About the MTIG
The MTIG Mission
The Microbiome Therapeutics Innovation Group (MTIG) is an independent 501(c)(6) coalition of companies leading the research and development of FDA-approved microbiome therapeutics and microbiome-based products to address unmet medical needs, improve clinical outcomes, and reduce health care costs. The human microbiome is one of the new frontiers of medical innovation that has the potential to benefit patients suffering from numerous diseases afflicting millions of patients and consuming billions of dollars of healthcare resources. Through a collective voice, the MTIG membership works together to enhance the regulatory, investment, and commercial environment to accelerate microbiome therapeutic product development and expand availability of life-changing and life-saving FDA approved microbiome therapies to patients. MTIG is committed to working with stakeholders who share in our mission and seek to collaborate with patients, patient advocates, professional societies/organizations/public health officials, scientists, government policymakers, healthcare providers and payers who seek tangible policy and regulatory solutions to issues in the emerging microbiome arena.
Board of Directors
Ken Blount, Ph.D
Chairman of the MTIG Board
Chief Scientific Officer
Ken Blount is the Chief Scientific Officer of Rebiotix, a results-oriented biotechnology company revolutionizing the treatment of challenging gastrointestinal diseases by harnessing the power of the human microbiome.
Dr. Blount brings 20 years of experience leading disruptive drug discovery and development programs.. He has initiated, directed, and grown collaborative research programs spanning the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries as well as research and academic institutions, and he currently serves on the Joint Steering Committee for the Center for Translational Microbiome Research at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. Prior to joining Rebiotix, he coordinated translational oncology research for the Yale Cancer Center and cofounded and directed BioRelix, a venture-backed startup that discovered and developed novel RNA-targeting antibiotics.
Dr. Blount holds a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from the University of Colorado and a B.S. degree in biochemistry from the University of Arkansas.
Thomas J. DesRosier, Esq.
Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Secretary
Thomas J. DesRosier is the Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Secretary of Seres. He brings more than 30 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical industry. Prior to joining Seres, he served as Chief Legal and Administrative Officer at ARIAD Pharmaceuticals, and prior to that held the same position at Cubist Pharmaceuticals where he led the negotiation of the acquisition of Cubist by Merck. Previous to that, he served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel, North America of Sanofi, a position he assumed in 2011 after Sanofi acquired Genzyme Corporation, where he was Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer. Prior to his 12-year tenure at Genzyme, Mr. DesRosier held senior legal positions at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, predecessor Genetic Institute, and E.I. DuPont de Nemours. He received his J.D. from Wake Forest University School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from the University of Vermont.
Bernat Olle, Ph.D
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Olle is a co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Vedanta Biosciences. He has been a member of the founding teams of several companies of the PureTech portfolio and served as a member of the Board of Directors of Vedanta Biosciences and Follica Biosciences.
In 2013 Dr. Olle was named “Innovator of the Year” in MIT Technology Review Spain’s “Innovators under 35” awards. He completed his doctoral work at the Chemical Engineering Department at MIT, where he developed a novel method for large-scale bacterial culture. During his graduate work, Dr. Olle was awarded the “la Caixa” fellowship. Dr. Olle received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Universitat Rovira i Virgili, in the Republic of Catalonia, his M.S. and PhD. in Chemical Engineering Practice from MIT, and his M.B.A. from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He has published his work in journals including Nature and Nature Biotechnology.
Nikole Kimes, Ph.D
Founder & Chief Executive Officer
As a founder and the lead executive driving Siolta’s early-stage development, Nikole heads a talented team of scientists, blending microbiology, immunology, and bioinformatics expertise to leverage microbiome data for the improvement of patient stratification and development of precision microbial therapeutics. Nikole has over a decade of experience in microbial ecology and host/microbe interactions, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the European Commission FP7, and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). As an inventor of Siolta’s technology, her research in Dr. Susan Lynch’s lab at UCSF provided the foundation for the company’s translational research program.
Co-CEO and Co-Founder
Raja Dhir is a life sciences entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Seed Health, a venture-backed microbial sciences company pioneering applications of bacteria to improve human and environmental health. Their foundry model partners with leading scientists to translate breakthrough science into live biotherapeutics and innovations for consumer health. The portfolio targets conditions where bacteria can become or replace the primary standard of care.
Raja has successfully negotiated multiple joint-ventures, strategic partnerships, technology transfer and licensing agreements with publicly traded companies and academic institutions. He has an extensive track record in product development including patented inventions to stabilize sensitive compounds to improve alpha-diversity of the gut microbiome. His work includes biofermentation and scale-up for both facultative and strict anaerobic organisms. Raja has designed clinical trials with leading academic institutions including Harvard Medical School. Together with Dr. Jacques Ravel, he Co-Chairs Seed Health’s Scientific Advisory Board–an interdisciplinary group of microbiome experts who lead research teams and teach at institutions like Harvard Medical School, MIT, and Baylor College of Medicine.
Raja’s most recent patent to protect honeybee populations (Apis mellifera) from neonicotinoid pesticides and pathogen colonization was nominated for TIME Invention of the Year and Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas. He has recently been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, TechCrunch, Business Insider, and others. He is a member of the Microbiome Think Tank at the Mass. General Hospital (MGH) and on the Advisory Committee for the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP). Raja is also a Director and Co-Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board for Micropia, a microbial ecology education platform and the world’s first museum dedicated to microbes.
Scott L. Butler, Ph.D
Global Program Leader
Scott is a Global Program Leader in Takeda’s Gastroenterology Therapeutic Area Unit and works across R&D functions to advance Takeda’s microbiome clinical-stage portfolio.
Scott has nearly 20 years of experience in drug discovery and development in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Scott has led R&D projects across multiple therapeutic areas and modalities, including small molecule, biologics, mRNA therapeutics, vaccines, and live biologics. He has led several partnered programs, collaborating with industrial partners, government (NIH, BARDA), private foundations (BMGF), and academic groups. Scott earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Colorado and then studied early replication of HIV as a Leukaemia Society Postdoctoral Fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
MTIG Regulatory Counsel
Foley Hoag LLP
Regarded as one of the top food and drug lawyers in Washington, Paul Kim draws on his extensive governmental experience to advise clients on legal, legislative and regulatory issues in food, drug and device law, Medicare and Medicaid coverage and reimbursement, and the conduct of clinical research. He represents leading biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and Congress.
Paul uses his Capitol Hill experience in the enactment, amendment and implementation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and such landmark legislation as the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Act, the Hatch-Waxman Amendments and the Orphan Drug Act to advise clients on compliance issues and regulatory approvals. He also assists with general FDA regulatory matters, collaborating with clients to develop comments, petitions, presentations and regulatory submissions for agency rulemakings, advisory committee proceedings, early collaboration and pre-submission meetings, and other meetings with key Federal decision-makers. Clinical research compliance, FDA product approval, CMS coverage and reimbursement issues, and bioresearch monitoring are additional areas of focus in Paul’s regulatory practice.
Paul also develops effective legislative and media strategies for industry clients, manages advocacy coalitions, and helps clients develop constructive relationships with key federal regulators and congressional decision-makers. He also represents clients before congressional committees and within their dealings with individual members of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, defends their interests in congressional oversight and investigations, and helps them prepare for hearings.
Before joining Foley Hoag Paul was Deputy Staff Director for health policy for Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who chaired the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Major laws enacted while Paul served with Senator Kennedy include The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Response Act of 2001 (whose food safety protections were deemed “the most significant expansion of federal authority over the food industry in more than six decades” by the New York Times), the Reauthorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, The Medical Device User Fee and Modernization Act of 2002, The Rare Diseases Act of 2002 (amending the Orphan Drug Act), The Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act, and Senate passage of the Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act of 2001. Paul also was Counsel to Congressman Henry A. Waxman (serving as staff in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as in conference, on the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997) and as a professional staff member to Senator David Pryor on the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging and the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. His other public policy experience includes positions as Assistant Director for Government Relations with the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR), the largest private funder of HIV/AIDS research, as a Policy Analyst with the Office of the Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, and with Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals in Basle, Switzerland.
MTIG Washington Counsel
The Conafay Group
Steve Conafay has 35 years of leadership and management experience in government relations, public policy and communications. As the sole principal at The Conafay Group, he oversees all client servicing. While leader of the bio-life science practice at Fabiani & Company, he oversaw more than $810 million in non-dilutive financing awarded to the team’s clients. For 12 years, Mr. Conafay was vice president of government relations for Pfizer, where he was elected as a corporate officer in 1984. He served as senior vice president of corporate affairs for Glaxo Inc., where he was also a member of the Board of Directors. After heading the legislative practice for Jones, Day, Reavis and Pogue, the world’s second largest law firm, he was tapped by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) to assume the No. 2 position of executive vice president of strategic and legislative affairs. He also served as an executive fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the leading free market think tank in the U.S. After moving to the New York area, Mr. Conafay joined Shandwick, where he assumed several positions of increasing responsibility, culminating with his appointment as chief executive officer for The Americas-East in 2000.
Mr. Conafay is a lawyer and a decorated Vietnam veteran. He served as an infantry platoon leader and was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal and the Army Commendation Medal, among others. He is also an avid golfer and has been a member of Congressional Country Club for more than 30 years. Mr. Conafay is a lifelong fan of the New York and San Francisco Giants. In his 60s, he ran and completed four Army 10-miler races, and plans to continue competing in his 70s.
Emily Wheeler is a Project Manager with The Conafay Group, providing support for the firm’s policy team. Bridging experience on Capitol Hill with skills developed in public health and analytics, Ms. Wheeler works to ensure efficient, thorough and effective client servicing.
Throughout her undergraduate career, Ms. Wheeler gained experience in health care policy and provision both domestically and internationally. She conducted fieldwork in Senegal, Rwanda and the Philippines focused on health care in several capacities: maternal and child health, nutrition, emergency relief for refugee populations, and monitoring and evaluation for a variety of programs. Additionally, she developed skills in project management and overall programmatic analysis through collaboration with local and international health and development experts. Working with non-profit organizations abroad in the health sector strengthened her ability to think critically regarding scope and impact of health care access. Ms. Wheeler also gained knowledge of the federal landscape through a long-term internship with a Congressman who represents her home district in Oregon. She worked closely with Hill staffers in a host of different areas, developing a keen interest in issues related to health and medicine. Ms. Wheeler’s strengths in research, data and analysis were identified by university faculty in her undergraduate years, during which she was invited to present an original analysis on overall performance of health care systems to upper-level political science students.
Ms. Wheeler was a Presidential Academic Scholar at the George Washington University, and earned a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs with dual concentrations in Global Public Health and International Development, graduating magna cum laude. She also gained Spanish fluency through coursework in Spain.
Amanda Vitale is a Research Associate with The Conafay Group where she supports the policy team. She comes to The Conafay Group after working at the United States Senate.
Ms. Vitale previously served healthcare clients in lobbying and consulting fields where she drafted memos, conducted legislative analysis, and corresponded with clients. Amanda also worked for a year at a state government affairs shop, giving her experience at different levels of government.
As an undergraduate, Ms. Vitale worked as a production/desk assistant and a journalist at an NBC affiliate where she fine-tuned her writing and time management skills. As a deputy field organizer for a gubernatorial campaign, she was responsible for managing a team of interns and putting on canvassing events.
Ms. Vitale graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Originally from Arizona, Ms. Vitale spends her free-time in Washington, D.C. volunteering for Honor Flight, a veterans’ organization.