Get to Know Our Team – Retsina Meyer, PhD

Get to Know Our Team – Retsina Meyer, PhD
Retsina Meyer, PhD

Photo credit: Josh Sarinana, PhD – neuroscientist and award-winning photographer

Retsina Meyer, PhD
Business Development Manager, Cohen Veterans Bioscience

Dr. Retsina Meyer pairs pursuit of scientific endeavors with passionate execution to realize her vision to develop cures for mental illness.

Our incredible team at Cohen Veterans Bioscience is ever-expanding as we begin new initiatives and partnerships. As of this month, Dr. Retsina Meyer officially joined the team as our Business Development Manager. Having worked with Cohen Veterans Bioscience as a Consulting Scientific Program Manager since November 2016, this new position will capitalize on her background as a translational neuroscientist, the scientific founder of Resilience Therapeutics, and her involvement in the biotech entrepreneurship community.

Beyond her scientific skills and entrepreneurial acumen, Retsina brings a unique energy to our group. Talking to Retsina, she shared her perspectives on working with Cohen Veterans Bioscience, experiences as a scientist-entrepreneur, and her interest in the biological underpinnings of PTSD.

How did you first become involved with Cohen Veterans Bioscience, and what may be special about working with this organization?

I first came across Cohen Veterans Bioscience, which was Orion Bionetworks at the time, while at Resilience through an online webinar with Dr. Hugo Geerts. Before the webinar, Dr. Magali Haas introduced her approach to scientific innovation, e.g. expansive collaboration, multimodal discovery, and impact-driven programming that coordinates all stakeholders. I found this so compelling I reached out to Dr. Haas to meet!

Over the next year, our companies found a variety of ways to collaborate. I was continually struck by the depth and breadth of initiatives undertaken by Cohen Veterans Bioscience. The team that Dr. Haas has put together, both internal and external, is tremendous. In particular, the scientific crew are incredibly intelligent, extremely hardworking, and passionate about realizing the Cohen Veterans Bioscience mission, and I’m excited to be counted among this group.

Describe your role as Business Development Manager and how your experiences – for instance, with Resilience or other entrepreneurial endeavors – may influence your work here?

That is a great question! As scientist-entrepreneur, you not only have to perform excellent, robust science, but must also communicate complex ideas simply and effectively to compel interest and – hopefully – investment. Once funded, industrializing scientific programs requires reconciliation of long-term goals with regular achievement of near-term, inflection point-driven milestones while balancing budgets, team members’ efforts, and creative innovation. Finally, when building a company, so much becomes about relationships, partnerships, and finding that “win-win-win” solution whether it be for investors, employees, or your future customers.

The work we are doing at Cohen Veterans Bioscience requires leveraging skills developed in my past experiences, such as scientific acumen, communication capabilities, project management, and relationship development. While these are necessary for any position, they will be especially important as I shift into my new role on the Business Development team.

You have a varied and unique background! Is there anything that particularly influenced your interest in PTSD and brain diseases? 

The brain is one of the most fascinating areas of investigation. Hippocrates recognized that: “We ought to know that from the brain, and from the brain only, arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrow, pains, griefs and tears. Through it, in particular, we think, we see, we hear and we distinguish the ugly from the beautiful, the bad from the good, the pleasant from the unpleasant…”

Our brain is truly a remarkable organ. It tells us where we are, shows us our world, allows us to connect with and understand others. It makes us who we are in a way that your heart, your liver, or your muscles do not.  I have been drawn to studying the brain since I was a child and came to the field of neuroscience very early in my education. I remember picking up the text to my first biological psychology course and reading it from front to back as soon as we started.  I have engaged in research at all levels: from linguistics to genomics to electrophysiology.

Some of my early training focused on learning and memory, and I was fascinated by the ability to “see” the physical manifestation of memory, the engram, by recording cells “firing” in the hippocampus. My shift to studying the biological underpinnings of PTSD came naturally. PTSD can be thought of as a pathology of memory in that individuals with PTSD are not able to naturally “forget” the emotional salience of the trauma, leading to the persistent fear, hyperarousal, and anxiety that we know as PTSD. My varied background in neuroscience, from gene to cell to behavior, has enabled me to approach questions from multiple vantage points and engage with the diversity of scientists in the Cohen Veterans Bioscience network.

What books are you reading right now? What is your favorite book to recommend as a “must-read”?

Anyone looking to achieve great paradigm shifts in science must read “Organizing Genius: The Secrets to Creative Collaboration” by Patricia Ward Biederman and Warren Bennis. It is written as business case studies, but every case is the creation of “great groups” to solve “the big problems” in science. It speaks to what works and what doesn’t when trying to accomplish the impossible.. This book informs me how to productively engage, either as a leader or team member, so that the groups I am part of can go further, faster, and more creatively.

What else would you like to share with our readers? Do you have any experiences that influenced your perspectives on science and research?

I am a super-fan of Science Policy, whether it is to leverage science to make evidence-based policy decisions or to engage policy to facilitate scientific progress.

My personal relationship with science is deep, and I have always felt that science is not the endeavor of an individual, an institution, or a country: science is a human endeavor.


About Retsina Meyer, PhD

As a translational neuroscientist, Dr. Retsina Meyer is the scientific founder of Resilience – a startup focused on novel treatments for PTSD and other brain diseases. An active member of the biotech entrepreneurship community, Retsina works on local, national, and international programming to inspire scientist-entrepreneurs. Dr. Meyer has produced over 40 articles, abstracts, and lectures. Her academic discoveries gained international press, earned her a speaking engagement at the local TEDx conference, and served as the instigating discovery to found Resilience.

As an entrepreneur, Retsina is an alumna of MassBIO’s MassCONNECT program and SpringBoard’s Life Sciences Accelerator and is the 2014 champion of the international OneStart competition awarded by GSK’s SR One.

She obtained a Neuroscience Ph.D. at MIT where she earned five named fellowships, was a Presidential Fellow, Imperial College of London Global Fellow, and a Graduate Woman of Excellence. She served as a science advocate with the Science Policy Initiative, performing outreach, giving lectures, and meeting with members of congress to appeal for science and scientific funding.

Prior to her work at MIT, Dr. Meyer was a Fulbright Scholar, serving as a representative of the U.S. to Norway, where she worked in the lab of 2014 Nobel Prize winners Drs. May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser. She holds bachelor’s degrees in applied mathematics, biochemistry and molecular biophysics, and biopsychology from the University of Arizona where she was a Baver Scholar, and worked in the laboratories of Dr. David Rowe, Dr. Carol Barnes, and Dr. Bruce McNaughton.