Scientific Advisory Board

Alli Benjamin, APR
Director of Communications

Alli Benjamin is the College's communications director for the College. Her responsibilities include developing a consistent, strong brand in alignment with University and campus communications, advising senior leadership on communication strategies, and developing compelling stories for internal and external audiences that share the College's story in an impactful and memorable way. She is currently receiving her Master's in Organizational Leadership with an emphasis in Change Management from Gonzaga University. 

Scott Boitano, PhD
Professor, Physiology
Professor, Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Professor, Physiological Sciences
Research Scientist, Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center

Scott Boitano has been associated with the University of Arizona since he moved to Tucson in 2002. He established research in lung toxicology and drug development targeting the protease activated receptor-2 (a G protein-coupled receptor that is expressed in the airway epithelium, where it participates in exacerbations of allergic asthma. It is also expressed in nociceptors (pain sensing neurons), where it participates in pain pathways).

At the University of Arizona, Dr. Boitano has been part of a collaboration with Drs. Theodore J. Price and Josef Vagner that has developed the most potent agonists and the only antagonist that can block all signaling pathways activated by proteases. Current interests include the further development of agonists and antagonists into drugs that can be used in the control of asthma and pain.

William Cance, MD
Deputy Director, UA Cancer Center (Phoenix)
Professor, Interdisciplinary Oncology
Professor, Surgery
Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology

William Cance is the principal investigator on a current R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute focusing on Focal Adhesion Kinase and has been continuously funded by the National Cancer Institute since 1992. He holds eight United States patents, including a patent for kinase protein binding inhibitors. In addition to authoring more than 130 peer-reviewed publications and 10 book chapters, he is the founding editor-in-chief of the Society of Surgical Oncology-branded database of Complex General Surgical Oncology. Dr. Cance joined the University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center as the Deputy Director in 2016.

Rakhi Gibbons, MSB
Director, Licensing
Tech Launch Arizona

Rakhi Gibbons has over fifteen years of experience in the life sciences industry from research to startup experience to university technology transfer. She oversees all licensing operations for Tech Launch Arizona. In her position as Director, she has worked closely with faculty and researchers particularly in the Arizona Health Sciences Center, and life sciences departments across the university overseeing intellectual property.

Prior to joining the University of Arizona, she served on the licensing team in the University of Michigan’s Office of Technology Transfer. Rakhi has substantial experience in intellectual property, licensing, technology and contracts management, conflict of interest, and start up formation. In addition to her background in business, she has practical knowledge of life sciences through research with a biotech company in northern California, and Stanford University in the areas of molecular biology and genomics.

Laurence Hurley, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Medicinal Chemistry
CSO, Reglagene LLC

Laurence Hurley’s present research involves the design and development of antitumor agents. Over the last forty years work from his laboratory has led to elucidation of the structures of the drug–nucleic acid complexes for seven different groups of compounds that are potentially useful in the treatment of cancer. In cooperation with the pharmaceutical industry, several drugs developed with the aid of these studies have been evaluated in phase 1 and 2 clinical trials. Most recently his research has centered on secondary DNA structures, particularly G-quadruplexes and C-quadruplexes (also called i-motifs), as gene targets for drug design. While he was Chief Scientific Officer of Cylene Pharmaceuticals, a first-in-class G-quadruplex-interactive compound (Quarfloxin) developed from this technology and licensed from the University of Arizona was advanced into clinical trials. In 2017 he was named Arizona Biosciences Researcher of the Year.

Monica Kraft, MD
Professor, Medicine
Department Head, Department of Medicine
Deputy Director, UA Health Sciences Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center

Monica Kraft is an internationally renowned physician-scientist who specializes in translational asthma research is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, as well as a Professor of Medicine and The Robert and Irene Flinn Endowed Chair in Medicine.

Dr. Kraft has published extensively in the area of adult asthma. Specifically, her research interests include the mechanisms of innate immune dysfunction, inflammation and airway remodeling in asthma, as well as evaluation of new therapies through clinical trials. Last spring, she testified before the United States Senate on the negative impact that relaxing federal air quality standards might have on asthma patients and others suffering from respiratory disease.

Rick Schnellmann, PhD
Dean, College of Pharmacy
National Advisory Board Member
Howard J. Schaeffer Endowed Chair in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Rick G. Schnellmann, PhD, is dean of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy. A leading pharmacologist, researcher and drug discovery entrepreneur, he joined the UA in August 2016. Dr. Schnellmann earned his doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology from the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy and Medicine in 1984. Previously, Dr. Schnellmann worked at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, where he was an eminent scholar and distinguished university professor and was chair of the college's Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences from 2001 to 2015. Under his guidance, his department's NIH grant funding increased, and in 2014 the school was ranked 11th in NIH funding among colleges of pharmacy. Dr. Schnellmann's research is focused on identifying and developing drugs to treat acute kidney injury, diabetic kidney disease, stroke, spinal cord injury and Parkinson's disease. His research has been funded continuously since 1987 and includes NIH grant funding totaling more than $30 million. He has been instrumental in founding three MUSC spin-off biotechnology companies focused on drug discovery and development. 

Rachna Shroff, MD, MS
Chief, Section of GI Medical Oncology
Chair, Data Safety Monitoring Board
Leader, GI Disease-Oriented Team
Associate Professor, Hematology/Oncology (College of Medicine)

Rachna T. Shroff, MD, MS is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Chief of the Section of GI Medical Oncology.

Dr. Shroff has been a member of the ASCO Scientific Committee, Noncolorectal Track as well as the ASCO Gastrointestinal Guidelines Advisory Group. She participates in the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) GI Committee, and the NCI Hepatobiliary Taskforce being the national Principal Investigator on SWOG 1815. She is also involved in the International Cholangiocarcinoma Research Network (ICRN) where she participates in the Novel Targets Working Group.

Dr. Shroff completed her fellowship in medical oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She simultaneously obtained a Master's Degree at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She did her residency in internal medicine at Washington University in St. Louis where she also served as Chief Resident at the VA Hospital. Dr. Shroff earned her medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

Todd Vanderah, PhD
Department Head, Pharmacology
Professor, Anesthesiology
Professor, Neurology
Professor, Neuroscience
Professor, Pharmacology
Professor, Physiological Sciences

Todd Vanderah has worked in the area of Neuropharmacology for over 20 years, resulting in 165 peer-reviewed publications and continuous funding from the National Institute of Health. His work focuses on identifying novel molecular targets on pain pathways in order to attenuate acute and chronic pain while reducing unwanted side effects. Recently he has investigated the use of an Angiotensin fragment that inhibit chronic inflammation while inhibiting inflammation-induced cognitive impairment.

Dr. Vanderah’s previous experience with drug development stems from his 4.5 years of work at Ferring Pharmaceuticals Inc., where he was responsible for drug development, including efficacy, side effects and pharmacokinetics. He also developed three compounds from the preclinical side that were pushed into clinical phase testing. One of the three has made it onto the market, the second is on the market in Europe and the third has been sold to another company, but is still in development.

Wei Wang, PhD
Co-Director, Arizona Center for Drug Discovery
Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology

Wei Wang is a new addition to the College of Pharmacy team, responsible for advancing the mission of drug discovery at both the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center and main campus. By uniting the university’s state-of-the-art facilities, expertise and resources, he will help facilitate drug discovery and development while enhancing translational research collaboration.

Dr. Wang is in the top 5% of authors cited in the field of chemistry with H-index of 70. His research interests include organic synthesis, molecular imaging and recognition, chemical biology and medicinal chemistry (drug discovery). He is an author or co-author of more than 240 original research papers and 17 books/book chapters. He has six scientific patents and is a peer-reviewer for more than 60 national and international journals.

Jutta Wanner, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology
Co-Director Arizona Center for Drug Discovery