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Scientific and Clinical Advisors

Joseph Vacca, Ph.D.
Drug Discovery

Dr. Joseph Vacca has more than 40 years of experience in small molecule drug discovery.

He joined Merck Research Laboratories in 1981 and has made major contributions to several approved drugs including the HIV protease inhibitor CRIXIVAN™ (indinavir sulfate), the HIV integrase inhibitor Isentress™ (raltegravir); HCV protease Inhibitors (Vanihep™, vaniprevir), the combination product Zepatier™ which is a combination of the second generation HCV protease inhibitor grazoprevir and the NS5A protein Inhibitor elbasvir and the recently approved second generation NNRTI inhibitor doravirine. Dr. Vacca retired from Merck in 2011 and took a role as Senior Vice President of Early Success Sharing Partnerships at WuXi AppTec Limited. He left WuXi in Sept. 2015 to work with small companies as a Medicinal Chemistry consultant. Dr. Vacca has over 100 publications and patents and is the holder of many awards including a Merck Directors Award (1998); PhRMA Discoverers Award (1999); Intellectual Property Owners “National Inventor of the year Award” (1997); European Inventor of the Year (non-EU nation) (2007); ACS “Award for Creative Invention” (1999); and was a named a Merck Research Laboratories Presidential Fellow in 2008. He was inducted into to the American Chemical Society Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame (Aug. 2012) and was also named a “Hero of Chemistry” (along with the research team) for his role in the discovery and development of the HIV integrase inhibitor Isentress™.


He earned his BS in chemistry in 1977 from St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York, and obtained his Ph.D. degree in Organic Chemistry under Professor Peter T. Lansbury Sr. at the State University of New York at Buffalo (Buffalo, New York).

Niti Goel, MD, FACR
Clinical Development

Dr. Goel is a board-certified rheumatologist and physician-scientist who brings to light the clinical and market potential of novel molecules and products. With over 20 years in clinical development, business development, and medical affairs, her career has spanned academia, biotech, and pharma: Kezar, IQVIA, Array, UCB, P&GP, UTMB, and Duke. Dr. Goel provides deep experience in the clinical development of small molecules, biologics, and stem cell therapies and currently is an independent consultant supporting biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Previously at Kezar, Dr. Goel, as its Chief Medical Officer, was instrumental in the growth of the clinical development organization, supported a successful IPO, and advanced the development of KZR-616 in the clinic. Prior to Kezar, she was Vice President of Strategic Drug Development at IQVIA, where she focused on the design and implementation of clinical trials as well as development and commercialization planning for molecules in autoimmunity and autoinflammation. Before IQVIA, Dr. Goel served in Clinical Development and Medical Affairs roles at Array BioPharma, UCB Pharma, and Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals (P&GP), focusing on the development and commercialization of both small molecules and biologics in the rheumatology/immunology area. After completing her postgraduate training, she spent approximately 10 years with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in the Division of Rheumatology. Dr. Goel received her BS degree in Science at Pennsylvania State University and her MD degree, summa cum laude, from Jefferson Medical College. She completed her training in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology at Duke University Medical Center. She also serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medicine at Duke and continues to see patients and train residents and rheumatology fellows.

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