Charles Hart, PhD


Charles Hart is the director of the Catalyst program. From 2004 to 2017 he was at Threshold Pharmaceuticals and responsible for both in vitro and in vivo preclinical translational studies. He was also project leader for the global clinical development program for the hypoxia-targeted anticancer drug evofosfamide (TH-302), a partnership with Merck KGaA. Prior to joining Threshold, Charles was Senior Director of Biology at Galileo Pharmaceuticals (2001 to 2004), Director of Drug Discovery at Signature Bioscience (2000 to 2001), and a Research Unit Director at Affymax (1990 to 2000). Charles received his AB in cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1977, an MS in developmental biology from Stanford University in 1980, a PhD in molecular biology and genetics from Yale University in 1987, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Strasbourg, France in 1990.

Michael Lesh, MD

Executive Director, Health Technology Innovation

Michael D. Lesh, MD is a physician, scientist and entrepreneur. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Computer Science and Bioengineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before entering medical school at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF).

He is currently Executive Director of Health Technology Innovation in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Business Development, Innovation and Partnership at UCSF whose mission is to commercialize the University's research and inventions. Dr. Lesh focuses on high value digital health and medical device opportunities, mentors entrepreneurs and start-ups, and has ultimate responsibility for the Catalyst program, UCSF’s translational accelerator.

After completing Internal Medicine training at UCSF and Cardiology and Cardiac Electrophysiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, he joined the faculty at UCSF, where he was Chief of Cardiac Electrophysiology. Dr. Lesh's research spanned a wide range from bench to bedside. He pioneered a number of procedures for catheter ablation of cardiac arrhythmias, and is the author of over 300 scientific papers, book chapters and books. Dr. Lesh holds over 200 patents issued or pending, including the fundamental method for pulmonary vein isolation (PVI) for atrial fibrillation, and left atrial appendage occlusion (LAAO) to prevent stroke.

Since 1997, Dr. Lesh has founded a number of medical device companies based on his inventions. Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) acquired his first venture, Atrionix, developer of a novel ultrasound ablation catheter for PVI in AF.

Dr. Lesh founded and was Chairman and CEO of Mitralife, which developed a catheter-based treatment for mitral valve disease and CHF; and Appriva, which developed PLAATO, a percutaneous trans-catheter device for preventing stroke. Mitralife and Appriva were acquired by ev3, Inc. and subsequently Medtronic. He was the founder and CEO of Evera Medical, which developed novel implants for plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Dr. Lesh was founder, Chairman and CEO of Middle Peak Medical (acquired by Symetis SA), which is developing a percutaneous implant to replace surgery for mitral regurgitation.

He is, or has been, on the Board of Directors of HeartScape Technologies (acquired by Roper), Stentys (IPO as STNT), Abate, Inc. (break-through biologic for atopic dermatitis), Sira Medical (futuristic augmented reality for surgical planing), and Cordance Medical (open BBB for treatment of brain disease). Dr. Lesh serves as a mentor to numerous entrepreneurs and participates as an “angel" investor in early stage companies across the healthcare space.

Jeni Janci, PhD

Program Director

Jeni began her life science career in the start-up biotech industry before earning her Ph.D. at University of California, Berkeley in Mike Levine’s laboratory. Her thesis was focused on gene regulatory networks of heart development in the primitive chordate, Ciona intestinalis. Directly after her graduate career, she re-entered the life science industry, where at Entelos she provided Quantitative Systems Pharmacology (QSP) Modeling and Simulation services to assist Research & Development for international pharmaceutical companies and other life science applications. Through consulting projects, she applied large-scale, mechanistic systems models to make critical decisions in various stages of the drug discovery and development lifecycle. She was also one of the architects of the novel Hypertension, Renal Failure, and Heart Failure PhysioLab model. Jeni then expanded her work globally on the PhysioLab platforms via training programs and consulting services. 

Jeni is excited to help advance UCSF’s world-class research to positively impact people’s health and lives. As the newly hired Program Director, Jeni will manage the diagnostics, digital health and bio-tools projects for the Catalyst Program.

Nathaniel Prorok

Program Manager

Nathaniel Prorok brings a diverse and wide ranging skill set and experience to the Catalyst Program team. After undergraduate studies in Physical Therapy and Athletic Training at Loyola Marymount University, Nathaniel worked with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps - International in Tacna, Perú, with local communities to develop sustainable solutions to the problems they faced in health and education. Afterwards, Nathaniel earned a graduate degree in Healthcare Administration from Marquette University and worked with Children’s Hospital Wisconsin to develop a medical home for youth in foster care. Prior to joining the Catalyst Program, Nathaniel completed a fellowship at the University of Utah Health where he worked on various population health, wellness, and social determinants of health projects.

Roopa Ramamoorthi, PhD

Associate Director

Roopa Ramamoorthi brings a diverse scientific background in drug development, bacteriology, biotechnology, and engineering. Prior to joining UCSF, Roopa was Associate Director Partnering and Scientific Affairs at BIO Ventures for Global Health, where her focus was putting together collaborations between academic, non profit and pharmaceutical organizations to accelerate the development of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for Neglected Tropical Diseases, TB and Malaria for the WIPO Re:Search Consortium. She worked for Bayer in California for more than five years as a scientist and senior scientist in development of antibody and other biological therapeutics and evaluating and bringing in platform technologies and has experience in science and technology consulting with Strategic Perspectives.

Roopa received her Ph.D. in biochemical engineering from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Washington and at MIT. She is a registered patent agent and holds a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. Roopa grew up in India where she received her B.S. in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai.