Maryland Life Science Advisory Board Welcomes New Members
The Life Sciences Advisory Board added three new members, Ellington West of Sonavi Labs, Michael Weingarten of the National Cancer Institute, and GlaxoSmithKline’s KaShauna G. Rohlehr.
West was tapped to serve as chief executive officer of Sonavi Labs in 2018. Along with Ian McLane, she is the co-founder of the Johns Hopkins startup digital stethoscope technology company. West was the founder of West Labs Research Group at Johns Hopkins where the company’s core Feelix technology was developed.
Under her guidance, Sonavi secured its first financial investment, as well as a partnership with Johnson & Johnson. Through that partnership, Sonavi took space at JPOD, a lab co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania and JLABS.
Most recently, the company won a pitch competition at South by Southwest in March. Sonavi won both the Health, Wearables & Wellbeing category for its digital stethoscope, as well as “Best DEI.” The awards came with a small bonus of $4,000 for the first category and $1,000 for the DEI category, Technically reported. The artificial intelligence-powered stethoscope is designed to detect and manage respiratory diseases by listening to the sounds of the body and identifying abnormalities in seconds.
In an interview with the publication, West said it’s time for Sonavi to duplicate the success it had at SXSW in the commercial space.
”We’re at that point now where we’re all grown up. We’ve navigated this space in a meaningful way, but now, it’s time for us to execute. [We must] ensure these devices are in the hands of the people that not only need them the most but that we’re partnering with the right folks,” she said, according to the report.
Michael Weingarten is the director of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Development Center at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. At SBIR, Weingarten leads a team that oversees all aspects of the group’s programs, as well as an annual grants and awards portfolio valued at $182 million. Programs overseen by SBIR are considered the innovation engines at the National Cancer Institute. These programs are used to develop and commercialize novel technologies and products aimed at the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
At SBIR, Weingarten has implemented a set of initiatives to facilitate the success of small businesses developing cancer-related technologies. According to SBIR, some initiatives include the launch of the NIH I-Corps pilot program that drives a hypothesis-driven approach from budding entrepreneurs.
KaShauna G. Rohlehr
KaShauna G. Rohlehr, the associate director for Alliance, Program and Project Management at GlaxoSmithKline, has spent the past 11 years with the pharma giant in roles of increasing responsibility. Before that, she spent two years as a senior manufacturing specialist with Rockville-based Human Genome Sciences and prior to that, spent more than five years with Merck.
As she previously relayed to BioBuzz, Rohlehr oversees the Rockville site’s Project Management Office (PMO), Contract Manufacturing (CMO) alliances and communications. Her team contributes to GSK’s site strategic objectives and business priorities through the management of the different programs and projects they oversee.
In her role, Rohlehr is hard at work supporting her site as the company undergoes a strategic transformation that will see the consumer health business break off from the pharmaceutical business. GSK’s Rockville site, which includes GSK Vaccines and GSK Biopharm, is firmly entrenched in the pharmaceutical side of the company’s business operations. She also told BioBuzz that she was excited about the overall response from the pharmaceutical industry, academic and the government to address a need for talent in the region.
“This is very promising because it exemplifies an underlying common goal to improve lives,” she said.
As a member of LSAB, Rohlehr will be able to offer her own insights to the ongoing Workforce Development Task Force helmed by two other board members, Joe Sanchez of AstraZeneca and Kite Pharma’s Brian Stamper. The task force has pointed out that within the next five years, there are expected to be hundreds or thousands of available positions within the state’s life sciences companies.
Prior to these three being appointed to the LSAB, Clene, Inc.’s Mark G. Mortenson was tapped to serve on the board. Like Rohlehr, he is excited about increasing employment readiness across Maryland. As a member of the board of directors at Cecil College, Mortenson has taken a keen interest in expanding opportunities for students within the state’s life sciences ecosystem.
“I’m really looking forward to teaming up with the LSAB and get the message out about potential careers in the life sciences,” Mortenson previously told BioBuzz.