Meet the Team

Thomas V. O’Halloran

Faculty Director, Center for Developmental Therapeutics

Thomas V. O’Halloran, Ph.D., directs interdisciplinary research programming at the interfaces of cell and molecular and cell biology, nanotechnology and bioinorganic chemistry. In his role of the Director of the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute, Dr. O’Halloran brings together teams of researchers from the fields of chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, medicine, proteomics, nanobiotechnology, molecular therapeutics, and biological molecular imaging with the mission of developing new insights and engineering solutions to pressing biomedical problems.

Vadim Backman

Associate Faculty Director, Center for Developmental Therapeutics

Vadim Backman, PhD is the Walter Dill Scott Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Dr. Backman’s research is focused on bridging advances in biophotonics into biomedical research and clinical medicine. He develops novel optics technologies for characterization and imaging of biological tissue with a focus on the nanoscale and molecular levels. His research spans from cancer biophysics to novel optical diagnostic and imaging techniques to novel therapeutics and multi-center clinical trials.

Xiao-Nan Li

Faculty Director, Developmental Therapeutics Core

Xiao-Nan Li, Ph.D., M.D., is the Rachelle and Mark Gordon Endowed Professor in Cancer Research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  He joined Lurie Children’s in 2018 as director of Pediatric Xenograft Modeling at the Manne Research Institute and Professor of Pediatrics at Feinberg. Dr. Li came from Baylor College of Medicine. He actively participates in National Cancer Institute-sponsored research consortia and is one of the world’s foremost experts on pediatric xenograft modeling, which produces the most accurate recreation of how tumors in children will respond to anti-cancer drugs.


Bill Sargent

Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Center for Developmental Therapeutics

William Sargent, PhD, is former President and General Manager of Lorex Pharmaceuticals and member of Chicago Innovation Mentors.  Dr. Sargent has over 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, preceded by 10 years as an independent researcher in academia.  He  provides mentoring in the drug development process, from initiation to FDA marketing approval, to interested researchers across campus looking to explore commercialization.


Jack Henkin

Senior Translational Fellow, Research Professor

Jack Henkin has carried out and led biomedical research for over 30 years, more than 25 years being in drug discovery at Abbott Laboratories where he was named outstanding researcher of the year 2003 for advancing novel clinical development candidates to treat thrombosis, cancer and neovascular disease, and for pioneering safe novel targeted agents to treat cancer in pet dogs.

Wenan Qiang

Associate Director of Patient-Derived Cancer Models, Research Professor

Wenan Qiang, PhD, focuses his research on developing clinically relevant and molecularly profiled patient-derived xenograft (PDX) tumor models and 3D tumor spheroid/organoid cultures that cover a wide variety of human cancer types including solid tumors and hematologic malignancy.   He received an MD from Yan’an University, his PhD from Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, and did his postdoctoral research at the University of Cincinnati.

Nayereh Haack

Assistant Director

Nayereh Haack brings extensive experience in preclinical testing, study design and analysis, animal models of disease, IACUC compliance, team management and collaboration to this position. She has spent the past 7 years working with NU researcher Joe Moskal – first in his spin-out company, Naurex, and then at Aptinyx – and most recently in the role of senior research manager. Her prior experience includes stints at Abbott and Abbvie as a research pharmacologist and GD Searle.

Iwona Stepien

Sr. Core Specialist

Iwona Stepien has more than 10 years of laboratory research and management experience with an extensive background in the care and use of animals for research.  She previously worked in academic laboratories at Northwestern University as well as the University of Buffalo, and has a BA from the University of Lublin, Poland.

Lori Tran

Research Associate

I have over 15 years of laboratory research experience. I received my PhD at Northwestern University in the field of Neuroscience, where my focus had been on the effects of immune factors in the central as well as peripheral nervous systems that play important roles in both development as well as pain sensitization. For almost 10 years, I worked at Rush University Medical Center studying the pain pathway involved with knee osteoarthritis, using a mouse surgical model of osteoarthritis. I have extensive experience in immunohistochemical techniques as well as animal surgery.