About Us

Orbit Genomics, Inc., was founded in June, 2016 as a collaboration between Dr. Harold “Skip” Garner and Ventac Partners to apply Dr. Garner’s discoveries in microsatellites to develop cancer diagnostics and companion diagnostics for drugs in development.

Dede Willis, President & CEO and Board Member

Dede Willis has over 30 years of international experience in start-ups and turn-arounds. She is on the Board of Directors of CombiGeneVet AB, a Swedish animal health company. Prior to co-founding Orbit Genomics, she was co-founder and COO of Boulder Diagnostics Inc, whose technology was acquired by Oxford Immunotec in 2014. Prior to that, she was CEO or COO of numerous life science start-ups in the US and Germany. She has expertise in strategic planning & execution, product development from concept to commercialization, capital build outs including CLIA laboratories and cGMP manufacturing, FDA and CE Marking regulatory processes for drugs & devices, as well as sales & marketing. Dede spent the first 15 years of her career with the former Hoechst Group (now Sanofi, Celanese and DuPont) where she worked in several corporate start-ups in the U.S. and Germany. Her last position with the Hoechst Group was President and CEO of a $100 million coatings subsidiary. Dede has a B.Sc. Degree in Chemical engineering from Clemson University and an MBA from the University of Houston.

Harold “Skip” Garner, Chief Scientific Officer and Board Member

Harold “Skip” Garner is the inventor of Orbit Genomics’ platform technology. He has a corporate and academic background as a physicist, engineer and biomedical researcher. He is currently Executive Director, Primary Care Research Network and the Center for Bioinformatics and Genetics, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM); Professor of Biomedicine (VCOM); Executive Director, Medical Informatics, Translation, Training and Ethics (MITTE) Office, Virginia Tech; Professor of Medicine, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. He is a serial entrepreneur and has held multiple founder, board and advisor positions in the biotech industry, including Light Biology which was acquired by Nimblegen and subsequently Roche and BIoAutomation. He is an adviser and reviewer for various US and international government agencies, publishers and journals. He has contributed to 10 books, has over 200 peer reviewed publications and has over 30 issued and pending patents. Skip has a B.Sc. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Missouri, an M.Sc. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. in Plasma Physics from the University of Wisconsin.

Scott Woodward, Chief Business Officer

Scott Woodward has more than 20 years experience of global business development experience across pharma and healthcare having held consulting and senior leadership roles in the United States and Europe. His experience spans the entire BD spectrum, including alliances and collaborations, licensing and partnering, operational strategy, market development and execution of sales strategies. He began his career at Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals in business development, then moved to start-ups, serving as North American Business Development Director for Nordic Bioscience, a biomarker company targeting pharmaceutical R&D, ultimately resulting in the sale of their product lines. As Global Vice President for Biochemical Markers for Synarc, a multinational CRO, he tripled revenue in a two-year period following five years of flat growth, positioning this company for sale to Bioclinica. During his time, he also established laboratories in Europe and China, along with distributorships in Mexico and South America. He later served in interim business development roles in Synarc’s business lines of patient recruitment and clinical imaging. Scott holds graduate degrees from Old Dominion University and Eastern Virginia Medical School. He is actively involved in mentoring at Oxford University, Cambridge University and Stanford University helping entrepreneurial-minded scientists commercialize their inventions.

Randy Berholtz, General Counsel

Randy Berholtz has more than 25 years of experience as an executive and general counsel to public and private life science companies.  He also has over 15 years experience as an angel and venture capital investor into seed and early stage life science companies.  His experience includes advising on various corporate, financing, mergers and acquisitions, licensing, collaborations, patents, trademarks and litigation for companies in the genomics, diagnostics, therapeutics, device and other related healthcare fields.  He worked for large law firms in New York and San Diego and was the general counsel for Nanogen, Inc. (Nasdaq), the ACON group of Chinese and life science companies, (Apricus Biosciences, Inc. (Nasdaq), Convalo, Inc. (Toronto Venture Exchange) and for Innovus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (OTC Markets).  He is also a Senior Advisor to Mesa Verde Venture Partners, a San Diego-based venture capital fund and is on the board of directors if Life on Earth, Inc. (OTC Markets).  He is a graduate of Cornell University, Yale University Law School, Oxford University (where he was a Rhodes Scholar) and the University of San Diego School of Business.

George Church, Harvard Medical School & MIT

George Church, PhD, is the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and MIT. George is most known for his professional contributions in the sequencing of genomes and interpreting such data, in synthetic biology and genome engineering, and in an emerging area of neuroscience that proposes to map brain activity and establish a “functional connectome.” His innovations have contributed to nearly all “next generation” DNA sequencing methods and companies (CGI-BGI, Life, Illumina, Nanopore). He is the founder of numerous companies. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

Francois Ferré, ALMA LifeSciences

Francois Ferré, PhD, is one of San Diego’s leading biotech entrepreneurs and angel investors. In 1998, Dr. Ferré and his wife, Magda Marquet, PhD, started their first company, Althea Technologies, which became a leading provider of contract services to the biotechnology field in the U.S. and Europe. That company was acquired in 2013 by the Japanese group Ajinomoto. Dr. Ferré also co-founded a spinoff company, AltheaDX, which specializes in personalized medicine and pharmacogenomics. Four years ago, Dr. Ferré and Dr. Marquet co-founded ALMA Life Sciences, LLC. an early-stage investment firm focusing on the creation and growth of healthcare companies in San Diego.

John Minna, UT Southwestern Medical Center

John Minna, MD, is the Max L. Thomas Distinguished Chair in Molecular Pulmonary Oncology and the Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research. He is the director of the Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology and is a professor of Internal Medicine and Pharmacology. John has countless awards for his contributions to cancer research, and has over 600 peer reviewed publications. He is most known for his contributions to the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of lung and breast cancer through a genome-wide approach and the development of molecular biomarkers for the response to cancer therapy.

Kevin Schulman, Duke University

Kevn Schulman, MD Is a professor of medicine in the Duke University School of Medicine, where he also serves as the director for the Center for Clinical and Genetic Economics and as an associate director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute. He is a professor of business administration in Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and also holds appointments in the Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care in the Durham VA Medical Center, the Duke Center for Clinical Health Policy Research, and the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities and History of Medicine. His research interests include economic evaluation in clinical research; health services research and policy, including access to care and the impact of reimbursement and regulatory policies on clinical practice; and medical decision making, especially in patients with life-threatening conditions.

Rolf Ehrnstrom, Chairman

Rolf Ehrnstrom has more than 30 years of scientific, technical and commercial experience from small, medium and large sized life science and diagnostics companies on the international arena. For the last 20 years he held senior executive management roles. Rolf has extensive experience in product-,technology- and strategic development in the life science and diagnostics industry. He has a track record of leading large operational organizations (>200 staff), restructuring of large R&D organizations, integration of acquired companies as well as managing rapid growth in new startups. Much of his experience comes from leadership in multinational management teams and organizations in Scandinavia, Europe, USA and Asia. His responsibilities have ranged from all technical disciplines within R&D as well as IP, Regulatory & Medical & Clinical Affairs, Scientific Relations/Profiling and External Scientific Collaborations. In recent years a special focus has been in the fields of Personalized Medicine, companion diagnostics and technology innovation. Rolf holds a MSc in biochemistry & biotechnology engineering from Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden.

Mikael Orum, Board Member

Mikael is Founder and Partner of Ventac Partners and has 40 years of executive experience in finance and biotech. He is currently CEO and Chairman (and co-founder) of Avexxin AS, Co-founder and Board Member of Idogen AB, which listed on Swedish Aktietorget in 2015, and Chairman of RhoVac AB, which listed on Swedish Aktietorget in 2016. He has raised $100Mio in risk capital for biotech and pharma ventures. He has been responsible for multiple licensing deals in USA, Europe, Japan and China. He was co-founder and CEO of Exiqon, which was listed on Nasdaz OMX in 2007 from 1995-2002. He was co-founder of Santaris Pharma which sold to Hoffman la-Roche in 2014 for $450 Mio. Mikael has business and legal educations from Copenhagen Business College, Danish Bankers Academy, Copenhagen Business School and Copenhagen University.

Mikael B. Waitzkin, Board Member

Michael B. Waitzkin is the Deputy Director of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society and teaches courses in the graduate, law and medical schools on issues of science law, policy and ethics. Before coming to Duke, he practiced law in the District of Columbia for 35 years and has extensive experience in advising the biomedical research community on issues relating to legal and regulatory strategy and ethics. He served as Special Counsel to the President in the White House Counsel’s Office. He attended the University of Virginia (BA 1971; Phi Beta Kappa, Echols Scholar), Stanford Law School (JD 1974) and Yale Law School (LLM 1975, Commonwealth Fellow in Law, Science and Medicine).