UCLA Bioengineering Alumni Advisory Board (AAB)
The UCLA Bioengineering Alumni Advisory Board’s mission is to promote the communication, growth, and shared activities of the UCLA Bioengineering alumni, faculty, and students.
The AAB members offer unique inputs to help the Department understand the needs of industry, academia, and the medical professions, insights into how well the department is meeting the bioengineering needs of the future, and knowledge of current trends in the industry, including suggestions for keeping the curriculum and degree programs current. They also provide input to academics, research, outreach, advocacy, and development.
The members represent a cross-section of the alumni of the Department, and of the major areas of the bioengineering field.
The AAB meets annually, and following its mission, is involved in several activities, including the annual Discover UCLA Engineering day, Bioengineering Research Day, ongoing student mentorship, career development advising, and the ABET Accreditation process every six years.
Armin Arshi, MD, Ph.D.
Resident Physician, UCLA
Dr. Armin Arshi is currently a senior resident physician in orthopaedic surgery at UCLA Medical Center and UCLA-Santa Monica Orthopaedic Hospital. He is a proud alumnus of the UCLA bioengineering undergraduate program from 2012, where he was awarded the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Outstanding Bachelor of Science Award and the Edward K. Rice Undergraduate Engineering Achievement Award at graduation. During his time at UCLA, Dr. Arshi was winner of the department’s undergraduate senior capstone design course and the inaugural NIH-NIBIB DEBUT nationwide competition for his team’s work on microfluidic device design for automated rare cell isolation and quantification.
Dr. Arshi received his MD degree from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA as a recipient of the Leaders of Tomorrow scholarship. He graduated with Alpha Omega Alpha (ΑΩΑ) honors and was awarded the Stafford L. Warren Medal for most outstanding graduating medical student in his class. During his medical training, he performed research and published extensively on tissue engineering and biomechanics for orthopaedic applications in collaboration between the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Bioengineering. At present, he is completing his residency in orthopaedic surgery and will be pursuing a career in hip and knee arthroplasty. Dr. Arshi strives for excellence in providing skilled and compassionate patient care, focused research in orthopaedic clinical outcomes and bioengineering, and quality teaching and mentorship at all levels. He is proud to serve on the UCLA Bioengineering Alumni Advisory Board and hopes to continue the department’s legacy of excellence for future generations of UCLA bioengineers.
Zoe Deng, Ph.D.
Associate Consultant, ZS Associates
Zoe is currently a Consultant at ZS Associates, a management consulting firm. Her work is focused mainly on commercial and business strategy in the biopharmaceutical space. Some of the projects she worked on include forecasting and portfolio analytics, market research, brand positioning, and global business expansion. She graduated from UCLA with an MS in 2014 and PhD In Bioengineering in 2017. Her thesis was in the development of medical imaging techniques for cardiovascular and cancer applications, specifically on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). She is very passionate about making a positive impact in the healthcare/life sciences space and looks forward to serving on the bioengineering alumni advisory board.
Jeffrey Ung, Ph.D.
Counsel, NBC Universal
Jeff graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering from UCLA before earning his Juris Doctorate from UCLA School of Law in 2012. Following law school, Jeff worked as an attorney at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP where his practice focused on complex commercial litigation, primarily within the realm of intellectual property. At Quinn Emanuel, Jeff applied his scientific and legal training to a wide variety of litigation related to technologies such as glass making, high-definition digital video signal compression, smartphone technology, messaging apps, and – perhaps most appropriately – microfluidic droplet technology. Following his tenure at Quinn Emanuel, Jeff joined the IP Analysis & Insights Group at NBCUniversal to assist in managing NBCUniversal’s portfolio of intellectual property.
Robert Brooke, Ph.D.
Scientific Executive Director Co-Founder, CEO and CTO, Intervene Immune
Robert (Bobby) Brooke obtained his MS in Biomedical Engineering from UCLA in 2005. After graduating, Mr. Brooke worked in healthcare finance with an investment firm in Westwood before starting a career as a biotech entrepreneur. He has founded multiple companies including an immunotherapy company now known as Iovance Biotherapeutics, a cannabinoid drug developer named Vitality Biopharma, and most recently Intervene Immune, which is focused on the prevention or reversal of age-related immune system decline. In 2019, Intervene Immune published clinical trial results with UCLA and Stanford collaborators demonstrating reversal of immunosenescent trends, and also the first ever reversal of epigenetic aging, which is the most accurate measure of biological age available today.
Melissa Johnson, Ph.D.
Innovation and Digital Lead, Takeda Pharmaceuticals
Melissa Johnson graduated with a BS degree in Bioengineering from UCLA in 2015. She started working at Takeda Pharmaceuticals (then Baxter) one week later in the Manufacturing Development Rotational Program. After completing the program, she worked as a project leader, where she was responsible for an IT Data Center relocation and aspects of a product technical transfer. She currently is the Innovation and Digital lead for the Los Angeles facility. In her spare time, she enjoys trying new food, doing yoga, traveling, and relaxing on the beach.
Hilary Yen, Ph.D.
Senior Manufacturing Engineer, Shockwave Medical
Hilary Yen graduated from UCLA in 2017 with an undergraduate degree in bioengineering. While at UCLA, she was the Internal Vice President in BMES and an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Hsiai’s lab. With a focus and interest in the medical device industry as an undergraduate, she has completed internships at CR Bard, Medtronic, and Azzur Consulting. She is originally from the SF bay area and currently works in Santa Clara. She has been working in the medical device industry as a manufacturing engineer for more than four years, previously at Olympus Surgical. She currently works at a medical device company called Shockwave Medical which focuses on fighting cardiovascular diseases by using lithotripsy, a technique traditionally used to break kidney stones. This new application helps safely and effectively crack calcium in the vessel walls with sonic pressure waves allowing the vessels to expand. Joining the company at a start-up phase, she has helped increase manufacturing capacity by three-fold and contributed to a successful IPO launch for the company. While the company continues to develop new and innovative devices with the lithotripsy technology, Hilary has found a new interest and plans to join the R&D department to help continue creating new technologies. In addition to work, some of her hobbies include cooking and traveling.
Phillip Cox, Ph.D.
Process Engineer, Moderna Inc.
Phillip Cox is a Process Engineer at Moderna, a biotechnology company advancing a new class of transformative medicines for patients in messenger RNA (mRNA). He is responsible for supporting the technical advancement of all late-stage clinical programs through commercialization. His focus is on developing, characterizing, optimizing, and implementing new innovative and robust bioprocesses for the production of mRNA-based medicines. During his time at UCLA, Phillip was an active member of BMES and Regents Scholar Society and worked at Genentech and Amgen as an undergraduate. He graduated from the UCLA Bioengineering Program in 2017, and moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he joined Moderna when there were only 400 employees. He has since helped Moderna expand its footprint, double in employee size, and successfully launch the largest Biotech IPO at the time. He joined the manufacturing group where he helped successfully open Moderna’s first award-winning Clinical GMP Facility. Since joining the Process Development group, he has contributed to a variety of therapeutics programs, including Infectious Diseases, Immuno-Oncology, Rare Diseases, Cardiovascular Diseases, and Autoimmune Diseases. More recently he has been supporting the rapid development and production of SARS-CoV-2, a vaccine for COVID-19.
Sophia Sangiorgio, MD, Ph.D.
Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery and Bioengineering, UCLA
Dr. Sangiorgio is the Director of the Biomechanics Laboratory of the JVL Orthopaedic Research Center, located at Orthopaedic Institute for Children in downtown LA. In the last decade, Dr. Sangiorgio has conducted several preclinical studies to evaluate surgical procedures for pediatric deformity corrections, including spine deformity and clubfoot. She has coauthored several landmark publications on the biomechanics of scoliosis surgery and the outcome of clubfoot treated using minimally invasive methods. Since 2000, she has conducted numerous cadaveric and composite biomechanical experiments for preclinical evaluation of fixation of total joint replacement components. Her focus has been on the design, performance, and initial stability assessment of joint replacement implants as well as spine arthroplasty devices. In addition to research activities, Dr. Sangiorgio has designed and teaches a course in orthopedic biomechanics for the UCLA Bioengineering Department. This course covers the biomechanics of natural and artificial joints, and the evaluation of biomaterials for wear, tribology, biodegradation, and biocompatibility. Dr Sangiorgio received her MS in 2002 and PhD in 2006 in Biomedical Engineering from UCLA.
Alumni Success Stories
Founded by bioengineers at the UCLA Department of Bioengineering, Phase Diagnostics, Inc. is a fast-growing biotech startup developing cutting-edge technologies to change the landscape in diagnostics and healthcare management. Leveraging their proprietary paper microfluidic concentration platform, the company aims to introduce a line of novel rapid point-of-care test kits for a range of clinical and non-clinical applications. They have been awarded upwards of $2.5 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They have further closed their Seed Round of financing to launch their lead Oral Health product, which is expected to receive European CE mark later this year. Pipeline projects include an at-home rapid diagnostic kit for sexually transmitted diseases and a rapid saliva-based malaria test for resource-poor countries. The founders include Ricky Chiu, PhD, Garrett Mosley, PhD, Prof. Daniel Kamei and Prof. Benjamin Wu.
Forcyte Biotechnologies, Inc. is an up-and-coming startup company spun out of UCLA Bioengineering that was started in March 2017 by 3-time Bruin, Ivan Pushkarsky (B.S. 2012, PhD 2017, postdoc 2018) together with his graduate advisor Prof. Dino Di Carlo and their colleague Prof. Robert Damoiseaux.
Forcyte is automating the life sciences with specific focus on simplifying and miniaturizing measurements of cellular “strength” to inform drug-makers of how different chemical compounds functionally affect patient cells. In doing so, the technology can identify beneficial chemical compounds that could become medicines (but would otherwise be overlooked). It can also detect dangerous or ineffective compounds and remove them from drug pipelines sooner and more cheaply than before.
This exciting new technology was developed during Pushkarsky’s PhD work under Prof. Di Carlo between 2013 and 2017. Pushkarsky, who began as an undergrad volunteer with the Di Carlo Lab in 2011, says that he and Prof. Di Carlo knew as soon as they started on the project in Fall 2013 that it had commercial potential.
“From the start, Dino preached, and I believed, that this technology we wanted to work on could have a big impact outside of university research. With this in mind, we made our strategic decisions with a long-game view of advancing healthcare in the commercial realm,” said Pushkarsky.
“That’s the cool thing about this department – pretty much every Professor here has spun out a company (or 5) with students based on their research. That’s the responsibility of engineers working on healthcare problems – to solve them and get the solutions out to the rest of the world.”
Vitality Biopharma, Inc. is a drug development company led by Robert Brooke, who obtained his M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from UCLA in 2005. After graduating, Mr. Brooke worked in healthcare finance with an investment firm in Westwood before founding a cancer drug development company that is now known as Iovance Biotherapeutics. In 2012, he founded Vitality Biopharma, which was originally focused upon development of an enzymatic biosynthesis process to make better tasting versions of stevia, a zero-calorie sweetener. However, in 2015, the company discovered that its biosynthesis process had far more applications than previously realized. It was found that an enzyme from the Stevia plant was able to glycosylate or “sugar-coat” many other compounds, including cannabinoids such as THC. This technology enabled the production of proprietary oral THC drug formulations that deliver the compound in a targeted manner to the intestinal tract, providing local therapeutic effects without any psychoactivity or intoxication. Vitality is entering clinical trials in 2018 and plans to initially study treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and narcotic bowel syndrome, a severe form of opiate-induced abdominal pain. With collaborators at UCLA and also in Canada, the company is also now planning observational studies that monitor the use of cannabinoids as a safe alternative to opioid painkillers.
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