Kira Sheinerman Invests in BTI’s Future
Kira Sheinerman, biotech entrepreneur and life sciences banker, knows a good investment when she sees one.
That’s why in 2010, she joined the BTI board of directors at the invitation of Laura Philips, current board chair, after meeting several members of the BTI team and sitting in on a board meeting.
“I just really like the fundamental focus on the science and the bigger picture of what BTI is trying to achieve. Serving on the BTI board has been a very rewarding experience for me,” Sheinerman said in an interview.
Since then, she has contributed her training as a scientist, her investment banking expertise and her experience as the founder and CEO of the diagnostic company DiamiR to help ensure that BTI continues its growth and innovative research.
Sheinerman initially trained as an Alzheimer’s disease researcher and received her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. About halfway through her Ph.D. work, she became interested in finance, and thus subsequently earned an MBA at Baruch College, City University of New York. Sheinerman entered the industry as a consultant for biotech companies and investors, but soon moved into healthcare investment banking.
“I took a detour to Wall Street for many years, but then I partnered with a seasoned scientist, whose interest was in diagnostics. He also happened to be my father,” laughed Sheinerman.
Her father and business partner, Samuil Umansky, is both a distinguished researcher and serial entrepreneur. By merging his interest in cell-free nucleic acid tests with her expertise in Alzheimer’s disease, they founded DiamiR in 2009. The company develops blood tests that detect microRNA biomarkers for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other diseases. With earlier detection of Alzheimer’s, those at risk of developing dementia may one day take medication to prevent the disease’s terrible progression. So far the company has been highly successful in publishing and patenting their work, and has recently established a research collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., of Johnson & Johnson.
The experience of launching her own company has been especially helpful in Sheinerman’s role as chair of the External Relations and Development Committee, where she takes an active role in advising BTI’s Technology Transfer Office. Along with fellow board members John Townsend and Peter Cornelius, she is working with Director of Technology Transfer Paul Debbie and Associate Professor Frank Schroeder as they work to launch a startup company. The startup is based on Schroeder’s small molecule chemistry research and its potential use in treatment and prevention of autoimmune diseases. This work is done in collaboration with scientists at Caltech, including Paul Sternberg.
“I am happy to contribute my knowledge as an entrepreneur who takes a project and creates something out of it, who is familiar with the life sciences industry and what investors look for, and who has relationships with various for-profit as well as non-profit organizations within the industry,” said Sheinerman. “I think this committee is a perfect fit with my skills and training.”
“Kira’s deep experience on both the founder and investor side of biotech businesses has been critical in helping us strategize how best to move BTI science from the bench and into the commercial arena,” said Debbie.
Sheinerman also serves on the Investment and Finance Committee, the Audit Committee, and the Executive Committee. Additionally, she has been an advisor to the Education and Outreach group. “I would love to see BTI continue its strength in the education program,” she said. “This is something that BTI is really good at. It’s a special place for students and teachers.”
In her six years on the board, she has seen BTI evolve and grow, in terms of board membership, philanthropic support and engagement with the community. Though investors often say that past performance is no guarantee of future results, looking forward, Sheinerman thinks BTI is well-positioned to maintain its place as a leader in plant and life sciences research.