Leadership Team

Laura Shawver, PhD

Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Shawver is an experienced Biotech executive with more than 25 years of experience in the development of small molecule drugs for cancer and other serious diseases.   Prior to joining Cleave Biosciences as Chief Executive Officer and driving the $54M Series A financing, she was an Entrepreneur in Residence for 5AM Ventures beginning October 2010.  From 2002 - 2010, Dr. Shawver was the Chief Executive Officer of Phenomix Corporation where she also served on the Board of Directors.   Phenomix was a venture-backed company that developed dutogliptin through a successful Phase 3 clinical trial and attracted collaborations from Forest Laboratories and Chiesi Farmaceutici.  Previously, Dr. Shawver was the President of SUGEN Inc. from 2000 after holding various positions since 1992.  SUGEN focused on understanding key molecular pathways of cancer cells and developed the drugs Sutent™ and Palladia™.  The company was acquired by Pharmacia in 1999.  Prior to SUGEN, she was employed at Berlex Biosciences, formerly known as Triton Biosciences.  She is an active member of the American Association for Cancer Research and also a member of American Society for Clinical Oncologists.   Dr. Shawver is the Founder of The Clearity Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing access to molecular profiling for ovarian cancer patients to improve their treatment options.  Shawver received her PhD in Pharmacology and a BS degree in Microbiology, both from the University of Iowa.

Kerry Kelly, Esq

Sr. Vice President, Operations

Kerry Kelly is a highly experienced lawyer, licensed to practice in California for the past 30 years, with over 15 years in the biotechnology industry. Most recently, Ms. Kelly has been representing a number of small biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies, primarily in the Bay Area. In this capacity, she provided broad legal and business services to support research, pre-clinical and clinical development, intellectual property, fundraising, and human resources. Ms. Kelly previously served as the General Counsel of Ambit Biosciences, where she was a member of the executive team and responsible for legal and G&A functions, and was involved in the company’s financings and pharma collaborations. Before her role at Ambit, Ms. Kelly was the Associate General Counsel at The Scripps Research Institute, overseeing conflicts of interest, corporate compliance, and advising the technology transfer group. Prior to joining Scripps, she served as Senior Director and Head of Corporate and Legal Affairs for SUGEN (later acquired by Pharmacia/Pfizer), where she was responsible for business development and strategic alliances, oversight of IP, and general legal matters. Earlier in her career, Ms. Kelly was a partner in a California commercial law practice. Ms. Kelly received her J.D. from Santa Clara University and her B.A and M.A. from Stanford University.

Jesse Vargas, PhD

Head of Biology

Dr. Vargas has 5 years of research experience in cell-based assay development for immune systems signaling and oncology target discovery and validation. Prior to joining Cleave, Dr. Vargas managed multidisciplinary microscopy core facilities for the Quantitative and Computational Biosciences Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles and the San Diego Center for Systems Biology at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Vargas received his PhD in molecular and cell biology from the University of California, San Diego in conjunction with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies where he was awarded the AGEP, Cota-Robles, and Rose-Hills Foundation fellowships, and the Graduate Student Association Leadership Award for policy work. He received a MS in Molecular and Cellular Physiology from the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Carbondale were he was awarded an NSF Fellowship, and a BS in Chemistry and a BS in Biology from the University of California, Irvine.