Meet the team
Sanket Agrawal, MBA
Chief Executive Officer
Andrew MacConnell, PhD
Ghotas Evindar, PhD
Senior Vice President,
Andrea Bacconi, PhD
Andrea Rothmeier, PhD
David Holmes, PhD
Deirdre Olynick, PhD, MBA
Partnerships and Portfolio
Ken Lind, PhD
Informatics and Computational Chemistry
Hossam Ashtawy, PhD
AI and ML
Sara Thrall Cortese, PhD
Sanket is a seasoned biopharma leader and joined 1859 as CEO in April 2023. He brings deep experience in building global organizations, and driving growth and commercial strategies for novel therapeutics and diagnostics. Prior to 1859, Sanket served as CBO at Foundation Medicine, a pioneering cancer genomics company, where he oversaw the largest biopharma business in the sector and led the transformation of the business unit. He held various executive roles at Amgen for over a decade, most recently as GM for KRAS where he led the rapid development, approval and launch of the first ever targeted therapy for KRAS-mutant non-small cell lung cancer. Sanket holds a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Liverpool, a Master’s in Business Administration from UCLA, a Master’s in Information Systems from the University of Toronto, and a Bachelor’s in engineering from Delhi University.
Devon Cayer, PhD, co-founder, and CTO at 1859, leads with innovation and a focus on finding elegant solutions that scale. His background includes DNA barcoding applications, engineering biology through chemistry, and building platforms that enable the understanding and perturbing of biology in ultra-high-throughput. As a serial entrepreneur, Devon also co-founded MYi Diagnostics to develop tools to understand the proteome at the single cell level with minimal sample. His prior experience includes Singular Genomics and Omniome, companies developing advanced sequencing platforms, and Scripps Research Institute. He earned his Ph.D. in chemical biology from Scripps Research in 2014.
Ghotas Evindar, Senior Vice President of Discovery, brings deep expertise in drug discovery. Ghotas started his industry career at Vertex Pharmaceuticals as a medicinal chemist, where he was instrumental in advancing four development candidates. He later spent 15 years at GlaxoSmithKline and Praecis Pharmaceutics (acquired by GSK) leading DEL technology strategy, design, discovery, and delivery especially library design, portfolio prioritization and lead generation. As Vice President and head of Drug Discovery at Exo Therapeutics, he led Exo’s small molecule drug discovery and pipeline establishment including TBK1 program into lead optimization. Ghotas has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a master’s degree from University of Waterloo, Canada, and a PhD in organic chemistry from University of Toronto. He has authored more than 50 publications and patents in drug discovery and DNA-encoded library (DEL) technology.
Andrea Bacconi, Vice President of Discovery Operation, with over 12 years of experience in biotechnology industry brings expertise in the implementation of effective product development and manufacturing process workflows for US regulated market release of mass-spectrometry and NGS based products. Prior to joining 1859, Andrea led a tech transfer - Product development team at Abbott establishing validated procedures for manufacturing and target screening for emerging disease profiling. Additionally, he served as executive advisor at Elypta to lead product development and implement multi-sites supply chain for the release of a multi-cancer profiling assay for the European Market. Andrea holds an MS in Biochemistry, a Ph.D in Biochemistry from University of Zurich and a Six Sigma Black Belt certification from UCSD.
Andrea Rothmeier, Vice President of Discovery Biology, brings expertise in assay development and complex cell biology in various therapeutic areas, including Oncology, Immunology and Cardiovascular Disease. As an early 1859 employee, she built the cross-functional assay development team and now leads the development and implementation of unique, powerful screening capabilities for drug targets. Previously at Organovo, she led cross-functional projects to improve processes and functionality of 3D bio-printed liver tissues for diagnostic and therapeutic discovery. Andrea was honored as one of San Diego’s top Women of Influence in Technology in 2023. She holds a MS in Microbiology and received her PhD in Pharmaceutical Biology in 2008 from Ludwig Maximilian University Munich. During her academic tenure, Andrea received several research grants and authored 10 publications in high impact journals.
David Holmes is Vice President, Engineering and leads the development of 1859’s drug screening instrumentation platform. David has 20+ years of experience commercializing complex biomedical instrumentation. He has held senior technical roles within industry and academia, at London Centre for Nanotechnology, UCL, Singular Genomics Systems Inc. Prior to joining 1859, David was Head of Physics and Engineering at Sphere Fluidic Ltd. where he led the design, development and launch of the companies’ cell screening platform, Cyto-Mine™. David has published widely with 30+ journal articles and international patents. He has B.Eng. in Electronics and Electrical Engineering, B.Sc. in Neurosciences and Ph.D. in Bioelectronics from University of Glasgow.
Deirdre Olynick, PhD, MBA, is Vice President of Partnerships and Portfolio at 1859, where she brings strong experience in establishing collaborations, negotiating strategic alliances, and developing growth strategies. Prior to 1859, she served as Head of Corporate Business Development at Zymergen and Head of Business Development at ATOM (Accelerating Therapeutics for Opportunities in Medicine), a public-private partnership for AI drug discovery. Deirdre also served as associate director of the Global Cancer Program at UCSF’s Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center where she implemented strategies around partnerships, program affiliates, and fundraising. With more than 70 publications, Deirdre has a Ph.D. in material science and engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Ken Lind, Senior Director of Informatics and Computational Chemistry, brings extensive expertise in DNA-encoded library (DEL) informatics plus deep knowledge of computational and medicinal chemistry to drive and advance 1859’s platform and pipeline. His background in cheminformatics and computational chemistry was instrumental in creating and progressing the DEL platform at GlaxoSmithKline. Ken started his career at Sunesis Pharmaceuticals working on fragment-based drug discovery, followed by 15 years at GSK (formerly Praecis Pharmaceuticals). He most recently built and led the computational chemistry team at Exo Therapeutics. Ken holds a BS in Pharmacy, and PhD in Medicinal Chemistry (University of Minnesota).
Hossam Ashtawy, PhD, Director of AI and ML at 1859, brings extensive expertise in developing & applying AI in drug discovery and design. His background in computer engineering, machine learning, drug discovery, and cheminformatics has resulted in several state-of-the-art machine-learning bioactivity models and related publications. Prior to joining 1859, Hossam led the development of ML potency and ADMET models at Atomwise that helped discover novel therapeutics and advance them to later stages of the drug discovery process. Additionally, he served as a tech lead for the Path Planning & Automated Driving team at Ford Motor Company. Hossam holds a B.S. and M.S. degree in computer engineering and earned his Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering at Michigan State University where he conducted multi-disciplinary research concerned with machine learning and its application in drug discovery.
Andrew MacConnell, PhD, co-founder and Scientific Fellow at 1859, brings deep interdisciplinary expertise and a strong innovative and entrepreneurial spirit to drive next-generation therapeutic discovery. His background in chemistry, molecular biology, microfluidics, optics, system automation, and data informatics has resulted in innovative instrumentation and key strengths in platform integration. As a serial entrepreneur, he also co-founded Plexium, a platform accelerating discoveries of new cancer, neurodegeneration, and other disease therapies. Andrew holds a B.S in physics, M.S. in chemistry, and earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at Scripps Research.
Sara Thrall Cortese is a Co-founder of 1859 and an accomplished pharmaceutical R&D leader with a 20 years’ track record harnessing innovation for the discovery of dozens of novel therapeutic clinical candidates for multiple diseases. With leadership roles at GlaxoSmithKline and then as Vice President and Global Head at Hoffmann La-Roche, Sara was instrumental in the delivery of novel therapeutics and platform innovations in R&D. 1859 originated from such a platform project she spearheaded at Roche with an Academic partner to disrupt and accelerate the drug discovery paradigm. Through her Biotech and Biopharma advisory roles, most recently as a Managing Director in Accenture’s Life Sciences Consulting practice, Sara helps position emerging technologies and breakthrough science to deliver on the promise of personalized medicine. She holds a BA degree in Chemistry from Macalester College, a PhD in Chemistry & Biochemistry from the University of Maryland, and postdoctoral fellowships at a Max-Planck Institute in Germany and the National Cancer Institute in Maryland.