Our Team

Executive Management

Sami El-Saden

CEO and Chairman of the Board

Mr. El-Saden most recently served as President & CEO of Ignite USA, the North American market leader in environmentally safe reusable beverage containers. He transformed it from an industrial design firm into one of the fastest growing consumer product companies in the U.S. with over $300 million in sales. He sold the business to Newell Brands, one of the leading consumer goods companies in the world with over $16 billion in sales. Prior to Ignite, he held senior marketing and business development positions at Nestle USA, Favorite Brands International and EthnicGrocer.com, an internet start-up funded by Kleiner Perkins, Benchmark Capital and others. Sami spent his early career as an investment banker in corporate finance at Smith Barney, Harris Upham and Banker’s Trust Company. Mr. El-Saden received his MBA from the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA and graduated with distinction in 1984 from Stanford University with a B.A. in Economics.

Adrian Ponce, Ph.D.

Founder & Chief Science Officer

Founder and Chief Science Officer for Verrix, Dr. Ponce has an extensive resume of research and development accomplishments including patents, publications and successful NASA development initiatives. Adrian received his Doctorate in Chemistry from Caltech which led him to join an exclusive team at Jet Propulsion Laboratory that continues to develop new to world technologies.

Kok-Hwee Ng, Ph.D.

Research & Development

Dr. Ng combines a passion for emerging technology with over two decades of leadership and management experience in the medical device industry. He is a MedTech architect whose creations have been motivated by customer value, and influenced by experiences in product engineering and scientific discoveries. His unique skill set comes with a track record at both start-ups and Fortune 500 companies (Orthosensor, St. Jude Medical, Stryker, Boston Scientific, Johnson & Johnson, Baxter International, General Electric Medical Systems). Kok-Hwee received his Ph.D in Biomedical Engineering and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University. He also holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the National University of Singapore.

Scientific Advisory Board

Sigal Ben-Yahuda, Ph.D.

Sigal Ben-Yehuda obtained her PhD at the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology of the Tel-Aviv University, Israel and subsequently carried out post-doctoral research on the sporulation of Bacillus subtilis in the laboratory of Professor Richard Losick at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology of Harvard University, USA. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the Institute for Medical Research, Israel-Canada (IMRIC) in the faculty of Medicine of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research focusses on understanding the process of bacterial cell division. She has received many academic awards including The Sir Zelman Cowen Prize for discovery in medical research (2011) the ISM (Israel society for microbiology)-Shilo Award (2011) and the Hebrew University President’s Award (Ben-Porat) for excellence in research (2007).

Scott E. Fraser, Ph.D.

Professor Scott E. Fraser has a long-standing commitment to quantitative biology, applying the tools of chemistry, engineering, and physics to problems in biology and medicine. His personal research centers on imaging and molecular analyses of intact biological systems, with an emphasis on early development, organogenesis, and medical diagnostics.  In Fall 2012, he moved to USC to take a Provost Professorship in the Dornsife College of Letters Arts and Sciences, the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Keck School of Medicine and the Viterbi School of Engineering. He remains active in interdisciplinary research and serves as the Director of Science Initiatives for the USC campuses.

Harry B. Gray, Ph.D.

Dr. Gray received his B.S. in Chemistry from Western Kentucky University in 1957. He began his work in inorganic chemistry at Northwestern University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1960 working under Fred Basolo and Ralph Pearson. He was initiated into the Upsilon chapter of Alpha Chi Sigma at Northwestern University in 1958. After completing his NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Copenhagen, he went to New York to take up a faculty appointment at Columbia University. In 1966, he moved to the California Institute of Technology, where he became the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and founding director of the Beckman Institute.

Aaron Noell, Ph.D.

Dr. Noell a scientist at JPL and developing instruments for the assessment of habitability and the search for extant life on other bodies in the solar system. His instrument development has focused on microfluidic implementation of capillary electrophoresis, ion chromatography, and selective electrochemical detection (e.g., ion selective electrodes). Additionally, he has worked to develop sample handling and extraction techniques compatible with microfluidic instruments, such as subcritical water extraction. Previously, he was an NPP Postdoc at JPL working on instrumentation to detect bacterial spores for both biodefense and astrobiology purposes, and received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Caltech in 2010.

Jay Winkler, Ph.D.

Jay R. Winkler is a Faculty Associate in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), a Member of the Beckman Institute at Caltech, and Director of the Beckman Institute Laser Resource Center. Winkler has a B.S. in Chemistry from Stanford University, and Ph.D. in Chemistry from Caltech. He has authored more than 230 research publications spanning a range of disciplines including: inorganic, organometallic, and bioinorganic chemistry; steady-state and time-resolved laser spectroscopy; photochemistry; and photophysics.