Exciting science starts with our team

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Laura Shawver, Ph.D., is president, chief executive officer, and director of Synthorx. Prior to joining Synthorx, Dr. Shawver held the following positions: CEO and director of Cleave Biosciences, entrepreneur-in-residence for 5AM Ventures, CEO and director of Phenomix Corporation, and president of SUGEN Inc. (acquired by Pharmacia). Dr. Shawver has been involved with a number of clinical development programs including two FDA-approved therapies. Dr. Shawver is currently a director of Relay Therapeutics as well as an advisor to the industry. She is an active member of the American Association for Cancer Research serving on the Scientific Advisory Committee for Stand Up to Cancer. Dr. Shawver knows firsthand what it is like to be a cancer patient. Having survived ovarian cancer, she turned that experience into the founding of The Clearity Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing access to molecular profiling for ovarian cancer patients to improve their treatment options. Dr. Shawver received her Ph.D. in pharmacology and a B.S. degree in microbiology both from the University of Iowa.
  • Wants you to know Synthorx made Science Alert’s list of 20 scientific facts we didn't know at the start of 2017.
  • Would like to visit the Galápagos Islands.
  • Is really good at fixing lawn mowers.
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Marcos Milla, Ph.D., is chief scientific officer at Synthorx. Dr. Milla’s experience in drug discovery spans across the areas of autoimmunity and inflammation, neurosciences and pain, and immuno-oncology. He has held industry and academic appointments at GlaxoSmithKline, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Roche Palo Alto, Janssen Research & Development, and, most recently, Adaptive Biotechnologies. He has previously directed efforts focusing on multiple intracellular and extracellular target classes, including cell surface and nuclear receptors, ion channels, kinases and proteinases. His work led to the discovery of a breakthrough series of small molecule modulators of cytokine-receptor interactions. He also explored novel ways of holistically reading pharmacological responses employing high content imaging and gene expression readouts. Dr. Milla graduated with a B.S. from Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru and a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology from Saint Louis University. He did his postdoctoral training at MIT as a Jane Coffin Childs Fellow and at Duke University.
  • Would like to travel the Silk Road.
  • Loves to eat Uni (Sea Urchin roe).
  • Is a published author of fiction in his home country of Peru.
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Joseph Leveque, M.D., is chief medical officer of Synthorx. Dr. Leveque joined Synthorx from his previous role as chief medical officer of ARMO BioSciences, a late-stage immuno-oncology company that was acquired by Eli Lilly in May 2018. Prior to this, he was chief medical officer of EMD Serono, the North American subsidiary of Merck KGaA and the vice president and head of U.S. medical oncology at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he was involved in the development and commercialization of the first generation of immuno-oncology therapeutics. Before his role at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dr. Leveque was the vice president of medical and scientific affairs at Onyx Pharmaceuticals. Earlier in his career, he served as vice president of medical and scientific affairs at Cephalon Oncology and as medical director at Amgen, where he worked on several therapeutic programs for solid tumor and hematological malignancies.
  • Omnilingualism is his superpower.
  • Is an Eagle Scout.
  • Wants to travel to the Moon.
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Justin Thacker, is the vice president, finance and controller at Synthorx. Mr. Thacker has over 20 years of experience in accounting and finance, including more than 10 years in various senior leadership roles in the life science industry. Mr. Thacker has been responsible for various functions including technical accounting, SEC reporting, financial planning and analysis, internal controls and treasury, and has been involved in numerous follow-on offerings and merger and acquisition transactions. Prior to joining Synthorx, Mr. Thacker was the Executive Director, Controller at ACADIA Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused central nervous system disorders. Prior to ACADIA, Mr. Thacker was the Senior Director, Finance at Auspex Pharmaceuticals, Inc. until its acquisition by Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries and at Cadence Pharmaceuticals, Inc. until its acquisition by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. Mr. Thacker began his career with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and is a certified public accountant. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and General Management and a Masters of Accountancy from Kansas State University.
  • Is an alumni of Kansas State University (not the Jayhawks of Kansas University—the Wildcats).
  • Wants to visit Thailand or India.
  • Is both a morning person and night-owl.
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Christian V. Kuhlen, J.D., M.D., is general counsel at Synthorx.  Dr. Kuhlen has a depth and breadth of expertise as general counsel for biotechnology companies, where he has been responsible for legal, SEC, human resources, intellectual property, and corporate governance functions. He has successfully managed a wide variety of financial transactions, including private financings, an initial public offering, and numerous follow-on offerings. Most recently, Dr. Kuhlen served as general counsel and secretary for Ignyta, Inc., where he coordinated two public financings and advised on the company’s acquisition by Roche. Before Ignyta, Dr. Kuhlen served as general counsel, vice president, and corporate secretary of Genoptix, Inc., where he led the legal and corporate governance functions from its initial public offering to its successful acquisition by Novartis. Prior to Genoptix, he was an attorney in private practice with Cooley LLP. Dr. Kuhlen holds a B.S. in biochemistry and cell biology and a B.A. in economics from the University of California, San Diego, and a M.D. and J.D. from the University of Southern California.
  • Wants you to know that mosquitoes will always eat him first. Always.
  • Wants you to know that mosquitoes will always eat him first. Always.
  • Losing one golf ball per hole, on average, is his superpower.
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Enoch Kariuki, Pharm.D., is senior vice president, corporate development at Synthorx.  Dr. Kariuki has significant experience in healthcare strategy, business development, and financing. He was most recently vice president at H.I.G. Capital, where he focused on investments in life sciences companies. His previous roles include senior associate at Leerink Partners and associate director at UBS Investment Bank. At Leerink and UBS, Dr. Kariuki advised healthcare companies on equity capital financings, mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, and recapitalizations. Dr. Kariuki did a post-doctoral fellowship in R&D strategy at Bristol-Myers Squibb and was a pharmacist at CVS Caremark. He holds an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and a Pharm.D. from Texas Southern University.
  • If he could travel anywhere it would be Australia.
  • If he could travel anywhere it would be Australia.
  • Loves to eat mangoes.
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Floyd E. Romesberg, Ph.D., is the scientific founder and a member of the board of directors of Synthorx. Prior to Synthorx, he served as the scientific co-founder and a member of the board of directors of RQx Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Genentech) and Achaogen, two biopharmaceutical companies focused on developing new antibiotics. Dr. Romesberg is also an associate professor of chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute. His academic research laboratory uses a broad range of interdisciplinary techniques, including non-linear optical spectroscopy, organic chemistry, microbiology, and genetics, to study different aspects of evolution. This work has been described in more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and Office of Naval Research. Dr. Romesberg is best known for developing unnatural base pairs for the expansion of the genetic alphabet and is also working to develop novel antibiotics, as well as to understand how evolution tailors protein dynamics and how cellular stress and DNA damage induce cell-cycle checkpoint responses and mutations. Dr. Romesberg performed his postdoctoral training with Dr. Peter Schultz at the University of California, Berkeley. He received a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from Cornell University and a B.S. in chemistry from The Ohio State University.
  • Is a Michigan fan who went to OSU.
  • Wants everyone to know p=ℏk.
  • Lost his superpower for tolerating the cold after moving to San Diego.
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Jay Lichter, Ph.D., is an entrepreneur and seasoned investor in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical arena with more than 25 years of expertise in management, scientific research, and business development. Dr. Lichter is the inventor on more than 260 patent and patent applications for six Avalon portfolio companies, including 78 issued patents. Dr. Lichter continues to be a powerful force in the pharmaceutical industry and has been involved in licensing or merger and acquisition deals valued in excess of $1 billion. Dr. Lichter led Avalon investments in and serves on the board of directors of Afraxis, Aratana Therapeutics, Carolus, Otonomy, and Sova Pharmaceuticals. He previously served on the board of RQx Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Genentech) and Zacharon Pharmaceuticals (acquired by BioMarin). He also serves as a board observer for Syndax. Prior to Avalon, Dr. Lichter held postdoctoral positions in pharmacogenetics at DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co. and human genetics at Yale University. Dr. Lichter received a B.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.
  • Wants you to know The Scientific Method works!
  • His superpower is detecting BS.
  • Has seen the Grateful Dead over 50 times.
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Vickie Capps has more than 20 years of experience as a chief financial officer and audit professional in the healthcare industry, including an 11-year tenure as executive vice president, CFO, and treasurer for DJO Global Inc., a global provider of medical devices. Earlier in her career, she spent 10 years with Ernst & Young as a senior audit and accounting professional. Mrs. Capps currently serves on the senior advisory board of Consonance Capital Partners, a healthcare-focused private equity firm, and the board of directors of its portfolio company, Enclara Pharmacia, a provider of pharmacy services to the hospice industry. She also serves on the boards of directors of two publicly traded life sciences companies, NuVasive and Otonomy, as well as private medical device company, OmniGuide. In addition, Mrs. Capps previously served on the boards of publicly-traded healthcare IT company Connecture until it was taken private by Francisco Partners, publicly-traded medical device company SenoRx until its acquisition by C. R. Bard, Inc., and private medical device company, RF Surgical Systems until its acquisition by Medtronic. She also serves as a member of the board of directors of the San Diego State University Research Foundation.
  • Australia is top of her list for places she'd like to travel.
  • Mind reading is her superpower.
  • Has been to Africa three times and hopes to return again.
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Peter Kolchinsky, Ph.D, is a founder, portfolio manager, and managing director at RA Capital Management. Peter is active in both public and private investments in companies developing drugs, medical devices, diagnostics, and research tools, and serves as a board member for various public and privately held companies, including Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Wave Life Sciences Ltd. Peter also leads the firm’s outreach and publishing efforts, which aim to make a positive social impact and spark collaboration among healthcare stakeholders, including patients, physicians, researchers, policy makers, and industry.  He authored “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to a Biotech Startup”, written on the biotech social contract, and served on the Board of Global Science and Technology for the National Academy of Sciences. Peter holds a B.S. from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Virology from Harvard University.
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    Floyd E. Romesberg, Ph.D., is the scientific founder and a member of the board of directors of Synthorx. Prior to Synthorx, he served as the scientific co-founder and a member of the board of directors of RQx Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Genentech) and Achaogen, two biopharmaceutical companies focused on developing new antibiotics. Dr. Romesberg is also a professor of chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute. His academic research laboratory uses a broad range of interdisciplinary techniques, including non-linear optical spectroscopy, organic chemistry, microbiology, and genetics, to study different aspects of evolution. This work has been described in more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and Office of Naval Research. Dr. Romesberg is best known for developing unnatural base pairs for the expansion of the genetic alphabet and is also working to develop novel antibiotics, as well as to understand how evolution tailors protein dynamics and how cellular stress and DNA damage induce cell-cycle checkpoint responses and mutations. Dr. Romesberg performed his postdoctoral training with Dr. Peter Schultz at the University of California, Berkeley. He received a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from Cornell University and a B.S. in chemistry from The Ohio State University.
    • Is a Michigan fan who went to OSU.
    • Wants everyone to know p=ℏk.
    • Lost his superpower for tolerating the cold after moving to San Diego.
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    Laura Shawver, Ph.D., is president, chief executive officer, and director of Synthorx. Prior to joining Synthorx, Dr. Shawver held the following positions: CEO and director of Cleave Biosciences, entrepreneur-in-residence for 5AM Ventures, CEO and director of Phenomix Corporation, and president of SUGEN Inc. (acquired by Pharmacia). Dr. Shawver has been involved with a number of clinical development programs including two FDA-approved therapies. Dr. Shawver is currently a director of Relay Therapeutics as well as an advisor to the industry. She is an active member of the American Association for Cancer Research serving on the Scientific Advisory Committee for Stand Up to Cancer. Dr. Shawver knows firsthand what it is like to be a cancer patient. Having survived ovarian cancer, she turned that experience into the founding of The Clearity Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing access to molecular profiling for ovarian cancer patients to improve their treatment options. Dr. Shawver received her Ph.D. in pharmacology and a B.S. degree in microbiology both from the University of Iowa.
    • Would like to visit the Galápagos Islands.
    • Wants you to know Synthorx made Science Alert’s list of 20 scientific facts we didn't know at the start of 2017.
    • Is really good at fixing lawn mowers.
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    Peter Thompson, M.D., is currently a private equity partner with OrbiMed who brings over 25 years of industry experience. He held executive positions at Becton-Dickinson and Chiron, cofounded and was CEO of Trubion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: TRBN), cofounded Corvus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CRVS), Cleave Biosciences, Silverback Therapeutics, and serves as a director on several company boards. Dr. Thompson is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awardee, an affiliate professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Washington, an inventor on numerous patents, and a board-certified internist and oncologist. He was on staff at the National Cancer Institute following his internal medicine training at Yale University.
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      Dr. Shah was president and chief executive officer of Auspex Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of novel medicines for people with movement disorders and its lead product, AUSTEDO (deutetrabenazine), is currently on the market. He first became involved in Auspex as an investor in 2007 and served as its chairman or executive chairman at various points in time until he took over as its chief executive officer in 2013. As chief executive officer, he took the company public and oversaw its growth until its eventual acquisition by Teva Pharmaceuticals for $3.5 billion in 2015. Dr. Shah was a partner in the healthcare venture capital firm Thomas, McNerney & Partners for almost a decade starting in 2004, and has served on numerous boards for both private and public companies. Prior to joining Thomas, McNerney & Partners, he co-founded two biotechnology companies and was also a consultant at McKinsey & Company in San Francisco. Dr. Shah obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology as well as his MBA in finance from the University of Chicago.
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        Our synthetic biology platform from the Romesberg laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute has been extensively optimized by the Synthorx team. We are integrating the technology to create improved protein therapeutics, which we call Synthorins™.

        Miguel Arcinas
        Associate Director, Corporate Development
        • Is an alumni of UCLA and Chicago Booth.
        • California burritos are his favorite thing about San Diego.
        • Would travel to Middle Earth (post-Sauron) if he could.
        Fran Senchak
        Vice President, Human Resources and Administration
        • Is an alumni of Louisiana Tech University.
        • Every community feeling like a small town is her favorite part of San Diego.
        • Has night-time snorkeled with Giant Manta Rays.
        Abby Beers
        Sr. Financial Analyst
        • Wants to travel to Venice.
        • Would like you to know that Venus is the only planet to spin clockwise.
        • Is obsessed with horses. Obsessed.
        Ingrid Joseph, D.V.M., Ph.D.
        Senior Director, Pharmacology
        • Wants you to know the human brain consumes about 20% of the body's oxygen and calories.
        • Persistence is her superpower.
        • Loves life and is a happy person.
        Hans Aerni, Ph.D.
        Scientist
        • Thinks San Diego is an amazing place for innovation with a bonus of being located in paradise.
        • Wants to travel to the bottom of the ocean in pursuit of new discoveries.
        • Used to be a firefighter.
        Curt Robak
        Associate Director, Information Technology
        • Is an alumni of Charter Oak State.
        • Wants to travel to distant galaxies on the Starship Enterprise…or New Zealand.
        • Loves to ski.
        Charisse Partridge
        Administrative Assistant
        • Could eat French fries every day.
        • Juggling visitors, conference rooms and invoices is her superpower.
        • Is a diehard Bills fan.
        Namit Singh, Ph.D.
        Scientist
        • Would like to travel to Greenland to experience the Aurora Borealis.
        • Humility and willingness to learn are his superpowers.
        • Memorized "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot during his commute to work.
        Justin Thacker
        Vice President of Finance
        • Is an alumni of Kansas State University (not the Jayhawks of Kansas University—the Wildcats).
        • Wants to visit Thailand or India.
        • Is both a morning person and night-owl.
        Lauri Ann Sutor
        A/P MegaStar
        • Would travel back in time if she could.
        • Would like you to know that sea horses do not have stomachs.
        • Picking the slowest checkout lane is her superpower.
        Pat Pio
        Executive Assistant to the CEO
        • Wants everyone to know getting older is not for sissies.
        • Organization and follow-through are her superpowers.
        • Was a professional bowler.
        David Chen
        Research Associate
        • Likes San Diego for its dog-friendly breweries.
        • Wants to travel to New Zealand.
        • Likes K-pop music.
        Laura Shawver, Ph.D.
        President, CEO, & Director
        • Wants you to know Synthorx made Science Alert’s list of 20 scientific facts we didn't know at the start of 2017.
        • Would like to visit the Galápagos Islands.
        • Is really good at fixing lawn mowers.
        Marcos Milla, Ph.D.
        Chief Scientific Officer
        • Would like to travel the Silk Road.
        • Loves to eat Uni (Sea Urchin roe).
        • Is a published author of fiction in his home country of Peru.
        Michelle Mazzoni, Ph.D., RAC
        Vice President, Regulatory Sciences and Quality Assurance
        • Would eat double-dipped milk chocolate covered peanuts every day if she could.
        • Finding typos in documents is her superpower.
        • Wants to take a return trip to China to walk The Great Wall and to see the Terracotta Army.
        Abby Docuyanan
        Research Associate II
        • Is an alumni of UCSD.
        • The amazing weather and beaches are her favorite things about San Diego.
        • DIY and crafting anything off of Pinterest are her superpowers.
        Tighe Reardon
        Acting Chief Financial Officer
        • Is able to leap tall spreadsheets in a single bound.
        • Is an alumnus of San Diego State University
        • Once scored 23 straight points to begin a basketball game.
        Joseph Leveque, M.D.
        Chief Medical Officer
        • Omnilingualism is his superpower.
        • Is an Eagle Scout.
        • Wants to travel to the Moon.
        Hannah Gazdziak
        Intern
        • Memorizing song lyrics is her superpower.
        • Would eat sushi every day if she could.
        • Can eat a whole jar of peanut butter in one sitting.
        Christy Sayers
        Administrative Assistant
        • Her family is her favorite part of San Diego.
        • Would travel to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry if she could.
        • Crafts with wine corks: wreaths, letters, trivets, to name a few.
        Shukuan Li
        Senior Research Associate
        • Likes San Diego for its mild weather.
        • Would like to travel to Europe.
        • Could eat fish every day.
        Ken Bragstad
        Senior Research Associate
        • Has an MBA from UC San Diego Rady School of Management.
        • Wants to travel to Mars.
        • Likes to read books and eat food.
        Michael Garcia
        Accounting Manager
        • Wants to travel to Croatia.
        • Loves that there’s always something fun to do in San Diego: beer festivals, music festivals, Del Mar Fair and Race Track, beach, parks, museums and fun restaurants.
        • Functioning on 4 hours of sleep is his superpower.
        Jenny Arthur
        Vice President, Finance
        • Wants everyone to know that Wintergreen Life Savers will spark when you bite them due to an effect of triboluminescence, which occurs as sugar crystals within the candy are fractured by mechanical force (in this case, chewing).
        • Wants to travel back to Colombia, South America, to show her family the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, which is located 200 meters underground within the tunnels of the salt mine.
        • Is an alumni of UCLA. Go Bruins!
        Enoch Kariuki, Pharm.D.
        Senior Vice President, Corporate Development
        • If he could travel anywhere it would be Australia.
        • Loves to eat mangoes.
        • Grew up in a small town on the border of Kenya and Tanzania called Rombo
        David Luo, MPH
        Vice President, Clinical Operations
        • Is an alumni of UCSD and UCLA.
        • The abundance of street tacos is his favorite thing about San Diego.
        • Wants to travel to Madagascar.
        Christian V. Kuhlen, J.D., M.D.
        General Counsel
        • Wants you to know that mosquitoes will always eat him first. Always.
        • Losing one golf ball per hole, on average, is his superpower.
        • Is a fifth generation Californian.
        Charles Winter
        Vice President of Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls
        • Had the unique opportunity to live and work abroad in Asia.
        • Is an alumni of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Go Badgers!
        • Would like you to know that the Law of Conservation of Energy tells us that energy in the universe cannot be destroyed; it can only be transferred or transformed.
        Chris Breitbarth
        Director of Laboratory Operations
        • Could eat Mexican food every day.
        • Getting stuff done is his superpower.
        • Was born and raised in San Diego.
        James Phillips
        Finance
        • Would eat tri-tip from Seaside Market everyday if he could.
        • Making homemade lasagna is his superpower.
        • Wearing flip flops In February is his favorite thing about San Diego.
        Carolina Caffaro, Ph.D.
        Principal Scientist
        • Combining creativity and focus at work is her superpower.
        • Wants you to know it can take three to five generations for Monarch butterflies to migrate 3,000 miles from Mexico to the northern U.S. but only one generation to complete the return trip.
        • Has backpacked through Uganda to visit mountain gorillas.
        Rob Herman
        Senior Research Associate
        • If he could, he would eat donuts every day.
        • Patagonia is his number one travel destination.
        • Would make a great addition to your bar trivia team, as a large portion of his brain is full of interesting, but mostly useless, knowledge.
        Lilia Koriazova, Ph.D.
        Director, Preclinical Development
        • Open-mindedness is her superpower.
        • Wants you to know that over a century ago, Ilya Metchnikoff theorized that manipulating the intestinal microbiome with host-friendly bacteria found in yogurt could lead to health enhancement and longevity.
        • Was born in a country that no longer exists.
        Lina Ma, Ph.D.
        Scientist
        • Wants to see the salt flats in Bolivia.
        • Curiosity is her superpower.
        • Likes to explore new things.
        Jasmine Nguyen
        Senior Research Associate
        • Would like to travel throughout the entire Asian continent.
        • Could eat Korean BBQ beef short ribs every day.
        • Has a proven track record of successfully expressing, purifying, and crystalizing both membrane and soluble proteins.
        Mike Pena
        Senior Research Associate
        • Is an alumnus of U.C. Santa Barbara.
        • Loves to travel.
        • Has swum with humpback whales in Tonga.
        Jerod Ptacin, Ph.D.
        Associate Director, Platform Development
        • Is an alumnus of University of Wisconsin, UC Berkeley, and Stanford University.
        • Would eat cheese pizza everyday if he could.
        • Caffeine tolerance is his superpower.
        Kristine San Jose
        Research Associate
        • Appreciates San Diego’s dog-friendly atmosphere and fantastic breweries.
        • Could eat breadsticks every day.
        • Has two dogs and two cats.
        Jennifer Weber
        Executive Assistant
        • Would like you to know that studies show being outside can make you happier; the ideal spot is outdoors near the water when the weather is warm, according to one study.
        • Intuition is her superpower.
        • Has a passion for music. She currently sings in a band and plays the flute.