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The Team

Beacon Discovery Team

Sunny Al-Shamma, Ph.D.

President & CEO

Sunny Al-Shamma has more than 20 years of drug discovery experience in the biotech industry, most recently at Arena Pharmaceuticals where he was VP of Discovery Biology.  In this role he oversaw the activity of multidisciplinary teams of biologists focused on the discovery of small molecule GPCR ligands for the treatment of Metabolic, CNS, Inflammatory and Cardiovascular diseases.  This discovery group had a hand in advancing more than a dozen candidates into preclinical and clinical development in these disease areas. Prior to Arena, Sunny was Director of Biology at Maxia Pharmaceuticals where he focused on the discovery and development of small molecule nuclear receptor ligands and kinase/phosphatase modulators for the treatment of metabolic diseases and cancer.  Sunny was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, and has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Behavior from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

 

David Unett, Ph.D.

Vice President, Receptor Pharmacology

David Unett has more than 20 years of pharmacology and drug discovery experience in industrial and academic settings. Most recently, he served as VP of Receptor Pharmacology at Arena Pharmaceuticals, leading a team responsible for assay development, high throughput screening, in vitro SAR support and detailed pharmacological characterization of lead candidates. His research team executed over 100 HTS campaigns and provided in vitro pharmacology and cell biology support for numerous projects, including those that identified more than a dozen clinical candidates. David has extensive experience in pharmacology, cell biology, biased signaling, the kinetics of ligand-receptor interactions and persistent signaling. Prior to Arena, he worked with Dr. Michael Lerner on development and commercialization of the melanophore bioassay for GPCRs and other target classes. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Dallas and UT Southwestern Medical Center and has a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Manchester, UK.

Andrew Grottick, Ph.D.

Vice President, CNS Drug Discovery

Andy Grottick has 20 years of drug discovery experience in the pharmaceutical industry in both Europe and the US, most recently at Arena Pharmaceuticals in San Diego as the Head of CNS Drug Discovery. In this role he was the in vivo pharmacology lead on the 5-HT2C agonist project which produced Belviq, working on the project from first dosing in vivo through regulatory approval in the US. Andy worked collaboratively on projects with other companies, including Eli Lilly and Taisho, and led and supported a number of other programs into preclinical and clinical development. This included orphan GPCR targets, one of which was partnered with a major pharmaceutical company. Prior to Arena, Andy worked in the CNS department at Hoffman-La Roche in Basel, Switzerland.

Andy trained as a behavioral pharmacologist in London, studying for his Ph.D. at both London Guildhall University and the UCL Institute of Neurology in Queen’s Square, London.

Graeme Semple, Ph.D.

Vice President, Chemistry

Graeme Semple has more than 26 years of drug discovery experience in the pharmaceutical industry, both in biotech and big pharma, most recently at Arena Pharmaceuticals where he was VP of Discovery Chemistry and oversaw medicinal chemistry and early development projects.  More than a dozen of these projects delivered candidates into preclinical and clinical development in the areas of Metabolism, CNS, Inflammation and Cardiovascular disease. Prior to Arena, he was a Disease Area Chemist at AstraZeneca, Mölndal, Sweden, where he initiated a number of early stage medicinal chemistry projects in the GI area. Prior to AstraZeneca, he was Head of Chemistry at Ferring Research Institute, Southampton, U.K., where he led chemistry groups contributing to multi-national collaborative projects that delivered clinical candidates in the areas of cardiovascular, GI and urology. He is a co-inventor of the GnRH antagonist drug Firmagon ® (Degarelix) which has been approved in 74 countries. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the Universities of Bath and Oxford, UK and has a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Warwick, UK.

Carleton Sage, Ph.D.

Vice President, Computational Sciences

Carleton Sage has 19 years of drug discovery experience in the biotech industry, most recently at Arena Pharmaceuticals where he was Research Fellow in Computational Systems. He developed and applied novel computational approaches to internal and partnered drug discovery and design projects. These projects delivered more than a dozen molecules into preclinical and clinical development in the areas of Metabolism, CNS, Inflammation and Cardiovascular disease. Prior to Arena, he was Group Leader of Computational Sciences, at Lion Bioscience where he led teams supporting drug discovery projects and developing novel approaches to predicting ADME properties of molecules. Prior to Lion, he was the 5th employee at MetaXen where he ran the IT department, provided computational support to drug discovery projects and contributed to the development of novel algorithms for the prediction of ADME properties.  Carleton trained as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, and has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.