Michael D. Alpert, Ph.D.

President & Co-founder
Dr. Alpert is a scientist who founded Emmune, Inc., to develop eCD4-Ig and adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors for treating and preventing HIV infection. Dr. Alpert received his Ph.D. in Virology from Harvard University, and his B.S. in Biological Sciences from Cornell University. After completion of his Ph.D., Dr. Alpert was recognized with the 2012 Bernard N. Fields Prize, which is awarded to the M.D. or Ph.D. candidate within the Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology of Harvard Medical School who best exemplifies the virtues of intellectual creativity, collegiality, and compassion displayed by former Department Chairman Bernard N. Fields. Dr. Alpert’s research has focused on experimental vaccine approaches for HIV. His Ph.D. research at the New England Primate Research Center (NEPRC) at Harvard Medical School aimed to understand the immune responses elicited by live-attenuated vaccines against simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), and how these immune responses are able to provide complete protection in the absence of detectable neutralizing antibodies. In the course of this research, Dr. Alpert developed the assay for measuring antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) that has since been adopted as the ‘gold standard’ by the field. Dr. Alpert’s measures of ADCC based on this assay were used for the primary immune correlates analysis of the RV144 HIV vaccine clinical trial. Based on the extraordinary difficulty of eliciting protective antibody responses against HIV, Dr. Alpert has re-focused on AAV-expressed eCD4-Ig as the fastest, simplest, and most plausible route to effective vaccine-like protection against HIV. To advance these efforts, Dr. Alpert founded Emmune, Inc. with Drs. Michael Farzan, Charles Bailey, Matthew Gardner, and Guocai Zhong.

Charles C. Bailey, D.V.M.

Subsequent to earning his undergraduate degree at M.I.T., Dr. Bailey earned a D.V.M. from Tufts University. His training is in pathology. His research has focused on various pathologies observed in the rhesus monkey, with primary emphasis on acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Subsequently, Dr. Bailey joined Michael Farzan’s laboratory for his post-doctoral fellowship. There, he studied innate immune responses to viral infections, AAV-expressed eCD4-Ig as a means of preventing immunodeficiency virus infection, and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Bailey is the 2010 recipient of the Norval W. King Award for Excellence in Comparative Medicine, provided by the New England Primate Research Center at Harvard Medical School.

Michael Farzan, Ph.D.

Dr. Farzan’s invention of eCD4-Ig is built on two decades of his research. Dr. Farzan discovered that HIV binds to its co-receptor, CCR5, by recognizing a chemical modification present on CCR5. Recognition of this modification, known as tyrosine sulfation, plays an important role in the inherent resistance of HIV to antibodies. Because sulfotyrosine is capable of relatively strong interactions for its size, HIV is able to bind CCR5 though small, deeply recessed surfaces, which are difficult to for antibodies to access. By combining the parts of CD4 and CCR5 that are recognized by HIV onto a single synthetic antibody, eCD4-Ig disarms the features of HIV that allow it to resist antibodies that might otherwise interfere with receptor recognition and infection of susceptible T cells. Because eCD4-Ig is based on the receptor and co-receptor structures recognized by HIV, it recognizes all strains of HIV. Thus, building on basic scientific research into the entry mechanisms of HIV, Dr. Farzan has devised a universal strategy for treating and preventing HIV infection. Dr. Farzan’s Ph.D. in Immunology is from Harvard University, and his undergraduate degree also is from Harvard University.

Matthew R. Gardner, Ph.D.

Dr. Matthew Gardner received his Ph.D. in Virology from Harvard University, and his undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Gardner has driven the eCD4-Ig project since he was a graduate student at Harvard Medical School. His study, published in Nature, demonstrated that eCD4-Ig delivered by an AAV vector can sustain protective concentrations of eCD4-Ig in blood for at least one year. Dr. Gardner’s research currently focuses on optimization of eCD4-Ig and the AAV vector needed to produce it in vivo after a single injection. Dr. Gardner is the 2014 recipient of the Bernard N. Fields Prize, awarded to the M.D. or Ph.D. candidate within the Department of Microbiology & Immunobiology at Harvard Medical School who best exemplifies the virtues of intellectual creativity, collegiality, and compassion displayed by Bernard N. Fields as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

Guocai Zhong, Ph.D.

Life-long prophylaxis or treatment through a single administration of a gene therapy vector would be transformative for many diseases, including HIV, but irreversible intervention is not without risk. In case of adverse events, it would be important to have the option of inactivating the therapeutic gene or vector. Dr. Zhong’s research focuses on developing switches for controlling therapeutic genes delivered by gene therapy vectors. In addition to turning off a therapeutic gene in case of adverse events, switching technology enables dosing. The ability to inactivate or reduce the dose of a therapeutic gene is an important safety feature.

Jeffrey M. Trimarchi, Ph.D.

Research Scientist
Dr. Trimarchi’s received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His post-doctoral fellowship was in the laboratory of Dr. Constance Cepko at Harvard Medical School. Before joining Emmune, Dr. Trimarchi ran his own academic research laboratory at Iowa State University. Dr. Trimarchi leads AAV vector optimization at Emmune.

Youai Hao, Ph.D.

Research Scientist
Dr. Hao’s Ph.D. is from the University of Waterloo in Canada. Prior to Emmune, Dr. Hao was a biochemist in the Department of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute. Dr. Hao’s expertise and work at Emmune focuses on protein biochemistry, including analytical and preparative chromatography.

Kimberly Conkright

Director of in vivo Pharmacology
Kimberly Conkright is a highly-experienced scientist who joined Emmune after nearly a decade working as a research assistant in laboratories at The Scripps Research Institute. Kimberly’s responsibilities at Emmune include ensuring the operational success of pharmacokinetics studies in rats and mice. This includes the preparation and maintenance of IACUC protocols, administering recombinant proteins and AAV vectors to animals, sample and data collection, and overseeing other personnel involved in these studies.

Barney Alfant

Associate Scientist & Lab Manager
Barney Alfant possesses a Master’s degree in Medical Sciences from the University of Florida. His past employments include Florida Biologix, a GMP biological manufacturing facility, which produced both recombinant proteins and AAV vectors for human clinical trials. Prior to joining Emmune, Barney was in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Farzan at The Scripps Research Institute, where he worked in Dr. Farzan’s eCD4-Ig and AAV programs. In total, Barney has fifteen years of hands-on experience in research laboratories. At Emmune, Barney’s responsibilities include molecular cloning, virological assays (e.g., virus neutralization), protein production, protein characterization, and pharmacokinetics studies.

Jihyeon Moody

Accounting and Operations Director
Jihyeon Moody earned her Master’s degree in International Business from Graduate School of Pan-pacific studies, KyungHee University, South Korea. She ensures Emmune is in compliance with single audit and update HR policy. She is an Accounting and Financial professional with over 10 years of experience in financial modeling, detailed budget analysis, database mining, and formulating results from multiple sources into actionable information.

Mauricio Martins, Ph.D.

Dr. Martins earned his undergraduate degree in Biology from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the laboratory of Dr. David Watkins. He has recently partnered with Dr. Farzan and Emmune to test the potential of AAV-mediated delivery of eCD4-Ig to prevent and treat perinatal HIV infection using the pediatric rhesus macaque model of HIV/AIDS. Dr. Martins is currently an Assistant Professor in the Florida branch of Scripps Research and a part-time consultant at Emmune, Inc. Dr. Martins is passionate about HIV immunology, particularly the development of immune interventions for preventing and treating HIV infection. Harnessing the immune system to combat HIV faces formidable challenges, including our incomplete understanding of what constitutes efficacious HIV-specific T-cell responses. A common theme in Dr. Martins’s career has been the search for immune correlates of retroviral T-cell immunity in nonhuman primates. In this regard, his experiments have focused on two fronts: 1) designing and testing experimental AIDS vaccines in rhesus macaques; and 2) understanding why a fraction of HIV-infected humans and SIV-infected monkeys (collectively termed “elite controllers”) develop CD8+ T-cell responses capable of controlling viral replication in the absence of antiretroviral drugs.