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Diane Keeney

Senior Program Specialist, Cumberland Emerging Technologies, Inc

Areas of Expertise:Fundraising, Healthcare, Product Design, Technology

In my role at Cumberland over the past 10 years I have managed a portfolio of collaborative, early-stage drug development projects optioned or licensed from Vanderbilt University and certain other academic centers. More than half of the active projects I now manage involve patented or patentable technologies originating at Vanderbilt. The overarching goal of these collaborative R&D programs is to advance development of the academic Investigator’s preclinical drug candidate along its critical path, assessing commercial feasibility as a new drug product as well as the drug candidate’s potential therapeutic benefits and risks. I lead Cumberland’s internal product development team meetings and project-specific team meetings involving academic inventors and Principal Investigators. I spearhead efforts to secure project funding for these translational R&D programs, both internally (Cumberland funded gifts or research agreements) and externally (NIH, private orgs, NGOs). I routinely co-write grant applications with Vanderbilt Investigators wherein Cumberland or Vanderbilt is the applicant organization, depending on the solicitation and stage of technology development. In these capacities, I interact with Vanderbilt faculty members on a weekly basis. Before joining Cumberland, I was a career research scientist of 20+ years with primary appointment in Medicine/Dermatology at Vanderbilt and appointments in Biochemistry and the Nashville VA as well. I conducted discovery research as Principal Investigator of NIH R01 grants and a VA Merit Award. My academic areas of preclinical expertise included molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry, endocrinology, toxicology and pharmacology, with specialization in cytochromes P450 metabolism and epithelial cell differentiation. Working full-time in the biopharma industry since 2009, I no longer publish results of my work because my work deals with proprietary information used to advance preclinical drug candidates towards marketable new drug products. My original research and contributions to science during my academic career pre-2009 are summarized herein.

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Q. What excites you most about the Wond’ry?

A.The energy in the space inspired by beautiful architecture, abundant natural light, open creative spaces and curious souls within.

Q. What do you feel are the most important skills you have to offer in your role as a mentor?

A. Decades experience sourcing funds for biomedical research R&D programs and ability to communicate technical information in writing, in an organized and clear manner for non-informed scientific reviewers.

Q. What has been your proudest moment in your career?

A. Successful transition from academia to biopharma industry, bridging these two worlds to address unmet medical needs.

Q. What has surprised you most about your job?

A. Upon transitioning from academia to my current job in biopharma industry, I gained new understanding of myself. I hadn’t previously appreciated that I am hardwired to work collaboratively, rather than competitively. I discovered my ethical core and only feel centered in my life when I live by it fully. Finally, I learned by experience that nurturing my personal life results in greater productivity and creativity at work.

Q. If you could do everything over again, would you make the same career choices?

A. No, but that is not a fair question. It wouldn’t be fun to go back to my childhood carrying the burden of a lifetime of knowledge.

Q. In your opinion, what is the most important quality for success?

A. To create balance between work and play and find happiness in both.

Q. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A. I loved nature and science, I was rapt upon learning the first time about DNA. My first career was thus in academia.