Plenary Speakers

Owen Witte, M.D.

University Professor, UC System
Director, Eli & Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research
UCLA Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics
UCLA Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology

Owen Witte received his undergraduate degree from Cornell and his MD from Stanford University. He completed postdoctoral research at MIT then joined the faculty at UCLA where he presently is a University Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics and holds the President’s Chair in Developmental Immunology. He is the Director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA. Dr. Witte has made significant contributions to the understanding of human leukemias, immune disorders, and epithelial cancer stem cells. His work includes the discovery of tyrosine kinase activity for the ABL gene and the demonstration of the BCR-ABL oncoproteins in human leukemias. This has had practical impact in leading to the development of kinase targeted therapy as an effective treatment for these leukemias and other cancers. His work also led to the co-discovery of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) which is required for normal B-lymphocyte development, and when mutated leads to X-linked agammaglobulinemia, a form of immune deficiency. New inhibitors for BTK are entering clinical practice for the treatment of certain lymphomas and leukemias. Recent work has concentrated on defining the stem cells for epithelial cancers of the prostate and other organ sites to help define new types of therapy for these diseases. Dr. Witte is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Medicine. He has received many awards for his research including most recently the AAMC Award for Distinguished Research in Biomedical Sciences (2016) and the Stanford Medical School Kornberg-Berg Lifetime Achievement Award in Biosciences (2016). He has extensive experience consulting in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. Most recently, he is a Founder, Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board and member of the Board of Directors of Kite Pharma, and a Founder and member of the Board of Directors of Trethera Corporation.


Darrell Irvine, Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor, Department of Materials Science & Engineering
Professor, Department of Biological Engineering


Darrell Irvine, Ph.D., is a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He also serves on the steering committee of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard.  His research is focused on the application of engineering tools to problems in cellular immunology and the development of new materials for vaccine and drug delivery.  Current efforts are focused on problems related to vaccine development for HIV and and immunotherapy of cancer.  Dr. Irvine’s work has been recognized by numerous awards, including a Beckman Young Investigator award, an NSF CAREER award, selection for Technology Review’s ‘TR35’, election as a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society, election as a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and appointment as an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  He is the author of over 100 publications, reviews, and book chapters and an inventor on numerous patents.

Milan Yager
Executive Director, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering



Milan Yager is a long time Washington lobbyist and association executive who has over 30 years of senior government and public affairs experience in the public and private sectors.  His background includes senior government position in the Administration and Congress, as well as private sector experience with four national associations and a business-consulting firm.  His managerial competency includes demonstrated success in association turn-around and transformational leadership during periods of significant growth and change.  He is an author, speaker, and frequently quoted in media on healthcare and health insurance, pension, tax, and small business issues. Mr. Yager is currently the Executive Director of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, an honorific organization of the most accomplished innovators in the fields of medical and biological engineering.  Previously served for 16 years as president and CEO of the National Association of Professional Employer Organization.  During his leadership the organization achieved record membership and grew to represent 90 percent of the industry’s revenues. He is credited with leading a national advocacy campaign that resulted in the passage of 22 comprehensive state licensing statutes and federal legislation codifying the industry and operational practices. Prior to joining NAPEO, Mr. Yager was an Administration political appointee to the Interstate Commerce Commission and served as Director of the Office of Economic and Environmental Analysis.  Mr. Yager also has served in senior management and policy advocacy positions for two national trade associations including the National Association of Home Builders and United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association.  Mr. Yager’s legislative and policy background includes service as Chief of Staff in the House of Representatives for now Senator and Assistant Minority Leader Durbin, and Legislative Director for Congressman Berkley Bedell. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and has a Masters in Public Administration from The American University in Washington, D.C.

Linda Narhi, Ph.D.
Scientific Executive Director, Process Development; Amgen, Inc.