Founding Team and Lead Investors

David H. Donabedian, Ph.D.
Co-founder, CEO and Director

David H. Donabedian, Ph.D., will serve as Chief Executive Officer of Axial and will also serve on its Board.  Dr. Donabedian is an accomplished business development and strategy executive with extensive leadership experience. Dr. Donabedian has a track record of building companies, most recently as a Venture Partner at Longwood Fund.

Prior to joining Longwood, Dr. Donabedian has held various leadership roles at biopharmaceutical companies including AbbVie and GSK. At AbbVie, Dr. Donabedian served as Vice President & Global Head of Ventures and Early Stage Collaborations where he led a global team that completed significant transactions across multiple therapeutic areas and stages of development. Prior to AbbVie, Dr. Donabedian served as Vice President Global New Deal Strategy and Development at GlaxoSmithKline, and Senior Manager at Accenture’s Strategic Services Consulting Group.

He holds a BA in Chemistry from St. Anselm College, a Ph.D. in Polymer Chemistry from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and an MBA from the University of North Carolina. He currently serves on the Board of Alcyone Life Sciences, a privately held CNS company which he co-founded.

Sarkis Mazmanian, Ph.D.
Co-founder and Director

Sarkis K Mazmanian, PhD, is the Luis & Nelly Soux Professor of Microbiology in the Division of Biology & Biological Engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of California, Los Angeles, where Dr. Mazmanian also received his PhD training in microbiology and immunology. He was a Helen Hay Whitney Post-doctoral Fellow and subsequently appointed assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in 2006, and later that year moved to Caltech. Dr. Mazmanian has won numerous awards including a Searle Scholar, Young Investigator of the Year at Harvard Medical School, Damon Runyon Innovation Award, was named by Discover Magazine as one of the “Best Brains in Science under 40”, “Life Science Superstar” by Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, and recently received the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” award.

His laboratory focuses on the study of beneficial bacterial molecules from the human gut microbiome as novel therapies for immunologic and neurologic disorders, with a specific focus on developing probiotic treatments for autism. He is a founder of 2 biotech companies, and has or currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of over a dozen companies, academic centers and not-for-profit foundations. 

Jim Blair, Ph.D.
Partner, Domain Associates

Jim has been a partner of Domain since its inception in 1985. Jim has more than 40 years of experience with venture and emerging growth companies.

In the course of his experience, he has been involved in the creation and successful development at the board level of more than 40 life sciences ventures, including Amgen, Aurora Biosciences, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Applied Biosystems, Cadence Pharmaceuticals, Dura Pharmaceuticals, GeneOhm Sciences, Molecular Dynamics, NuVasive, Pharmion and Volcano. Present board memberships include Applied Proteomics, Astute Medical, aTyr Pharma, Benvenue Medical, ChromaCode, Clovis Oncology, CoDa Therapeutics, and IntegenX.

Prior to Domain, Jim was a former managing director of Rothschild Inc., where he was directly involved at a senior level with Rothschild/New Court venture capital activities. Previous to that, he was associated with F.S. Smithers and Co. and White, Weld and Co., two investment banking firms actively involved with new ventures and emerging growth companies. Jim was an engineering manager with RCA Corporation, during which time he received the David Sarnoff Fellowship. He received his BSE from Princeton University and his MSE and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

Jim currently serves on the board of directors of the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. He is also on the advisory boards of the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation, and the Caltech Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

Michelle Dipp, M.D., Ph.D.
Partner, Longwood Fund

Dr. Dipp is a co-founder and Partner of Longwood Fund. Dr. Dipp co-founded Longwood portfolio companies Alnara Pharmaceuticals, Verastem (NASDAQ: VSTM), OvaScience (NASDAQ: OVAS), where she previously served as CEO and currently serves on the BOD, and FlexPharma (NASDAQ FLKS). Previously, Dr. Dipp was the Senior Vice President and Head of GSK's Centre of Excellence for External Drug Discovery (CEEDD). Prior to leading GSK’s CEEDD, Dr. Dipp was the Vice President of Corporate Development at Sirtris (NASDAQ: SIRT acquired by GlaxoSmithKline in 2008).

Before joining Sirtris, she worked in healthcare private equity at The Wellcome Trust, London. Dr. Dipp holds an MD from University of Oxford Medical School and a PhD in Physiology from the University of Oxford. Dr. Dipp did her post-doctoral research in the departments of Pharmacology and Cardiothoracic Surgery, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. Dr. Dipp serves on the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s (BIO) Emerging Companies Governing Board, the New England Venture Capital Association (NEVCA) Board, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Board of Directors, the Boston Symphony Orchestra Board of Overseers, and the MassBio Advisory Board.

In 2015, Dr. Dipp was elected to join the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders and was named to Fortune magazine’s 40 Under 40 list.