President and CEO
Michael Kaplan joined the Melanoma Research Alliance as President & CEO in 2016. Building on more than 25 years of executive non-profit and public health leadership experience, Mr. Kaplan has a proven record as a passionate supporter of health research and policy. Mr. Kaplan is responsible for strategic direction, overall management and raising capital to achieve MRA’s mission of ending suffering and death due to melanoma and to foster collaboration with all stakeholders to accelerate powerful research, advance cures, and prevent more melanomas.
Mr. Kaplan has headed nonprofits and patient advocacy groups across the United States and internationally. He has managed international and domestic grant-making portfolios focused on disease surveillance, prevention and treatment. Prior to joining MRA, he served as the President and CEO of Washington, DC-based AIDS United. Additional leadership positions have included Executive Director of Cascade AIDS Project in Portland, Ore., Vice President at the Academy for Educational Development, and Deputy Director roles at both the Futures Group International and the National Youth Advocacy Coalition in Washington, DC. He has served on the boards of several organizations focusing on everything from health issues to grant-making, and behavior health to healthy youth development.
Mr. Kaplan has been touched in his personal family orbit by both melanoma as well as another cancer, mesothelioma, and holds a passion for finding better treatments and cures to reduce the suffering brought about by Melanoma. Mr. Kaplan holds a B.A. in Child Psychology and an M.A. in Adult & Community Education from the University of Minnesota
Louise M. Perkins, Ph.D.
Chief Science Officer
Dr. Perkins joined the Melanoma Research Alliance as Chief Science Officer in 2013 where she is responsible for the development and implementation of the MRA’s scientific strategy to eliminate suffering and death due to melanoma. Her interests center on translational research including genomics, drug discovery and advancement of novel therapeutic approaches. Prior to joining the MRA, she was Chief Scientific Officer at the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) for five years, following a 16-year research career at two major pharmaceutical companies.
While at the MMRF, Dr. Perkins led the continued expansion of its venture philanthropy investments including its Biotech Investment Award and Clinical Fund programs. She was responsible for the expansion of the MMRF’s Genomics Initiative, which sequenced the first myeloma tumor genome in 2009 and has comprehensively analyzed 250 myeloma patient samples with an array of genomic technologies including next-gen sequencing. More recently, Dr. Perkins led the development of the genomics and data sharing strategy underpinning the 1,000 patient longitudinal study, CoMMpasssm, which aims to develop new targets and biomarkers through deep clinical and molecular data capture and analysis.
Prior to joining the MMRF, Dr. Perkins was Director of Cancer Research at Bayer Pharmaceuticals, where she contributed to advancing novel targeted therapies toward clinical study, including Nexavar® and other innovative signal transduction inhibitors. While at Bayer, she also served as the Director of Research Licensing and was responsible for oncology licensing activities in support of cancer research programs. Prior to joining Bayer, she led a cancer research group at the Schering-Plough Research Institute where she participated in several early-stage research programs, including novel target-finding research using human genomics data.
Dr. Perkins graduated from the University of Michigan with a PhD and MS in Biological Chemistry and conducted postdoctoral studies at Princeton University in the Department of Molecular Biology. She earned her BS in Zoology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Laura M. Brockway-Lunardi, Ph.D.
Scientific Program Director
Laura Brockway-Lunardi joined the Melanoma Research Alliance in 2009 with more than 10 years of experience in scientific program management, science policy, and biomedical research. She currently manages MRA’s research awards, including the solicitation, peer review, and oversight of approximately $8 million per year in funded programs. She is also responsible for coordinating MRA’s annual Scientific Retreat.
Prior to MRA, Dr. Brockway-Lunardi was scientific program manager at the International Life Science Institute North America, where she coordinated programs on nutrition and health. From 2004-2008, she was senior science policy analyst at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, developing policy recommendations on biomedical research issues, including conflicts of interest, scientific publishing, and grant review, as well as contributing to advocacy efforts for federal research funding. She was a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable of the National Academy of Sciences, contributing to their studies of intellectual property in academic-industry relationships and U.S. science and technology competitiveness.
Dr. Brockway-Lunardi received her doctorate in Vision Science from the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she was president of the Industry Roundtable, an organization dedicated to fostering a greater awareness of science careers outside academia. She received her bachelor's degree in biology with honors from Florida State University.
Scientific Program Manager
Tasheema Prince is the Scientific Program Manager for the Melanoma Research Alliance. She brings over 12 years of experience working with researchers and scientists in the medical community, including the National Institutes of Health. She began her career at a medical publishing company in New York City, where over a 7-year period she held positions in editorial, marketing, sales, and production. More recently, she worked as a consultant for an international public health firm dedicated to improving the quality of healthcare, social service, and health education worldwide. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Stony Brook University.
Database Manager, CRM and Donor Communications
Rachel Gazzerro is responsible for constituent relationship management and donor communication software, including the establishment of standard business processes, data management, and reporting. Gazzerro joined MRA in 2015 from the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization, where she worked in the development department managing the Institute’s CRM and coordinating major benefit and cultivation events. She previously worked in the development department at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and managed the Orientation Programs at The Catholic University of America. She graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in political theory from The Catholic University of America.