About Us



Trana Discovery technology exploits this conserved region of tRNA. As infectious organisms are selected as targets, a unique probe, based on a pre-determined sequence, is developed to mimic the chemical structures of the ASL.

Scientists at North Carolina State University have long understood the crucial role of transfer RNA (tRNA). All organisms need tRNA for normal propagation. Inhibition of tRNA during RNA replication or blocking its recruitment during assembly should stop the replicative cycle, and the pathogen would not be able to survive.

Founders of Trana Discovery helped characterize the structure of tRNA, particularly of the ultra-conserved region, the anti-codon stem loop (ASL), of this complex protein. If chemicals that bind to the ASL region could be identified, thereby inhibiting the action of tRNA, new drugs could be crafted for use in treating human and animal diseases.

Trana Discovery provides a proprietary discovery technology platform that enables its partners to discover new treatments of bacterial, viral, and fungal infectious diseases. Our assays screen compounds to identify potential selective candidates that work through a novel mechanism of action: inhibition of the target pathogen(s) ability to use an organism-specific transfer RNA (tRNA), essential for propagation.

The need for new, effective treatments for infectious diseases is growing rapidly in every corner of the world. A plethora of highly effective antibacterial agents introduced in the 1970s and 1980s satisfied that need for a period of time, but because of the pathogens’ ability to develop resistance, many formerly effective drugs have lost their ability to control infections. There are now some strains of resistant bacteria for which there is no effective treatment. Additionally, emerging viral resistance continues to require the addition of new treatment modalities to keep HIV and other viral infections in check.

Our Management Team

The founders of Trana Discovery are scientists from North Carolina State University and from the Technical University, Lodz, Poland. Collectively, these scientists have published more than 50 scientific papers on tRNA. Trana Discovery was spun out of NCSU in 2005 to commercialize the drug discovery technology platform.

The executive management team now consists of Steve Peterson, Chief Executive Officer; Winnell Newman, Co-Founder; Dick Guenther, Co-Founder; Chief Technical Officer and Chief Development Officer; Vice President, Research; Michael Ossi, Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board; and Sam Yenne, Chief Science Officer. The entire management team consists of industry veterans with over 300 years collective experience in research, discovery, clinical, financial, accounting, sales, product development, and marketing. There are no full time employees and the management team have agreed to deferred compensation as independent agents.

Steve Peterson

STeve peterson

Chief Executive Officer

Steve brings over 40 years of experience in drug development and commercialization to Trana Discovery. His career spans several major pharmaceutical companies including Eli Lilly, Glaxo and GlaxoWellcome where he held positions in sales, marketing, product development and as liaison with key opinion leaders. He launched or assisted in the development of 16 separate brands including Ceftin, Epivir, Relenza, Epivir-HBV, Zinacef and Fortaz. As an independent consultant Steve has worked with key opinion leaders to assist companies in assimilating complex medical issues and distilling development plans for maximizing product potential.

Winnell Newman

Winnell Newman


Former Director of the Nucleic Acid Synthesis Facility at North Carolina State University (NCSU), Winnell co-developed the drug-discovery technology with her expertise in oligonucleotide synthesis. She has 25 years of laboratory management experience, nine years specializing in DNA and RNA oligonucleotide synthesis, and has published eight scientific articles. Prior to her work at NCSU, Winnell held biochemistry laboratory and instrumentation management positions at Ciba-Geigy and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Dick Guenther

Dick Guenther

Co-Founder & Chief Technology/Development Officer

Co-inventor of the Trana Discovery technology, Dick is a leader in the design and performance of critical experiments establishing the anti-infective technology targeting tRNA functions. He is a biochemist and expert on tRNA structure and function with more than 25 years of scientific project and laboratory management experience. Prior to working at NCSU, Dick worked in research at the University of Missouri Columbia and as a scientist for a contract research organization. He has published over thirty publications on RNA.

Michael Ossi, M.D.

Michael Ossi, M.D.

Chair of Scientific Advisory Board

Dr. Michael Ossi earned his MD degree from the University of Maryland and is board certified in pediatric and adolescent medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. After residency training, he completed a fellowship in infectious diseases at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Beginning in 1977, Dr. Ossi built and maintained a large pediatric practice while concurrently serving as a faculty advisor for the University of Massachusetts Medical School residency program. In 1988, he accepted a position at Glaxo Inc. and spent the next 18 years in clinical drug development at the director and VP levels, managing programs in various viral and bacterial diseases and several oncology programs. During that time, Dr. Ossi held a faculty appointment at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC and served as an attending physician in the pediatric acute care clinic. Dr. Ossi was Vice President, Infectious Diseases, Medicine Development at GlaxoSmithKline before retiring in 2007.

Ed Gallagher

Ed Gallagher

Vice President of Intellectual Property

Ed brings more than 25 years in the healthcare industry with positions at Glaxo, GlaxoWellcome, GlaxoSmithKline, and Ethicon, a J&J company. He has extensive experience combining quantitative tools with information to frame marketing problems and develop strategic responses in Pricing and Managed Care contracting, Sales Operations, New Product Marketing and Market Research and Forecasting all major therapeutic areas. This included brands with sales from less than $100 million to those exceeding $2 Billion.

Sam Yenne

Sam Yenne

Chief Science Officer

Sam has over 25 years of experience in the discovery and development of biologically active compounds. He started his career at Rhone-Poulenc Ag Company (now Bayer Crop Science) in metabolism chemistry where he was responsible for screening compounds for toxic side effects and conducting preclinical experiments. Sam was quickly promoted to Technical Development Manager of Insecticides responsible for expanding market share by launching new products and expanding the label of existing products. At Paradigm Genetics, Sam was responsible for target discovery and the development of high-throughput screening assays for these targets in addition to several preclinical projects for anti-infective compounds. More recently, He has been responsible for identifying active anti-infective compounds and their subsequent preclinical development along with the development of a new virus detection system.

Daniel Sternbach

Daniel Sternbach

Vice President of Medicinal Chemistry

Dan worked at GlaxoSmithKline for 21 years in cancer and metabolic diseases. He was one of the founding members of Glaxo’s US chemical research division and played a major role in the growth of this division. During his time at GSK Dan led projects that resulted in four clinical candidates (one in cancer, three in metabolic diseases). Before joining Glaxo he was a chemistry professor at Duke University for six years. Dan received his B.S. in chemistry from the University of Rochester (1971) and his Ph.D. (Organic Chemistry), from Brandeis University. He is the coauthor of more than 60 papers and patents.

Dan Mitchell

Dan Mitchell

Vice President, Strategic Services

Dan has over 25 years of pharmacy practice, teaching, and pharmaceutical industry experience that included patient care, clinical research, and drug information.  Prior to joining Trana Discovery, he directed the competitive intelligence department for Glaxo, Glaxo Wellcome, and GlaxoSmithKline, a position he held for more than 15 years.  Dan earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Drake University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Creighton University and completed a pharmacy residency in infectious diseases at Mercer University/Georgia Baptist Medical Center.

Chris Ellis

Pending Scientific Advisory Board Member

Chris earned his B.S. in Microbiology and shortly thereafter joined Eli Lilly where he worked for 4 years. Chris left Eli Lilly to pursue his Ph.D. in Microbiology at North Carolina State University where he was an NIH-Biotechnology fellow. As a graduate student Chris’s primary research focus was RNA biochemistry with research interests in non-coding RNAs such as: snoRNAs, RNase P, small ribosomal subunits, and 6S RNA. Following graduate school Chris was an IRTA postdoctoral fellowship at the NIEHS in Research Triangle Park, NC. Chris has a strong computational biology background that complements his training in microbiology. He has used this unique skill set to develop novel scripts for tRNA modification prediction, microRNA binding sites, snoRNA database, microbial community research, metagenomic analysis, and other molecular biology tools.

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