Altis Biosystems was founded to address the biopharmaceutical industry’s intense need for more accurate drug screening methods, using in vitro platforms, which can more closely replicate human biology. The inadequacies of current drug development methods, prior to human testing, have left the industry with an unacceptable 88% failure rate in clinical trials and $151B spent every year on research and development. A key factor driving this dismal failure rate is the use of Caco-2 cells (cancer cells) and animal testing, which are an essential part of preclinical drug development, and cannot predict human results.

Altis considers its intestinal platform to be the next generation for in vitro testing during drug development. Altis’s platform allows scientists to develop safe and more effective drugs using normal human intestinal tissue. This will help to reduce the time and cost of drug discovery, as well as reduce the need for animal testing.

Altis Biosystems is a spin-out company from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and based in Durham, North Carolina. The intellectual property behind its stem cell platform was created as part of an NIH Transformative Research Award to develop a microfluidic organ-on-a-chip mimic of the human colon and awarded to Altis’ scientific founders. Altis’ platform produces a layer of human intestinal stem and differentiated cells, either of the small or large intestine. These cells can be used for compound screening, disease modeling, and microbiome research.

We are proud to have industry leading scientists on our team, capable of disrupting preclinical studies, and accelerating drug development to produce more effective drugs.

Altis Team


Management Team

Michael Biron

Michael Biron, MBA, is the CEO and a co-founder of Altis Biosystems. He has over 15 years of operations management experience in a variety of settings. He is a former U.S. Army Officer, with experience in project management, logistics, and leadership development. While serving in the army, he was responsible for managing up to 50 personnel, while stationed at home, and overseas. Prior to the military, Michael spent several years as a top sales representative. He also worked in project management, and was responsible for overseeing a variety of projects valued up to $26M. Michael has a bachelor’s degree from Penn State and an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, with a concentration in entrepreneurship.

Christopher Sims

Dr. Christopher Sims, MD, is the President and a co-founder of Altis Biosystems and is a Professor at the University of Washington. He holds a BS in Physical Sciences (Chemistry) from Auburn University and an MD from Johns Hopkins University. He completed a medical residency at the Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard University, and postdoctoral clinical fellowships in medicine and in rheumatology at Stanford University Hospital. His postdoctoral research work was in Physiology and Biophysics at the University of California, Irvine where he remained on faculty until his move to UNC-Chapel Hill in 2007. His current research is aimed at the development of cell-based assays and microfabricated technologies for clinical and biomedical applications, particularly in the field of stem cell research. Dr. Sims has been the scientific co-founder of three prior companies: Cell Biosciences(currently Protein Simple); Intellego, Inc.; and Cell Microsystems, Inc.

Scott Magness

Scott Magness, Ph.D., is the Chief Science Officer and a co-founder of Altis Biosystems and an Associate Professor in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and North Carolina State University (NC State), and Departments of Medicine, and Cell Biology & Physiology at UNC. He obtained his Ph.D. in Genetics & Molecular Biology from UNC Chapel Hill. Dr. Magness’ expertise is in stem cell biology, intestinal physiology, single-cell genomics, and high-throughput platforms to study factors that influence GI stem cell maintenance & differentiation and the microbiome. He is a member of the UNC Lineburger Cancer Center and has additional research programs focused on the cell-of-origin for Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine and gastric cancer. At Altis, he advises on primary gut cultures and the biology underling RepliGut. Dr. Magness is also the founder of SeqQuest LLC, that provides a software solution for high-dimensional data visualization.

Ron Laethem

Ron Laethem, Ph.D., is the Director of Biology and a drug disposition scientist with nearly 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology areas with expertise carrying out in vitro ADME studies. Ron comes to Altis Biosystems from BioIVT where he was the Director of ADME Services Operations at the site located in RTP. He was responsible for setting up and overseeing the in vitro ADME group focusing on non-GLP, drug-drug interaction studies for IND and NDA filings. Prior to BioIVT, he was with QPS, LLC as an Associate Director heading up the site located in RTP. He oversaw the daily business operations of the site and acted as the test facility manager for all in vitro studies carried out there. Ron joined QPS after leaving Triangle Research Labs, LLC where he served as the Senior Director of R&D, starting up and overseeing the company’s in vitro ADME contract research group.  Ron spent 8 years at BD Technologies working on improved in vitro tools for ADME scientists and before that he was one of the founders of HepatoTech, Inc., a start-up that was acquired by CellzDirect. Ron began his career at GSK and spent 9 years there working on developing and implementing new in vitro ADME tools and studying cytochrome P450 induction for project teams.

Joe McMahon

Joe McMahon, Board Member

Joe is the President and CEO of Bioventure Partners, a growth advisory and investment firm, serving high-impact, technology driven organizations. Previously, Joe was with KBI Biopharma, a biopharmaceutical CDMO from 2002 until 2016, having served as its President and CEO. During this period, KBI grew from a startup to a 500+ person organization, serving over 300 biopharmaceutical companies globally. In 2015, Joe led the sale of KBI Biopharma to JSR Corporation, a Tokyo-based multinational company. In 2016, Joe also led the sale of kSep Systems (a KBI Biopharma cell therapy technology spinout), to Sartorius AG. Prior to KBI, Joe was a Vice President with Covance Biotechnology Services (a biopharmaceutical CDMO) from 1996 until 2002, including the sale of Covance Biotechnology Services to Akzo Nobel in 2001. Previously, Joe led the engineering and technical services groups for a large medical device company.

Scientific Advisors

Nancy Allbritton

Dr. Nancy Allbritton, PhD, MD, is a co-founder of Altis Biosystems and Dean of the Engineering School at the University of Washington. Previously, Nancy was the Kenan Professor and Chair of the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and North Carolina State University (NC State). She obtained her Ph.D. in Medical Physics/Medical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her M.D. from the Johns Hopkins University. She is a Fellow in the American Institute for Medical & Biological Engineering and the AAAS, a member of the National Academy of Inventors and recipient of the 2016 ACS Award in Chemical Instrumentation. Dr. Allbritton’s research and commercialization efforts are directed at the development of new technologies by bringing to bear methods from engineering, chemistry, physics and biology to address biomedical problems. She is a founder of three prior companies, including Cell Biosciences (now Protein Simple), Intellego, and Cell Microsystems.

Yuli Wang

Yuli Wang, PhD, is an advisor and a co-founder of Altis Biosystems and works with Dr. Allbritton and Dr. Sims in developing new technologies to address important biomedical problems. Dr. Wang has experience in entrepreneurship development activities and has co-founded three university spin-off companies: Intellego Corporation (in 2005 which later became a subsidiary of Amkor Technology), Cell Microsystems (in 2010), and Altis Biosystems (in 2016). Dr. Wang obtained his Ph.D. from University of California, Irvine.