Our Key Personnel

Founder and Advisor: David Gorenstein, Ph.D.

David Gorenstein, Ph.D., joined UTHealth January 1, 2009 as Professor and Deputy Director of the IMM. He was most recently the Associate Dean for Research, School of Medicine, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and the Charles Marc Pomerat Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Neurosciences & Cell Biology. He also served as the founding Director of the UTMB Sealy Center for Structural Biology and Director of the Gulf Coast Consortium in Magnetic Resonance, a shared facility that includes UTMB, Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Houston, UTHealth and UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He has nearly 40 years experience in structural biology, drug design, nucleic acid and protein chemistry with over 240 publications. He currently has major translation research programs in proteomics and nanomedicine for both diagnostics and therapeutics, particularly in cancer. He also has major programs in next-generation aptamer technologies NMR structural biology, drug design nucleic acid and protein chemistry. 

Dr. Gorenstein received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree and doctorate in chemistry from Havard University. Before moving to the Houston/Galveston area, he held faculty positions in the Departments of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Purdue University. He has received a number of awards, including Guggenheim (to the University of California San Francisco) and senior Fullbright (to Oxford University, England) fellowships and election as Fellow to the American Association for Advancement of Science. Dr. Gorenstein holds over three dozen patents on novel aptamer technology (awarded and pending), many of which have been to AptaMed and AM Biotechnologies, Galveston and Houston companies he founded.

Chief Operating Officer: Michael Heffernan, Ph.D., P.E.

Michael Heffernan has a track record of success securing non-dilutive funding for novel, disruptive technologies.  Mike earned his Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and completed postdoctoral training at the National Cancer Institute. He completed his Masters in Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Tech and received his Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University. Mike held a faculty position in the Pediatric Tropical Medicine section at Baylor College of Medicine for 4 years prior to joining Fannin Innovation Studio, and had a successful career in product development at Cummins Inc. 

Advisor and Past President : Mark Shumbera, MBA

Mark Shumbera formerly led MEI Technologies, Inc. Commercial Development Division where he built and managed MEIT IP assets before becoming President of AM Biotech in 2006.   Under Mark’s leadership, the company secured more than $6M of investment and $7.5M of grant funding from NASA, NIH, DARPA and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which led to the successful commercialization of AM Biotech’s powerful X-Aptamer technology.  Mark received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University and an MBA from The University of Houston Clear Lake.

Our Lead Scientists

Senior Scientist I: Lokesh Rao, Ph.D.

Lokesh Rao, Ph.D., is an experienced scientist at AM Biotech. Lokesh obtained his PhD in Molecular Virology from the Indian Institute of Science. He then did postdoctoral fellowships at the laboratories of Dr. Stan Watowich in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Dr. Natarajan at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, both at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He then worked with Dr. David Gorenstein at the Institute for Molecular Medicine in Houston, where he became a Research Scientist, working with aptamers. He continues his interest in the evolving field of aptamer research at AM Biotech, where he lends his expertise in DNA aptamers, thioaptamers, and x-aptamer, including their synthesis, selection, characterization, scale up, and modifications. Lokesh has helped author over 30 scientific peer reviewed publications, many of them related to breakthroughs in aptamer science and applications.

Senior Scientist II: Nancy Ward, Ph.D.

Nancy Ward, Ph.D., is Senior Scientist at AM Biotech. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, working at MD Anderson Cancer Center on protein biochemistry and the regulation of protein kinases. She then completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the MD Anderson Cancer in the Department of Cancer Biology, where she was the R.E. “Bob” Smith Fellow.

Prior to joining AM Biotech, Nancy also worked as a molecular biologist at JES Tech/ Wylie Life Sciences supporting the Counter Measure Research Support and Integration program at NASA/JSC in Houston with emphasis on the effects of microgravity and the immune response.

Nancy has authored over 50 publications, both peer-reviewed and invited articles, in many of which she was the first author. She has also contributed to a dozen book chapters, and has numerous abstracts at scientific conferences to her name.