2021 Annual Event Speakers

MODERATOR – Manu Platt, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Diversity Director, STC on Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems
GRA Distinguished Scholar
Georgia Tech/Emory University

Dr. Manu Platt received his B.S. in Biology from Morehouse College in 2001 and his Ph.D. from the Georgia Tech and Emory joint program in biomedical engineering in 2006. He finished his postdoctoral training at MIT in orthopedic tissue engineering and systems biology prior to returning to Georgia Tech and Emory in the joint department of Biomedical Engineering in 2009, where he has since been promoted and tenured. His research centers on proteolytic mechanisms of tissue remodeling during disease progression using both experimental and computational approaches. These diseases of focus are health disparities in the U.S., but global health concerns: pediatric strokes in sickle cell disease, personalized and predictive medicine for breast cancer, and HIV-mediated cardiovascular disease, which has taken him to South Africa and Ethiopia for collaborative work to find solutions for low resource settings. His work has been funded by NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, International AIDS Society, Georgia Cancer Coalition, and the National Science Foundation.

Integrated with his research program are his mentoring goals of changing the look of the next generation of scientists and engineers to include all colors, genders, and backgrounds. Aligned with that goal, Dr. Platt, with Bob Nerem, co-founded and co-directs Project ENGAGES (Engaging the Next Generation At Georgia Tech in Engineering and Science), a program paying African-American high school students from Atlanta Public Schools to be researchers in Georgia Tech labs since 2013. Awards for mentoring and outreach have included the Georgia Tech Diversity Champion award and Georgia Tech Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Advisor. He was named an Emerging Scholar by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine in 2015, the Atlanta 40 under 40 by the Atlanta Business Chronicle in 2016, the Biomedical Engineering Society Diversity Award and Lecture in 2017, and inducted as a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) in 2019. Most excitingly to him, was selection in 2019 as one of the Root 100, annual list of the most influential African Americans, ages 25 to 45 by The Root, a web platform for Black Opinion News and Culture.

Kathryne Cooper, MBA

The West Coast Consortium for Technology & Innovation in Pediatrics (CTIP)

Kathryne Cooper, MBA is a native Angeleno passionate about growing and funding early stage companies and creating an ecosystem to support entrepreneurs. She believes in applying a growth mindset to startup challenges and is interested in the integration of technology in settings that are traditionally analog. Since 2017, Kathryne has served as Co-Director of The West Coast Consortium for Technology & Innovation in Pediatrics (CTIP).
Kathryne is the head of CTIP’s investment arm, where she selects medical device companies with commercialization potential, high clinical impact, and proprietary technology for investment and support. Kathryne engages the investment community at large – building relationships with Venture Capitalists, Angels and strategic partners to advance MedTech innovators within the CTIP portfolio.
Kathryne holds a BA in Human Biology from Stanford University, an MBA from the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business and a Certificate in Venture Capital Finance from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. She began her career in medicine, attending medical school at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine before transitioning to the business side of healthcare. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Bertran F. Cooper, M.D. Scholarship Fund via the Howard University College of Medicine, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies via the USC Marshall School of Business, and the Advisory Board of the Los Angeles City WiSTEM (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math [STEM]) initiative via the Office of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Michael R. DeBaun, MD, MPH

Professor, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
JC Peterson Endowed Chair, and Founder and Director, Vanderbilt- Meharry Sickle Cell Disease Center of Excellence

Michael R. DeBaun, MD, MPH, is a Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, JC Peterson Endowed Chair, and founder and director of the Vanderbilt- Meharry Sickle Cell Disease Center of Excellence. For over 25 years, his research on sickle cell disease has led to fundamental changes in understanding the clinical epidemiology, pathogenesis, and treatment of strokes and silent strokes in children and adults with sickle cell disease. He has been the principal investigator or co-leader of 8 NIH or foundation-funded controlled clinical trials designed to prevent strokes in children or adults with sickle cell disease in North America, Europe, and Nigeria. Dr. DeBaun is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (2009). Based on his significant contribution to advancing the care of children and adults with sickle cell disease, he received the prestigious international 2014 Ernest Beutler Prize and Lecture in Clinical Science from the American Society of Hematology. Dr. DeBaun has received two international mentoring awards: the Maureen Andrews Award from the Society of Pediatric Research (2017) and the American Society of Hematology Clinical Science Research Mentor Award (2019). In 2019, he received the Stanford University Medical School Lifetime Achievement Award.

Shruti Kothari, MPH

Director of Industry Initiatives, Blue Shield of California
Founder, Women of Community

Shruti leads Industry Initiatives for Blue Shield of California’s Health Care Reform agenda, focusing on industry alignment and policy movement that drives the change needed to scale transformative innovation.

Prior to joining BSC, Shruti led Strategic Engagement for Kaiser Permanente’s venture capital fund, helping to integrate early-stage startups into the KP ecosystem. Shruti has also worked as an early stage startup operator, leading new market launch for Honor. Prior to that she was the national lead for Kaiser Permanente home care experience strategy. Shruti began her career as a health educator and community mobilizer for the American Cancer Society.

Shruti is on the board of Family Caregiver Alliance, the National Center on Caregiving, as well as an Advisor for the End Well Foundation.

Shruti is also the founder of Women of Community, elevating the voices of Women of Color, working for the health of their communities. Follow WOC @womenofcommunity on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Swee Lay Thein, D.Sc.

Senior Investigator and Chief
Sickle Cell Genetics and Pathophysiology
NHLBI, National Institutes of Health

Swee Lay Thein completed her specialist training in hematology at the U.K. Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith, and the Royal Free Hospital, London. In 1982, she joined the U.K. Medical Research Council Molecular Hematology Unit in Oxford where she held various positions, including clinical training fellow, Wellcome Senior Fellow in Clinical Science, senior clinical scientist, and honorary consultant hematologist.

Dr. Thein was appointed in 2000 to the position of professor of molecular hematology and consultant hematologist at King’s College London and served as clinical director of the Red Cell Centre in King’s College Hospital.

Dr. Thein joined the NHLBI in spring 2015 as Senior Investigator and Chief of the institute’s newly formed Sickle Cell Branch.

Dr. Thein is author or co-author of more than 300 peer-reviewed research publications, invited review articles, and book chapters. She has been honored for her research with awards from the U.K. Academy of Medical Sciences and the Academy of Life Sciences for Chinese in the U.K. Dr. Thein also was awarded a visiting professorship from Kuwait University and an honorary professorship in pathology from the University of Hong Kong. She serves on the editorial boards of the research journals Blood, Pathology, Annals of Haematology, Hemoglobin, and the American Journal of Hematology.

Alexis Thompson, MD, MPH

Hematology Section Head and A. Watson and Sarah Armour Endowed Chair for Blood Diseases and Cancer, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Dr. Alexis Thompson is currently the Hematology Section Head at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. She holds the A. Watson and Sarah Armour Endowed Chair for Blood Diseases and Cancer at Lurie Children’s. She is also a Professor of Pediatrics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. In her current position, she is an investigator on multi-center trials and as well as her own institutional clinical studies. Her most significant scientific contributions are clinical and translation studies to better understand and treat hemoglobinopathies. She has been a leader in multicenter collaborations, such as the NHLBI-funded Thalassemia Clinical Research Network and the Sickle Cell Disease Implementation Consortium. She was the President of the American Society of Hematology in 2018.

Dawn Tilbury, Ph.D.

Assistant Director, Directorate for Engineering, National Science Foundation

Dr. Tilbury leads NSF’s Directorate for Engineering in its mission to support engineering research and education critical to the nation’s future and foster innovations to benefit society. The Engineering Directorate provides about 40 percent of the federal funding for fundamental research in engineering at academic institutions, and distributes about 1,600 research awards each year. The Engineering Directorate also helps to advance NSF’s Ten Big Ideas, including the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier, the Quantum Leap, and NSF INCLUDES.

A professor at the University of Michigan since 1995, in both mechanical and electrical engineering, Dr. Tilbury has a background in systems and control engineering. She is the inaugural chair of the Robotics Steering Committee and served as an associate dean for research in the College of Engineering. Dr. Tilbury retains her position with the University of Michigan, and shall return after her term with NSF expires.

Pierre Galletti Awardee – Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, Ph.D.

The Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medicine, Columbia University

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic is University Professor, the highest academic rank at Columbia University that is reserved for only 16 professors out of 4,000, and the first engineer in the history of Columbia to receive this highest distinction. She is also the Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Sciences, and serving on faculty in the Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, College of Dental Medicine, Center for Human Development, and Mortimer B Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. She directs the Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering and the national Tissue Engineering Resource Center. The focus of her research is on engineering functional human tissues for regenerative medicine and studies of development and disease. With her students, she founded epiBone (epibone.com), Tara Biosystems (tarabiosystems.com), Xylyx Bio (xylyxbio.com), and Immplacate (immplacatehealth.com).

She is a fellow of AIMBE, and a member of Academia Europaea, Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Inventors, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.