developing novel and meaningful medicines.


Matthew has been fortunate to have been involved in three programs that reached clinical stage: the in-licensed Alectos/Merck MK-8719 O-GlcNAcase inhibitor in Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), the internally developed PSP monoclonal antibody candidate IPN-007 at iPierian (sold to Bristol-Myers Squibb, 2014), and the internally developed Cold Agglutinin Disease monoclonal antibody candidate TNT-009 at True North Therapeutics (sold to Bioverativ, 2017).


More recently, Matthew has been heavily involved in entrepreneurial and innovative company foundation and early operations and strategy in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston, MA. In addition to his current role at B+labs, Matthew serves as SAB Chair for the Schinzel-Giedion Syndrome Foundation, a UK-based non-profit patient advocacy organization supporting research and discovery efforts for children with SGS.

Roze McDevitt
Ben Franklin Technology Partners

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Roze joined Ben Franklin Technology Partners as a Venture Capital Analyst in 2021. She works with the Healthcare Investment Group on deal flow sourcing and intake, performing due diligence, and supporting portfolio companies with value-add work. She is also responsible for taking the lead on accelerator, pre-seed, and seed stage investment deals.


Prior to joining Ben Franklin, Roze has worked in the medical device industry as a product development engineer at DePuy Synthes, J&J. Her previous experience includes consulting for pharma clients, working with the tech transfer office on commercializing technologies, and conducting academic research with data analysis on genome sequencing.


Roze holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biomedical engineering, with a concentration in neuroengineering from Drexel University.