Our Mission

Our mission is to bring forward meaningful drugs that work at the root of insidious diseases by modulating the mitochondria directly to attenuate disease progression.

A key thesis to our approach lies in the fact that modulating mitochondria function by increased energy expenditure results in: improved cellular function, improved biomarkers and a reduction in disease state. This has been shown repeatedly in models of energy expenditure. With small increases in energy expenditure, data now exists to show improvements in cognition with Alzheimer’s Disease (Liu, D. 2014), reduction in symptoms associated with Huntington’s Disease (Duan, W 2003), decrease in reactive oxygen species associated with ALS, improve lipid profiles affecting diabetes/heart disease (Perry, RJ 2013) and neuro-protection in ischemic stroke (Pettigrew, C 2012). Overall, increased energy expenditure via mitochondrial regulation can produce disease-modifying affects.

Management


Robert Alonso, Founder & CEO – has 25 years of experience with both big pharmaceutical companies (Merck, Roche) and small biotech companies (Yaupon/Ceptaris). Most recently Mr Alonso successfully founded Yaupon/Ceptaris Therapeutics (formely known as Yaupon) where he raised over $40 million in venture capital, steered the lead program through phase III testing and filing of an NDA (Approval was received in 2013). Ceptaris was sold in 2013 to Actellion Pharmaceuticals. Mr. Alonso is a seasoned executive who has completed over numerous licensing and other business transactions, including raising venture capital and negotiating transactions worth over $500 million. He has brought several drugs through the Investigational New Drug (IND) process and one through a successful completion of a New Drug Application (NDA). Mr. Alonso is the inventor on 6 patents and has an MBA in Entrepreneurship from Babson College.

John G. Geisler, PhD, Founder & Chief Scientific Officer – Dr. Geisler comes with 25+ years of research experience with a consistent pharmacological focus of trying to work at the root of problems; 15-years focused on metabolic drug discovery for Pfizer, Isis, JnJ. Dr. Geisler has expertise in mitochondrial energy expenditure from years of attempting to partition lipids to restore insulin sensitivity and reduce the comorbidities associated with the “over-nutritional phenotype”. From this work, stemmed a broader understanding of new mitochondrial targeted applications, and significant gaps of pharmacological interventions for insidious movement disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Geisler is the author of over 50 papers & abstracts, and the co-inventor on a number of patents. Dr. Geisler holds a Ph.D. in Mammalian Genetics from University of Tennessee, conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL), with a dissertation on the characterization of a novel muscle protein with dystrophin-like characteristics. His fellowship at Yale University, focused on the protective effects of E2 related to diabetic sexual dimorphism, by studying islet biology, physiology and whole-body flux of male diabetic models, supplemented with E2, which resolved diabetes.

Robert Elfont MD, Acting Chief Medical Officer – Dr. Elfont has over fifteen years of experience in the life sciences industry. He has led clinical programs in a wide range of neurologic, psychiatric, and immunologic indications, and across all phases of development, from pre-Phase 1 translational medicine to Phase 4 post-approval. Dr. Elfont has held medical director and senior medical director positions at Pfizer and Teva Neuroscience. Dr. Elfont is a diplomat of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, having completed a neurology residency and a fellowship in neuroimmunology and neurovirology at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Elfont earned his MD and PhD in neuroanatomy from the University of Rochester and received additional post-graduate training in physiological psychology at the University of Cambridge.

Peter Crooks PhD, Senior Vice President Chemistry (part time) – is Professor and Chairman, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Dr. Crooks has 35-years of experience and is a world-renowned medicinal chemist with over 200 patents to his name and over 500 publications. Dr. Crooks has also established or cofounded six drug discovery companies, including being the co-founder, with Mr. Alonso in Yaupon Therapeutics/Ceptaris. Dr. Crooks has a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry and is a past chairman of the Drug Design and Discovery Section of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

Norman D. Huebert, PhD, Vice President Preclinical ADME – Dr. Huebert has an expertise Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics in small molecules and prodrugs with 30+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry. He has worked for large pharma companies (Aventis, Janssen) as well as in biotech (3DP) and has experience in both small and large molecules. He was head of Discovery ADME (Springhouse) at Janssen Pharmaceutical and Head of Pharmacokinetics and Analytical Chemistry at 3DP. He has experience in looking at PK and pK/PD relationships in many therapeutic areas including oncology, neurology, psychiatry, enterology, metabolic diseases, analgesia, pulmonary, etc. He has authored over 40 papers and presentations in the field and contributed to the approval of 7 drugs by various regulatory bodies. Since 2015 he has been consulting with small pharmaceutical companies to help understand the PK and PK/PD relationships. He is also an Adjunct Professor in Pharmacokinetics in the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University. He obtained his B.SC. (Hon) in Biochemistry and PhD in Biological Psychiatry from the University of Saskatchewan.

Investors


Mitochon is an early stage biopharmaceutical company and as such we are always interested in speaking with potential investors.

Initial early investors include:

• Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) – Ben Franklin Technology Partners is one of the nation’s longest-running technology-based economic development programs. For more than 31 years, BFTP has provided both early-stage and established companies with funding, business and technical expertise and access to a network of innovative, expert resources.

• YT Angels – YT Angels are a group of high net worth investors interested in working with previously successful entrepreneurs in the area of biotechnology and technology innovation.

Scientific Advisors & Collaborators


Mark Mattson, Ph.D. — Chief, Laboratory of Neurosciences, National Institute on Aging
After receiving his PhD degree from the University of Iowa, Dr. Mattson completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Developmental Neuroscience at Colorado State University. He then joined the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine where he advanced to Full Professor. In 2000, Dr. Mattson took the position of Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore. He is also a Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where he is the director of a course on the Neurobiology of Aging. Dr. Mattson leads a multi-faceted research team that applies cutting-edge technologies in research aimed at understanding molecular and cellular mechanisms of brain aging and the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, and stroke. His work has elucidated how the brain responds adaptively to challenges such as fasting and exercise, and he has used that information to develop novel interventions to promote optimal brain function throughout life. He has published more than 500 original research articles and numerous review articles, and has edited 10 books in the areas of signal transduction, cellular stress responses, neurodegenerative disorders and mechanisms of aging. Dr. Mattson has been the most highly cited neuroscientist in the world during the past 20 years with an ‘h’ index of over 160. He has received many awards including the Metropolitan Life Foundation Medical Research Award, the Alzheimer’s Association Zenith Award, the Santiago Grisolia Chair Prize and the Tovi Comet-Walerstein Science Award. He was elected an AAAS Fellow in 2011. He is Editor-in-Chief of Ageing Research Reviews and NeuroMolecular Medicine, and has been/is a Managing or Associate Editor of Nature Communications, the Journal of Neuroscience, Trends in Neurosciences, the Journal of Neurochemistry and the Neurobiology of Aging.
Steven Hersch, M.D. — Professor of Neurology at MGH and Harvard Medical School, Director of the Huntington’s Disease Center of Excellence and Director of the Laboratory of Neurodegeneration and Neurotherapeutics.
Dr. Hersch is a clinical Neurologist and Neuroscientist with experience in quantitative neuroanatomy, synaptic organization, molecular pharmacology, experimental neuropathology of neurodegenerative diseases, animal models of neurodegenerative disorders, preclinical therapeutics development, and biomarker discovery and validation. His lab has extensive experience in using HD transgenic mice to explore neuroprotective therapies, including several treatments now in clinical trials.

Dr. Hersch is a leading HD clinician and clinical investigator. He co-chaired the Huntington’s Study Group (HSG) for 15 years, served on the national board of trustees for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA) where he founded and directed the Center of Excellence Program. Dr. Hersch has been the PI for the NCCIH sponsored phase II and phase III multi-center trials of creatine in HD (CREST-HD, CREST-E), under his IND (IND#69735); was PI of the NINDS sponsored multi-center trial of phenylbutyrate (IND#66023) for HD; has an IND for developing GM1 as a therapeutic for HD, and has participated in the leadership or conduct of many HSG studies.

Martin Brand B. Sc., M.A., Ph.D., F. Med. Sci. — Bucks Institute on Aging, CA
Dr. Martin Brand was trained in Biochemistry in the UK at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (B.Sc.) and the University of Bristol (Ph.D.), followed by a postdoctoral position at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD) with Professor Albert Lehninger. He was a faculty member of the Biochemistry Department at the University of Cambridge (UK) and a Fellow of Girton College, Cambridge, then a Group Leader at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge. He moved his laboratory to the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, CA, in 2008.

Dr. Brand’s scientific research focuses on cellular energy transformations, particularly the balance between allocation of energy for growth, repair and fat storage on the one hand, and inefficiencies to prevent damaging free radical production and disease on the other. He has made major contributions to understanding the mechanisms of energy transformation, and in understanding the mechanisms of energetic inefficiency and free radical production, and their roles in evolution, physiology, and the diseases of aging.

Dr. Brand has published over 330 scientific papers, which have been cited more than 30,000 times by other scientists. His research has been recognized by awards of the Keilin Medal of the Biochemical Society and a senior scholarship from the Ellison Medical Foundation, and by his election as a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK). He serves on the editorial board of several scientific journals (Aging Cell, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, Cell Metabolism, Physiological and Biochemical Zoology) and the scientific advisory boards of Mitochon Pharmaceuticals and Ogenx Therapeutics.

Current Research Projects
Dr. Brand currently works on regulation of cellular energy metabolism and the mitochondrial production of free radicals (reactive oxygen species; ROS). To investigate the regulation of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation within cells, his laboratory has established improved plate-based assays of oxygen consumption rate and extracellular acidification rate, and fully quantitative fluorescence microscopy measurements of plasma membrane and mitochondrial membrane potential. They have used these technologies to understand mitochondrial function in cells and tissues and the relationships between rate of oxidative phosphorylation, coupling efficiency and radical production in aging and in a range of age-related pathologies. Dr. Brand’s laboratory has established the specific sites and regulation of free radical generation in the electron transport chain in mitochondria and cells using novel endogenous reporters, and screened chemical libraries to discover novel suppressors of ROS formation that do not inhibit energy metabolism; these compounds hold great promise as therapeutics against previously unexplored targets to slow the onset of aging and its diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, sarcopenia, osteoporosis and dementia.

Lee H. Sweeney, Ph.D. — the Thomas H. Maren endowed Professor of Pharmacology & Therapeutics at the University of Florida, and Director of the UF Myology Institute.
Dr. Sweeney earned a master’s degree in physiology and a doctorate in physiology and biophysics from Harvard University. He served as Chairman of the Department of Physiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine from 1999-2013. He has published more than 200 papers and reviews, with more than 30,000 cumulative citations and a H-index of 74. Much of Dr. Sweeney’s research program is translational in focus, and has produced highly cited research on inherited forms of cardiovascular disease, and on the skeletal and cardiac aspects of muscular dystrophy. He was elected as a Fellow of the American Heart Association in 2001, and received a Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence in 2008. He has been Director of a Paul Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Center first at at Penn and currently at UF since 2005. Dr. Sweeney is actively developing therapeutics for rare diseases that include both small molecule and gene therapy approaches. He serves as a consultant to a number of industry therapeutic development efforts for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
Clyde Markowitz, MD — Director of Multiple Sclerosis Center, Associate Professor of Neurology at Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Markowitz is a board certified Neurologist (1995) with an expertise in Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology. Medical school at Columbia University with residency at the New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. He is a member of the American Academy of Neurology, National American Academy of Neurology, International Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease.
Greg Burkhart, M.D., M.S. — Ex-Medical reviewer FDA
Dr. Burkhart is board certified in preventive medicine and trained in epidemiology with significant FDA and industry experience in both pre-marketing and post-marketing drug development. Following eight FDA years, first as an epidemiologist and then as a team leader in Neurology, Dr. Burkhart now works as an independent consultant providing advice on strategic issues relating to efficacy and safety including study design, data interpretation, data collection, and development of pharmacovigilance systems. He conducts independent reviews of benefit/risk and assists with preparation of integrated reviews of efficacy and safety and has assisted sponsors in developing efficacy evidence for orphan products from registry and other database sources. Dr. Burkhart has conducted and published studies on health outcomes following exposure to pharmaceutical and other therapeutic interventions and to environmental and occupational exposures. While at the FDA, he lead the analysis of the FDA sponsored study of pancreatic enzymes and fibrosing colonopathy that affirmed one of the strongest relationships between pharmaceutical product exposure and drug-induced disease. He also evaluated statistical methods on correcting the QT interval for heart rate for drugs that increase heart rate affirming the profound bias that can occur with some techniques. His most recent study was a comparative analysis of mortality following different types of surgical repair for acute aortic dissection (that remains unpublished as the CV surgeon has changed techniques that require additional cohort follow-up).
Ken Shindler, M.D., Ph.D. — Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, University of Pennsylvania at the Scheie Eye Institute
Dr. Kenneth Shindler completed his undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry at Brown University in 1991, and combined MD/PhD training, with a PhD in neuroscience, at Washington University in St. Louis from 1991-1999. His doctoral thesis examined mechanisms of neuronal apoptosis during cortical development in mammalian brain, providing early evidence of the role of the bcl-2 and caspase gene families in neuronal cell death. Ken completed internship and ophthalmology residency in 2003 and neuro-ophthalmology fellowship from 2003-2004, all at the University of Pennsylvania, and was awarded a Heed Ophthalmic Society Fellowship and the Society of Heed Fellows Fellowship to help support this training. Ken joined the University of Pennsylvania Faculty in 2004, where he has risen to the position of Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Neurology, and serves as a Faculty member of the Neuroscience Graduate Group and the Institute for Immunology. The main focus of Ken’s research is to understand mechanisms of neuronal damage during optic neuritis, an inflammatory disease of the optic nerve that occurs in the central nervous system demyelinating disease multiple sclerosis. His studies include identification of novel neuroprotective therapies to reduce neuronal loss in multiple sclerosis. Ken is also an active investigator in clinical trials in neuro-ophthalmology and retinal degenerative diseases. Clinically, he sees patients with neuro-ophthalmologic problems at the Scheie Eye Institute, and directs the neuro-ophthalmology clinic at the Philadelphia Veteran’s Administration Medical Center. Ken has authored or co-authored more than 50 peer-reviewed papers, including over 30 papers in the field of experimental optic neuritis/optic nerve injury and central nervous system demyelinating disease, a major focus of his laboratory. Ken has served on the Annual Meeting Program Committee for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the Research Committee of the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society, and the Annual Meeting Program Committee for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and is an active member of the Society for Neuroscience, Society of Heed Fellows, and Research to Prevent Blindness. Ken was honored with the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society Young Investigator Award in 2008, the American Academy of Ophthalmology Achievement Award in 2014, and the Research to Prevent Blindness Physician-Scientist Award in 2015..