Leadership

Terry Van Vleet, PhD, DABT

Past Chair (2020-2021)

Director of Investigative Toxicology, AbbVie

Terry is currently the Director of Investigative Toxicology at AbbVie where he is responsible for Molecular and Computational Toxicology as well as In Vitro Platform Characterization for Preclinical Safety. He also serves as the discovery or development safety project representative on various drug development teams over diverse therapeutic areas. Prior to joining AbbVie, he worked at Bristol Myers Squibb in positions of increasing responsibility including serving as the Head of Molecular and In Vitro Toxicology group.

Terry received his BS in Zoology (Chem minor) from Weber State University where he graduated summa cum laude. He received his PhD in Toxicology/Molecular Biology from Utah State University (graduating magna cum laude) where he studied the metabolism of procarcinogens by human airway cells. He later completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Medical University of South Carolina studying mechanism of renal toxicity with a focus on mitochondrial toxicity.

Terry is a member of the Society of Toxicology (SOT), American College of Toxicology, and Royal Society of Biology and has published over 40 peer reviewed scientific manuscripts. He is also a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology, and a Fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences. He is currently serving as the Past Chair of the IQ MPS Affiliate.

Jason Ekert, PhD, MBA

Chair (2021-2022)

Senior Director, GlaxoSmithKline

Dr. Jason Ekert is Senior Director, GSK Fellow and Head of the Complex In Vitro Models (CIVM) group at GlaxoSmithKline. He is responsible for an integrated enterprise strategy for R&D applications of complex human-relevant and translatable complex in vitro models (eg Spheroids, Organoids, Microphysiological systems and bioprinting). He leads a cross-functional matrix team at GSK that is a multi-disciplinary team which coordinates activities, collaborates externally and identifies ready soon platforms that can positively impact the GSK portfolio.

Before joining GSK he worked at Janssen in biotherapeutic drug discovery in target discovery, drug validation and mechanism of action studies applying complex cell-based assays across multiple therapeutic areas. Jason received his PhD from Adelaide University. Post-doctoral training was performed at University of California, Davis and Coriell Institute for Medical Research.

He’s currently the chair for the IQ-MPS Affiliate. He is a member of the Society for Lab Automation and Screening (SLAS) and Society of Toxicology (SOT).

Szczepan Baran, MS, VMD

Vice Chair (2021-2022)

Head of Emerging Technologies, Novartis

Szczepan is a Comparative Medicine Veterinarian & Scientist turned “technology geek” who currently heads the Global Emerging Technologies (GET) within Comparative Medicine at Novartis. In this position, Szczepan leads integrated enterprise strategy for digital and non-digital technologies. Specifically, the non-digital GET initiative focuses on stakeholder engagement to understand current status and application, identifies adaptation hurdles and develops qualification pathways for Microphysiological Systems (MPS) technologies. In parallel, the goal of the digital GET initiative is coordination and prioritization of the development and integrated use of patient-relevant and translatable digital biomarkers for efficacy and safety studies and Extended Reality (XR) technologies for telemedicine. Szczepan has played instrumental roles in founding and leading the Global Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) MPS and Digital Biomarkers Groups.

Szczepan is a graduate of the University of Delaware and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. He completed his residency in Laboratory Animal Medicine and received a Master of Science degree in Comparative Medicine from the University of Washington School of Medicine. Szczepan began his career at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as a Research Associate where he was recruited to develop the first canine embryonic stem cell lines and to collaborate on the development of novel canine transplantation protocols to eliminate graft-versus-host disease.

Prior to joining Novartis, Szczepan held multiple start-up and faculty positions and served on multiple boards. Currently, he is serving as a Medical & Scientific Advisory Board member at the Canines-N-Kids Foundation and serves as an AAALAC ad hoc specialist and a Scientific Advisory Committee on Alternative Toxicological Methods (SACATM) ad hoc member. Szczepan is a founding member of the North American 3Rs Collaborative (NA3RsC) MPS Initiative and a Boston Innovation Advisory Council member.

Rhiannon N Hardwick, PhD, DABT

Vice Chair Elect (2021-2022)

Senior Scientist, Translational Safety Sciences, Theravance Biopharma

Rhiannon is a Senior Scientist in Translational Safety Sciences at Theravance Biopharma where she serves as a project toxicologist for discovery and development stage programs. In this role she is responsible for the proactive design and execution of nonclinical safety programs to support successful candidate nomination and providing development and regulatory support as needed. Collaborating with representatives from safety assessment, DMPK, and pharmacology, Rhiannon implemented and served as lead for an internal working group aimed at expanding knowledge and integrating the use of complex in vitro models, such as microphysiological systems, in the drug development process at Theravance Biopharma.

Rhiannon achieved a BS in biochemistry and BFA in dance from the University of Oklahoma where she was also selected as a McNair Research Scholar. She attained her PhD from the University of Arizona by investigating the impact of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease progression on ADME-related genes and drug disposition using a combination of human liver tissue data and rodent models of disease. In her postdoctoral studies at the University of North Carolina and the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences, Rhiannon shifted her focus to in vitro liver models to investigate the regulation of efflux drug transporter function and zonal differences in nuclear receptor activation and hepatocyte response. Rhiannon then leveraged her in vivo and in vitro liver knowledge to lead a team focused on improving functional features of a 3D bioprinted liver model and expanding disease modeling capabilities while at Organovo.

Rhiannon is an active member of the Society of Toxicology (SOT), a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology, and a member of the American College of Toxicology. She has served on the organizing committee for ToxForum, several leadership positions within SOT, and as Chair for the Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Toxicity Gordon Research Conference.