Advisory Board

Fran Barros is The Engine Chief Design Officer. With more than 15 years of experience as a designer, at The Engine she works with the portfolio companies on strategy and storytelling through design, as well as leading marketing and brand for The Engine. Prior to joining, Fran spent five years at IDEO, where she was a project leader developing brand, strategy, and service design for startups and corporate ventures. She holds a BA in Design with a minor in Typography from Pontificia Universidad Catolica in Chile and Graduate Degree in Entrepreneurship from Boston University.

Abigail Bracha is Chief of Staff at Rubius Therapeutics. Prior to joining Rubius, Abby founded and led the global strategy, search and evaluation team for GE Healthcare Life Sciences. In this role, she was responsible for developing the growth strategy and technology innovation roadmap for GE’s life sciences tools business. Prior to GE Healthcare, Abby was at GE Ventures.  She also spent several years at Dell-EMC where she covered emerging digital technologies. Abby holds a BA in Statistics with General Honors from the University of Chicago, which she completed in three years, and holds a PhD from Harvard University in Experimental Pathology. She was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and received support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Lesley Chan is a senior scientist in the Cellular Process Development group for Sickle Cell Disease at bluebird bio. She received degrees focusing on bioengineering from the University of Toronto and National University of Singapore, and most recently, a degree focusing on Engineering Management from Tufts University. In her career, she’s been focused on developing commercially viable and efficient manufacturing processes in the field of regenerative medicine and gene therapy. Beginning with hands-on lab work, and more recently, in team and project leadership positions to deliver next-generation processes and to bring potentially transformative therapies to patients in the clinic.

Alison Elworthy is the VP of Customer Success at HubSpot. Prior to that, she was VP and Chief of Staff and was responsible for HubSpot's operating system, strategic planning and execution, and ultimately, keeping the company on track as the world's leading inbound marketing and sales platform. Before that, Alison led various functions at HubSpot as Marketing Operations Manager, Sales Operations Senior Manager, and Director of Operations. She was previously a User Experience Specialist at Fidelity Investments, focused on the customer experience of their business and customer facing products and websites. Outside of work, she is a wine and food enthusiast and mom to her 2 year old son and newborn daughter. She holds a BS in Human Factors Engineering from Tufts University and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Kelan Hlavaty is an Associate Director of Cell-Based Assays at Sana Biotechnology. Previously, she was at SQZ Biotechnologies, where she led a preclinical team engineering antigen presenting cells in the development of a cell-based cancer vaccine, for which an IND was recently filed. Prior, Kelan was a postdoctoral scholar at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) in the Immuno-Oncology department working on CAR-T cell therapies. Kelan completed her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University designing immune-modifying biomaterial scaffolds and nanoparticles for tolerance in transplantation and autoimmune disease. She has volunteered at WEST events since 2016.

Eleanor Howe is the Founder and CEO of Diamond Age Data Science, a boutique bioinformatics consultancy based in Boston, MA. She sets the vision for Diamond Age and ensures that its clients are working closely with consultants to tackle their most important challenges. Prior to founding Diamond Age, Howe served as the go-to bioinformatician in the Center for the Development of Therapeutics at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she helped drive drug discovery projects in cancer, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease, among others. She also worked at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where she led mid- and late-stage development of the Multiexperiment Viewer – a powerful software tool for mining large genomic datasets – and at the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Maryland. Trained as a computational biologist, Howe founded Diamond Age based on her expertise in transcriptional profiling — a field in which she has worked since it was dominated by small-scale microarray analysis — and her deep knowledge of drug discovery and development. Howe earned a Ph.D. bioinformatics from Oxford University under Christopher Holmes and John Quackenbush, and holds a master’s degree in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Michigan.

Elissa Hobert is a scientist at Moderna Therapeutics. She is focused on developing improved methods for delivering mRNA therapeutics. Prior to joining Moderna, Elissa was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School where she studied bioactive natural products produced by members of the gut microbiome. Elissa received her BS in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and her PhD in chemistry from Yale University. She has volunteered at WEST events since 2015 and was the recipient of the WEST Giving Back Award in 2016.


Dr. Patricia Hurter currently serves on the Board of Directors of Synlogic, a company working at the intersection of biology and engineering, pioneering the application of synthetic biology to design living therapeutics programmed to treat disease in new ways. Dr Hurter recently retired from Vertex Pharmaceuticals, where she was the Senior Vice President of Pharmaceutical and Preclinical Sciences. In this role, she was responsible for all CMC and preclinical development activities of Vertex’s R&D portfolio, as well as the internal GMP manufacturing facility that provides drug substance and product for clinical development and commercial supply. While serving as Interim Head of Global Regulatory Affairs from 2013-2014, she oversaw several label expansions for Kalydeco® and the submission of the new drug application for Orkambi®. Prior to joining Vertex, Dr. Hurter was Director, Formulation Design and Characterization for Merck where she was a key member of the early development team for Januvia®, for Type II diabetes. At Vertex, she was the founder and executive sponsor of “IWILL,” a Vertex employee network devoted to the advancement of women leaders, and she continues to work towards increasing diversity in leadership in the Life Sciences. Dr. Hurter also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Harvard Conservation Trust. She holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University and earned a B.Sc. in chemical engineering, cum laude, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.


Laura Indolfi  is the Co-Founder & CEO of PanTher Therapeutics, an early stage spin-out from MIT and MGH that provides superior technologies for revolutionizing the treatment of locally advanced inoperable solid tumors. Her scientific expertise covers a broad range of therapeutic areas (cardio, cancer, regenerative medicine) and approaches (drug delivery, cell therapy, implanted devices). Together with her strong technical background, Laura has hands-on business and managerial know-how developed during her biomedical business training at Sloan and Harvard Business schools, combining the science and business knowledge to drive the company’s vision. Prior to PanTher, she was a research associate at the Harvard-MIT Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and served as an entrepreneur-in-residence at the MGH Cancer Center. She strongly believes in the power of outreaching initiatives to promote research awareness and foster the public audiences discovery of the beauty of science. In 2014 the line of clothes Cytocouture, created in collaboration with Colombian designer Carlos Villamil and inspired by her cell-therapy research, won the global competition Descience. In 2016, she was named a TED Fellow, one of 21 people chosen annually by the TED organization who are considered to be the most disruptive and transformative change-makers in the world. In 2017, she attended the prestigious conference “Fortune: Most Powerful Women – Next Gen”, an invite-only summit hosted by Fortune gathering a stellar group of game-changing executives, entrepreneurs and innovators in business. Laura is also one of the 5 women selected by Massachusetts Life Science Center and Takeda for their inaugural class in 2018 of MassNextGen program, honoring exceptional leaders in the biotech industry.


Lauren Laidlaw is Vice President, Sales and Marketing at Safety Partners, Inc. In this role, Lauren leads the organization’s strategic marketing efforts as Safety Partners continues to grow. Lauren ensures that all marketing and communications initiatives take into account the unique needs of the greater Boston life sciences community. Previously, Lauren was Director of Innovation Services at MassBio, the nation’s oldest biotechnology trade association. She most recently served as Director of Membership and Institutional Support at T1D Exchange, a non-profit organization focused on type 1 diabetes research. She formerly held marketing and communications positions at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a global energy consulting firm.


Ana Lopes is Partnership Marketing Leader at IBM Watson Health. Prior to IBM, Ana was Commercial Director at GE Ventures, developing and executing the ecosystem strategy for the GE’s innovation platform as well as engaging with the company’s portfolio companies to drive commercial development opportunities and growth. Ana is a business strategist with experience in multiple innovative and dynamic industries. With a scientific background in Astrophysics and a deep passion for early stage technologies, Ana has a holistic understanding of the entire process of technology commercialization – from the lab to the market. Her professional background also includes technology licensing at MIT and Boston University, business strategy at E Ink, and consulting at Centria Partners. She is a co-founder and board member of SciBR Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to promoting meaningful cultural, educational and scientific exchange between the United States and Brazil. Her work with the foundation was recognized by the Brazilian Federal government and she received the prestigious Diaspora Awards in 2015. Ana holds an MBA from Boston University and an Honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto


Hicham Mahboubi has worked as a biomedical researcher in the US, Canada, and Europe. He is currently a Lab Head at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR) in Cambridge, MA. As part of the Chemical Biology & Therapeutics department, his work focuses on leveraging the latest screening technologies to advance drug discovery projects in collaboration with various disease area partners. Prior to this, Hicham was a Postdoctoral Scholar at NIBR in functional genomics where he drove a global cross-departmental collaboration. His leadership roles include chairing an Employee Resource Group at Novartis and co-founding the Massachusetts Industry Postdoc Association. He is also part of the WEST programming and membership committee. Hicham holds a PhD in Physiology from McGill University and a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from Concordia University.


Saraswathy (Sara) Nochur is Chief Regulatory Officer, Regulatory Affairs at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, MA, where she has worked for over 12 years. She has been in the biotechnology industry since 1989, soon after she graduated with a Ph.D. in Biochemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Over the years, Sara has built a world-class global Regulatory Affairs team at Alnylam, leading to the approval in 2018 of the first ever RNA interference therapeutic by both FDA and EMA. She is also an executive co-sponsor of the Diversity and Inclusion initiative at Alnylam. Sara has been an organizing committee member of the DIA/FDA Oligonucleotide-Based Therapeutics conference over the past decade and has spoken at several forums on regulatory and drug development related topics. Sara has been a mentor to several young professionals in the biotechnology industry, including as part of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. Sara is on the Board of Hospitality Homes, a non-profit organization that provides free housing for patients and their families when they come to hospitals in the Boston area.

Dr. Elizabeth O'Day is the CEO and Founder of Olaris Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that develops precision medicines for diseases with little to no treatment options and dismal survival rates. Dr. O'Day is also the Founder of Lizzard Fashion, an apparel company that uses fashion to promote science. Partial Lizzard proceeds support cancer research. Additionally, Dr. O'Day founded Proyecto Chispa (Project Spark), a 501c3 non-profit that recycles electronics and uses the resale of parts to build computer centers in orphanages throughout the world. Through her work at Proyecto Chispa, Dr. O'Day was selected as the Greenovate Champion of the Year by the Mayor of Boston in 2015. Dr. O’Day received her PhD from Harvard University, where she was a National Science Foundation fellow. She was one of eleven America scientists awarded a Winston Churchill fellowship and received a Master’s of Philosophy in Chemistry from the University of Cambridge. She has a Bachelors of Science degree from Boston College in Biochemistry. Dr. O’Day is also a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum and was an invited speaker as a “new champion to reboot healthcare” at the annual meeting in Davos in 2016. She was also a "nominated change maker" and invited to attend the first ever United State of Women Summit convened by the White House in 2016. 

Mary Ann O’Loughlin having recently retired from Harvard Business School (HBS) Mary Ann now brings her advisory expertise to global executives as a both a business consultant and leadership coach. Her business career has spanned sales, marketing, consulting, and senior management roles in large corporations and small start-ups. She has lived and worked in Canada, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Prior to joining HBS in 2007, Mary Ann spent ten years with the UK research and consulting company Ovum in both London and Boston. In addition to her own work as a telecoms sector Principal Consultant, she managed Ovum’s US operation as President of Ovum North America for five years. Previously, Mary Ann had founded and managed a consulting and telecoms service company in France and, earlier in her career, she worked for IBM Canada, Hewlett Packard and Alcatel in senior sales and product marketing positions. Mary Ann holds a BS in Physics from McMaster University (Ontario), an MS in Biophysics from the University of Toronto, an MBA from Insead, and a graduate certificate in Executive Coaching from the William James College. A UK native, Mary Ann lives in Boston. She is a fluent French speaker.

Jonathan Sheffi is the Product Manager for Biomedical Data at Google Cloud. Previously, he cofounded Curoverse, which built an open source platform for managing and processing
biomedical data (acquired by Veritas Genetics). His past leadership includes roles with Novartis Diagnostics, Amgen, Accenture, and the Broad Institute. He holds an MBA from Harvard, and an MEng in computational molecular biology from MIT.


Ilise Samolyk is the Senior Director, IT Customer Platform at Waters Corporation. She is responsible for providing technical leadership, roadmap development, and solutions delivery to drive business value within the commercial operations of marketing, field sales, and field service. Prior to Waters Corporation, Ilise was Director of Engineering and IT Operations of AIC, a division of Autobytel, providing custom software products and solutions to the automotive industry. Her earlier career was focused on software engineering working in several industries from financial services to government systems. Ilise has over 20 years of expertise in software development and Information Technology with deep experience in web development and CRM systems. Ilise holds a BA in Computer Science with honors from Northeastern University.

Anne Thessen worked as a research oceanographer and phycologist until 2013, when she decided to start her own data science company, The Data Detektiv. Anne is well known for her work on data infrastructure and the application of semantic technologies and machine learning in biodiversity and earth science. Her work has supported institutions and companies like Google, the Smithsonian, and NASA. She is an active member of the Research Data Alliance, a global effort to support data infrastructure, as the RDA US Data Share Ambassador. She was an invited speaker on infrastructure sustainability at the EarthCube All-Hands-Meeting in 2016 and on data infrastructures for coastal science at the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society in 2014. Anne has a BS in Biology and a PhD in oceanography from the University of Maryland, where she was a US EPA STAR Fellow. Her thesis work caused the state of Maryland to change the way it monitored harmful algae in the Chesapeake Bay. Anne made the shift from academia to industry in 2013 and is pioneering an alternative career as an independent scientist through her company and her affiliation with the Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship. She has volunteered at WEST events for many years and was the recipient of the WEST Giving Back Award in 2017.


Karin von Hodenberg, is the Director of Quality Systems at bluebird bio, an advanced gene-therapy company focused on autologous treatment for severe rare diseases. At bluebird bio, Karin also co-leads the bWILD employee organization (Women Influencing Leadership & Development) focused on the development and enhancement of leadership skills for the bluebird organization. She has also been a part of the HBA local chapter mentoring program. Prior to joining bluebird bio, Karin managed, developed and grew the quality systems and training organizations for medical device companies - GE Healthcare (Diagnostics), Philips Healthcare and Haemonetics. She has an MBA from Marquette University, and a BBA (International Business) from St. Norbert College.


Kathleen M. Williams, Ph.D, is a partner and co-chair of the Life Sciences practice group at Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP. Kathy advises clients in the life sciences industry with respect to intellectual property. She has advised biotech and pharma companies on IP strategy around patent portfolio creation and management as well as commercialization in view of third-party patents. Kathy has directed global IP strategies to align IP issues in different countries. She has advised venture capital firms and other investors on IP strategies underlying seeding new companies, as well as investing in established companies. Kathy often plays a key role as part of a larger team in resolving IP issues in corporate transactions, such as licensing, partnering, as well as company acquisitions and initial public offerings. Kathy advises clients in a broad range of life sciences fields, including biological and cellular therapeutics, pharmaceuticals (medicinal and small molecules), and diagnostics which lead to personalized medicine.