We are delighted to introduce you to this year’s judges for the President’s Startup Challenge Judges, they come from many different facets of our industry and also from different disciplines.

We rely on their expertise to identify our Grand Prize winner who wil receive $20,000, a year’s membership to the Pistoia Alliance, 6 months mentorship for a leading industry expert and access to both Elsevier’s and Clarivate Analytics software and services. Therefore these judges are helping us pick the startup we believe can help transform R&D in the life sciences industry through their combination of scientific and technical innovation.

We would like to thank each of them for their support  of our President’s Challenge and willingness to help these startups by providing the feedback on their pitches as they share their propositions with the Pistoia conference attendees.

The judges are:

Nicholas Davies is Managing Director Accenture Strategy, covering Pharma Strategy: Research & Development, Commercial & Marketing, and the external Payor, Access and Regulator environments.

He has led and delivered complex engagements in major M&As, extensive restructuring and downsizing and R&D productivity projects globally from personalized medicine and diagnostics strategies to operational strategies in discovery and clinical development.  Prior to his work at Accenture he led research laboratories and departments at Novartis and AstraZeneca.


Devendra Deshmukh is Executive Director, MRL Global Research IT.  With a varied and diverse career, Devendra now manages all aspects of information and technology in support of Merck’s global research agenda, spanning human genetics and pharmacogenomics, biologics and vaccines discovery, therapeutic area biology, pharmacology and high throughput screening, medicinal and process chemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, laboratory platforms and scientific engineering.


Helena Deus received her PhD in Bioinformatics from Universidade Nova de Lisboa where she focused on Linked Data and Semantic Web applications for Health Care and Life Sciences, with an emphasis on Cancer Research. Helena specializes in data integration and data wrangling techniques including sparse data management, query parallelization, data reuse and data mining for the facilitation of medical knowledge insights. Helena is passionate about breaking the cancer research silos to allow researchers to derive more value from their data and publications.

Prior to joining Elsevier, Helena’s roles included directing a knowledge engineering and data science team at Foundation Medicine and leading projects and strategy for Health Care and Life Sciences at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute, National University of Ireland at Galway (DERI/NUIG). Helena has published over 30 peer reviewed papers and was one of the winners of the Big Data Track in the 2013 Semantic Web Challenge and of the Linked Data Cup with her work on linking data from The Cancer Genome Atlas.

Eric Little is Chief Data Officer with Osthus Inc., working on data science and scalable integration standards for pharmaceutical, biotech and related chemistry-based R&D efforts. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science in 2002 from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. His Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University at Buffalo’s Department of Industrial Engineering (2002- 2004) focused on developing ontologies for multisource information fusion applications. He has worked in both academia as a professor in several fields, as well as held multiple positions in industry.

Dr. Little is a recognized expert in semantic technology, analytics applications and formal ontology. Hisareas of specialization are: ontology, semantics, knowledge management, cognitive science, cloud computing and organizational theory. Dr. Little has designed and helped to implement semantic technologies and analytics for use in various applied domains including: biomedicine, medical device manufacturing, medical fraud, waste and abuse detection, pharmaceuticals, medical management, threat prediction/mitigation, disaster management, national defense/intelligence, steel production and petrochemicals.

Bennett Malbon is a healthcare technology executive with a successful track record leading technology programs in clinical care, life sciences research, big data/machine learning, and logistics. Bennett’s 20+ years of experience have focused on technical architecture, data integration/interoperability, product management, and technical operations. Bennett is currently CTO at Novaseek Research (President’s Challenge winners 2015!) leading development of the Clinical Data Network for Research(CDNR), transforming how scientists and clinical researchers access real world clinical data and human biospecimens to power life sciences R&D.

Prior to Novaseek, Bennett built a national patient transition network with Curaspan Health Group where he was the founding technology architect, and co-inventor. The network connected 600+ acute care hospitals with 8000+ post-acute care providers. Curaspan wasacquired by naviHealth(a Cardinal Health company) in 2016. In addition to Curaspan, Bennett was Technical Product Manager for PatientKeeper, VP Product at HealthGrid, and lead teams on big data, machine learning, web, and logistics projects with NASA/DARPA, US Navy, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Comcast, Landmark Communications, and Altria. Bennett holds an M.B.A. from Babson College, and a B.S. in Computer Science from Randolph-Macon College.

Jonathan Sheffi is the Product Manager for Genomics & Life Sciences at Google Cloud. Previously, he was cofounder and CEO at Curoverse, a company building an open source platform for managing and processing genomic and other big biomedical data sets. Curoverse was acquired in 2017 by Veritas Genetics. Before cofounding Curoverse, he spent several years in the biotechnology industry, including roles with Novartis Diagnostics, Amgen, and Accenture’s Health and Life Sciences Strategy practice. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, an MEng focused in computational molecular biology from MIT, and undergraduate degrees in mathematics & computer science, also from MIT.

Mike Willis is Head of Discovery Chemistry & Services at MilliporeSigma, Mike has over 15 years of experience in the specialty chemical business in a variety of increasingly prominent roles. Extensive business leadership experience including general management with full P&L responsibilities. Business Development and Account Management experience as well as roles with primary functions in Strategic Marketing, Operations Management, Product Management, and Research & Development.

He is a leader with excellent relationship-building skills, coupled with technical background and experience in the materials science, specialty chemical and fine chemical markets. Proven track record of sales and profitability growth, as well as significant new business development experience. Specialties: Discovery Chemistry, Materials Science, Inorganics, Stable Isotopes, Organometallics, Environmental Health & Safety, Technical Sales and Marketing, Operations Management, Business Development.