UCLA TDG Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program

The UCLA Technology Development Group (TDG) Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs) program connects UCLA technologies with industry executives, serial entrepreneurs, and the larger investor community. EIRs lend their own industry and startup experience to help guide and bolster entrepreneurial efforts across campus.

The current class of EIRs includes a select group of seasoned executives who have demonstrated entrepreneurial successes in markets most applicable to UCLA's strongest areas of research (bios provided below). Over the course of their engagement, EIRs will work closely with UCLA inventors, entrepreneurs, and the TDG team.

EIRs will be involved in a range of activities on campus, including:

  • Meeting with UCLA inventors including faculty, postdocs, and graduate students, to lend commercial perspective on research / technologies
  • Provide guidance to faculty and student entrepreneurs interested in starting a company
  • Hold on-campus speaking engagements to share their own experiences and advise faculty, post-docs, and students on startup matters

Please visit the events page for details on upcoming seminars and programs. For more information on the EIR program, please contact Shaina Oake Sobhani, Principal, New Ventures, TDG (shaina.oake@tdg.ucla.edu).

EIR Program Announcements


Entreprepreurs-in-Residence are available for one-on-one meetings with UCLA faculty and postdocs seeking business advice. Please contact Shaina Oake to schedule a consultation:  shaina.oake@tdg.ucla.edu


BuiltinLA - UCLA Launches Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program

Technology Transfer Tactics - UCLA Launches Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program to Help Faculty Take Research to Market

NewMediaWire - New EIR Program Announced at UCLA

UCLA Press Release - New Program Aims to Step Up Entrepreneurship at UCLA

Entrepreneur in Residence Bios

+ Expand

Vijay Dhaka

Medical Devices; Digital Health; Strategy; Licensing Negotiations; Financing

Vijay Dhaka has close to 20 years of healthcare experience focused on identifying, protecting, licensing, investing in, developing, and implementing innovative medical technologies. Most recently Vijay was the Assistant Director of the Coulter Translational Partnership at USC, a medical innovation gap funding program that identifies promising technologies that meet unmet clinical needs, provides non-dilutive funding to de-risk selected technologies by gathering commercially relevant clinical data, managing intellectual property, and negotiating licenses. Vijay began his career spending nearly a decade in R&D at venture backed class II and III medical device companies: VNUS Medical Technologies (IPO; acquired by Covidien), Adiana Inc. (acquired by Cytyc, currently Hologic), and Oratec Interventions (acquired by Smith+Nephew). Interested in expanding his skills beyond engineering Vijay pursued his MBA, and subsequently joined consulting firm McKinsey & Co with a focus on healthcare. Engagements included private equity due diligence, corporate strategy, and market strategy. After a detour into strategy and business development at ESPN, Vijay worked on developing clinical care programs at Apria Healthcare including digital health, remote patient monitoring, and patient compliance. Vijay has been a frequent guest lecturer at USC on medical device commercialization, intellectual property, and licensing negotiations. Vijay has a MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management and a BS in BioEngineering from the University of California, San Diego.

+ Expand

Allison Formal


Allison brings over 20 years of industry experience creating business alliances to advance therapies toward commercialization. Allison is currently an executive level business development consultant focusing on strategic planning for successful proof of concept studies. She builds, negotiates, and manages successful partnerships with biopharmaceutical companies, disease-focused non-profits, and academic medical centers. Formerly, Allison served as VP Research Business Development at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) where she played a key role building the successful venture philanthropy arm, the Therapy Acceleration Program (TAP).  Allison created more than 60 research and development partnerships investing in biopharmaceutical companies and academic researchers developing therapies and diagnostics aimed at changing the standard of care for blood cancer. A number of those business alliances have created a significant return on investment. One of Allison's proudest accomplishments was working directly with Dr. Brian Druker and his team at the Knight Cancer Institute to create, fund and implement the strategic plan for Beat AML™. This pre-clinical initiative started in 2013 and began as a multi-sector partnership between the Knight Cancer Institute, biopharmaceutical and bio IT companies, academic medical centers, and LLS.  Today, the total number of collaborators in this high impact patient initiative exceeds 20. The work of this program is still ongoing and has created the foundation for what is now the clinical aspect of Beat AML, an ongoing master trial.  

Allison serves on the translational medicine and commercialization oversight committee of the University of Michigan Medical School, as member of the Bio-therapeutic Grant Review Committee between Oregon Health & Sciences University and Oregon Clinical & Translational Research Institute funding proof of concept studies, and on Washington State University’s Commercialization Committee to review and fund grants for WSU’s Commercialization Gap Fund (CGF).

Allison's career includes roles in biopharmaceutical companies including; VP of Business Development, MediQuest; VP Business Development, Neuralstem; Director International Division of Watson (now Allergan); and, Director of the International Division and Humanitarian Aid for a joint venture between Schein and Bayer Pharmaceuticals. Allison started her career at Pfizer and earned her MBA in finance and marketing from Marymount University. 

+ Expand

Debra Gessner

Regulatory Consultant; Therapeutics

Debra Gessner has over 25 years of hands-on submissions and management experience in Regulatory Affairs and compliance, including building and heading regulatory, QA Quality and publishing teams, project team leadership, corporate partner management, and due diligence activities. Debra’s regulatory experience encompasses Pre-IND through approval and launch of 5 marketed products. Most recently, Debra spent nearly over four years at Tocagen Inc. as Vice President of Regulatory and Quality Assurance. Her 26 years of drug and biologics development experience comprise VP, Director and Manager-level roles at seven other biotechnology companies in Southern California, including Sirion Therapeutics, Bruin Pharma, Santarus, Collateral Therapeutics, La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co., Viagene, and Gensia. Debra is also actively involved in regulatory teaching and mentoring, having served on the faculty of DIA for over 10 years, as well as speaking and participating in numerous conferences sponsored by UCSD, USD, ASCRP and other professional associations. Debra received an M.Sc. in Regulatory Affairs from San Diego State University, and a B.S. in Medical Technology from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

+ Expand

John Gillespie

Finance; Strategy

John Gillespie has over 30 years of experience in leading and investing in companies. Since 2006, John has invested in and advised multiple entrepreneurial ventures including a development-stage, 3D optics company based in Pasadena, a minor league baseball team and a New York City-based social and cultural club. Previously, John served as Executive Vice President and CFO of The Mentor Network, a nationwide human services company with 24,000 employees and over $1 billion in revenues. In this position, John directed the firm’s finance, IT and HR departments, as well as its debt issuance, securities law compliance, insurance coverage and strategic financial planning. Prior to joining The Mentor Network, John served as an investment banker for 18 years with Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, and Bear Stearns where he led financings totaling over $13 billion, including an innovative debt transaction for constructing the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Additionally, John has authored numerous articles, an award-winning book for Simon & Schuster on the history and reform of corporate governance and a screenplay which sold to Dreamworks. John received an MBA from Harvard Business School and an AB from Harvard College.

+ Expand

David Grant

Semiconductors; Physical Sciences

David Grant founded, built and successfully sold two high tech start-up companies. Most recently, David's company, Tamar Technology, developed multiple, sub-micron measurement technologies for the MEMS, semiconductor, disk drive, and flat panel display industries. At Tamar, David served as CEO, until it was bought by Rudolph Technologies in 2013. The measurement sensors developed by Tamar have since been integrated into Rudolph production systems at technology leaders such as Intel, Applied Materials, Freescale and numerous other semiconductor manufacturing facilities. Previously, Mr. Grant founded Sight Systems, a machine vision company, which was acquired by Zygo, a precision optics and instrumentation manufacturer. There he served as Vice President until 1999, when he left to pursue further entrepreneurial ventures including starting Tamar Technology. David Grant received his degree in Physics from UCLA and was a member of UCLA heavyweight crew. Mr. Grant currently works for Rudolph developing new business opportunities and helping to bring new, innovative technologies to market.

+ Expand

Omid Moghadam

Diagnostics; Life Sciences

Omid Moghadam is an inventor and serial entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in commercializing new technologies. His main area of focus is creating new ventures and developing self-sustaining business models for them. Prior to joining Ascendant, Moghadam worked at Harvard Medical School's Center for Biomedical Informatics, where he focused on applications of personal genomics in clinical practice, and at Xovo, a firm he founded to commercialize new genomics tools. Prior to Harvard, he co-founded two new endeavors at Intel: Integrated Analytics Solutions, a division providing services to the genomics industry and Dossia, a corporation that created the first national network for managing personally controlled health records. Today, some of the largest US corporations such as Intel, Wal-Mart and ATT are using Dossia to revolutionize their employee healthcare offerings. In the past, Moghadam also held executive positions with AMS-CGI and Eastman Kodak, corporations where he spearheaded new innovations in cardiac imaging and digital photography. He serves on the board of directors of Health-e Pty of Australia, Resounding Health Inc. and Best Shot Foundation, as well as advisory boards of Genophen Inc., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Children's Hospital Boston. Currently he is working on a number of new startups in clinical genome analysis, cancer diagnostics, medical imaging,

+ Expand

Yemi Onakunle

Therapeutics; Life Sciences

Dr. Yemi Onakunle brings expertise in technology commercialization that includes IP evaluation, licensing, business development, marketing and sales. He is a seasoned executive with over 18 years work experience in the biopharmaceutical industry spanning drug discovery, development and manufacturing at multinational companies such as Schering Plough (now Merck) and Lonza, as well as start-up companies such as Xenova Ltd and Selexis SA. Throughout his career, Dr. Onakunle has consistently demonstrated the ability to recognize and capitalize on opportunities for value creation even when they may not be readily obvious. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of VLP Biotech Inc, a vaccine development company based in San Diego, CA and has been an Advisor to several biopharmaceutical and drug delivery companies in the US and Europe. Educated in the UK, Dr. Onakunle holds a Ph.D. from the University of Kent at Canterbury and an M.B.A. with specialization in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from Imperial College Management School.

+ Expand

Carina R. Reisin

Medical Devices; Life Sciences

Carina Reisin is a technology executive with over 17 years of technical management experience including broad experience in class-2 and class-3 medical devices and a track record of bringing to market a number of industry leading ophthalmic products. Her experience spans large multinational companies and entrepreneurial ventures. Recently Carina co-founded Novus Medical Ventures for the purpose of in-licensing innovative medical device technologies from academic institutions and industry sources and focusing on completing product development and commercialization. Prior to co-founding Novus Carina carried the role of VP of Advanced Technologies & Engineering at Calhoun Vision and before that served in several key R&D leadership roles at the Cataract and Refractive business of Abbot Medical Optics, where she led global research and development teams in the areas of intraocular lenses and surgical equipment. Her earlier experience includes research and development work in cutting-edge technology companies, such as Corning, where she has brought new insight and expertise within the optics industry and led the development of advanced innovative systems. Carina is a co-inventor of 14 patents and has several publications to her credit. She holds a doctorate degree in Physics from Technion - Israel Institute of Technology and a B.Sc. degree with distinction in Physics from Tel-Aviv University.