The Wake Forest Innovations Team
Meet Our Team Leader
Todd Ponzio, PhD
Associate Vice President
Todd Ponzio leads the daily operations of Wake Forest Innovations, turning ground-breaking research from the Wake Forest Baptist Health system and Wake Forest University into innovative commercial products and services that improve patient care and the human condition. Ponzio’s enthusiasm for translational research and grasp of product development provides the momentum and guidance needed to turn ideas into marketplace realities. His previous experience includes working in technology transfer offices at the National Institutes of Health and leading the Office of Research and Technology Applications at the Naval Medical Research Center where he advanced a host of technologies, including malaria vaccines and vaccines against bacterial diarrhea diseases. He also holds a faculty appointment as Assistant Professor in the Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, where he focuses his own research interests.
Wake Forest Innovations Operations
Director of Operations
Chad Nolan leads finance, accounting and operations management for Wake Forest Innovations and Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, including human resources, legal contracting and performance metrics management. His focus is to improve health by providing operational support to the Centers of Wake Forest Innovations.
Previously, Nolan served as Director of External Agencies and Affairs for Piedmont Triad Research Park, Manager of Wake Forest University Health Sciences Subsidiaries & External Agencies and the principal Business Officer for the Center for Applied Learning.
Industry Research Collaboration
Susan Appt, DVM
Associate Director, Preclinical Translational Services
As leader of Preclinical Translational Services, Susan Appt ensures that her team of surgical and technical staff have access to the resources they need to support faculty and industry studies at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Wake Forest School of Medicine. Appt draws from her extensive expertise in large animal studies and model development to guide and manage preclinical studies supported by her team. She brings a “team player” philosophy to her job and is passionate about helping each person accomplish their part of the team’s mission.
Heather DeLoid, DVM
Associate Surgical Research Veterinarian
Heather DeLoid works with industry partners and researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to coordinate surgical and veterinary clinical support for preclinical studies, often serving as the lead surgeon with a team of veterinary technicians. She pulls from her experiences in preclinical contract research, the medical device industry and clinical veterinary practice to design and perform studies. An outgoing person, DeLoid enjoys interacting with a variety of clinicians, researchers and industry sponsors to build relationships and foster collaboration.
Erica Hale, MS
Project Manager, Industry Partnerships
Erica Hale coordinates and supports industry-funded research conducted by the faculty and researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. With over 15 years of research experience at Wake Forest, Hale uses her experience to build and maintain successful academic-industry relationships. Her passion is helping Wake Forest Baptist faculty make new discoveries through successful partnerships.
Jade Lackey provides support for industry-sponsored research through study design, data collection methods and strategies for data management, in addition to serving as a liaison between study sponsors and researchers. She brings valuable scientific experience from her extensive background working in nonhuman primate research. Because of her outgoing personality, Lackey enjoys building relationships with both faculty and industry sponsors.
Susan Martelle, PhD
Project Manager, Industry Partnerships
Susan Martelle develops and supports collaborative relationships with faculty members and aligns their academic interests with industry partners. She understands the challenges of scientific research and is adept at reading and interpreting data sets from her own work as a principal investigator. This experience gives her a unique perspective as a researcher, which helps her forge partnerships between industry and faculty. Being detail-oriented, Martelle quickly ingests important information and easily organizes it to achieve the team’s goals.
Technology Innovation & Commercialization
Senior Patent Agent
Katherine Brown oversees the intellectual property portfolio for Wake Forest Innovations and ensures compliance for federally funded inventions. With prior experience as a paralegal and now a patent agent, Brown has developed a deep knowledge of the patent process and how to apply the right strategies to protect inventions. Passionate about her role in improving health and bringing technologies to fruition, Brown loves learning and applying new knowledge to all areas of her work.
Philip Brown, PhD
Philip Brown helps faculty members turn their ideas into functioning medical devices by developing and validating prototypes. His background in biomedical engineering and 3D printing gives him the skills and resources to design and produce quality prototypes quickly and efficiently. Self-described as “extremely curious,” he relishes the opportunity to dive deep into new projects or technologies—from stents and syringes to implants and surgical tools.
John Druga, MS, MBA
Licensing Director, Technology Commercialization
John Druga works with both inventors and industry to usher new medical technologies to the marketplace by matching technologies with the best industry fit. With a background in product development, biomedical engineering and finance, Druga brings a wealth of experience to the commercialization of medical technologies. His natural curiosity drives his understanding of the marketplace and his motivation for helping advance ideas from inventions to innovations.
Stefan Grant, MD, JD, MBA
Director, Intellectual Property Strategy and Management
Grant helps Wake Forest Baptist faculty develop robust intellectual property, providing scientific, medical, legal and business advice about technologies and their commercialization prospects. His varied background in medicine, law and business—including time as the general counsel of a pharmaceutical company and a practicing intellectual property attorney—provides him with a unique perspective on technology development and commercialization. Grant has a willingness to explore alternative approaches to problems and believes that honest disagreement can help provide better solutions, an outlook he brings to the table when protecting and developing technologies.
Deepika Poranki, PhD
Senior Innovations Associate
Deepika Poranki works hands-on with inventors, helping them evaluate their technologies and guiding individual projects—primarily therapeutics—through the stages of development. She understands both sides of commercializing medical technologies through developing a keratin biomaterial as a preclinical researcher and from working in business development for a biopharma start-up. Her love of “talking science” makes her excited about working with inventors and helping them blaze a trail for their inventions.
Director of Technology Innovation
Kenneth Russell helps inventors turn their ideas and inventions into licensable medical devices and digital healthcare products. After more than 25 years in the medical devices industry, his expertise aids academic inventors in creating quality devices that are valuable to industry partners by using the resources of Wake Forest School of Medicine to design, test and develop commercially-ready medical devices and digital healthcare products. The guiding principle of his work is improving patient care.
Dean Stell holistically manages a portion of Wake Forest’s technology portfolio ranging from ideation, intellectual property protection, out-licensing and post-license management. He has spent the bulk of his career contributing to the commercialization of academic-stage technologies and that makes him successful in a broad range of areas.
Osama Zahid, PhD
Osama Zahid partners with Wake Forest Baptist researchers to evaluate the commercialization potential of their innovative technology ideas. Zahid earned a master’s degree in biotechnology and a PhD from Wake Forest University, developing single-molecule diagnostic tools for disease detection. His experience helps him identify with the scientific process of potential inventors while helping them discover their idea’s potential in the marketplace. A natural extrovert, Zahid has a passion not only for seeing science actualized, but also for networking and building relationships with researchers.