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A Disease Foundation Forum


Invest In Cures NTX Session 1

Advancing Patient Outcomes Through Partnerships


Nonprofit disease foundations for many years have provided grants for basic science and fellowships to promising researchers. Foundations, through their venture arms, have begun making direct investments in startups to validate proof of concept, spur commercialization and connect founders with a unique network of researchers, patients and advocates. We will hear from two investors from disease foundations on how they made a connection to Dallas-based companies. And we will learn about the companies experience partnering with the foundation to advance their path to the marketplace.

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  • Danny Tobey, MD, JD, Partner at DLA Piper

    Danny Tobey, MD, JD, Partner at DLA Piper

    Danny Tobey is a medical doctor and software entrepreneur who represents life sciences, technology and healthcare clients in a variety of regulatory and litigation matters involving FDA, CDC, HHS, CMS, private payers, and tort and commercial litigants. Danny leads the firm’s team that assists companies navigating the legal landscape of emerging and disruptive technologies including AI and data science. A graduate of Harvard College, Yale Law School, and UT Southwestern Medical School, Danny has litigated successfully some of his clients’ most challenging and important cases.

  • Debra Miller

    Debra Miller, Founder and CEO, CureDuchenne

    Debra Miller is CEO and Founder of CureDuchenne. She and her husband started the organization in 2002 after their only son, Hawken, was diagnosed with Duchenne. Debra and her team have brought many firsts to the Duchenne community, including a Duchenne-focused venture philanthropy model, an annual nationwide community education event tour (virtual for now), a Duchenne Physical Therapy Certification program and an open access Biobank. Debra proudly serves as the Patient Representative on TREAT-NMD’s Executive Committee and reviews Duchenne applications for the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.

  • Eric Olson

    Eric Olson, PhD, Co-Founder Exonics and Professor Molecular Biology, UT Southwestern

    Eric Olson is the founding chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at UT Southwestern. He also directs the Hamon Center for Regenerative Science and Medicine and the Wellstone Center for Muscular Dystrophy Research. He holds The Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Science and the Annie and Willie Nelson Professorship in Stem Cell Research. Eric Olson and his trainees discovered many of the genes that control heart and muscle development and disease. His most recent work has provided a new strategy for correction of Duchenne muscular dystrophy using CRISPR gene editing.

  • Rusty Kelley, PhD, MBA, SVP Investments & Alliances, Foundation Fighting Blindness

    Rusty Kelley, PhD, MBA, SVP Investments & Alliances, Foundation Fighting Blindness

    Rusty Kelley, SVP Investments & Alliances, Foundation Fighting Blindness, is responsible for external investment opportunities through its venture arm, the Retinal Degeneration Fund (RD Fund) that strategically aligns with the Foundation’s therapeutic mission. Prior to FFB, Rusty directed several translational programs at the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and prior to BWF was the head of preclinical at Tengion, a tissue engineering biotech out of Boston Children’s Hospital and Wake Forest University. Rusty currently serves as a co-founding Director of Opus Genetics, and as a Board Observer for Atsena Therapeutics.

  • Halden Conner, CEO & President at Nacuity Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

    Halden Conner, CEO & President at Nacuity Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

    Halden co-founded Nacuity Pharmaceuticals in May of 2016 and has served as CEO and Chairman for the past 6 years. Prior to founding Nacuity, Halden co-founded ProTom International, a manufacturer of proton devices for the treatment of cancer. Halden has also served as a board member at Alcon Laboratories as well as a council member for Wilmer Advisory Council.

  • Amanda de la Garza, MPH, Partner, Bios Partners

    Amanda de la Garza, MPH, Partner, Bios Partners

    Ms. de la Garza has over seven years’ experience in financial and scientific analysis as an analyst at Bios Research and Bios Partners. Ms. de la Garza has developed a strong understanding of healthcare market dynamics and commercial viability therein. She received her Bachelor of Science degree (BS) in Biology from Dallas Baptist University and her Masters of Public Health (MPH) from the UT Health Science Center at Houston with a concentration in epidemiology and global health. She is currently working on her PhD at Dallas Baptist University in Leadership Studies.

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