John Leavitt, Ph.D.

John Leavitt, Ph.D.

“Biotechnology is still in its infancy with regard to the medical benefits that will eventually be realized.”
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Analyst John Leavitt, Ph.D., helps life science companies develop solutions to critical problems and pursue novel business strategies. Dr. Leavitt applies his expertise in the biotech fields of diagnosis and treatment of human diseases, genetics, and cell and molecular biology to help companies make informed decisions.

Dr. Leavitt’s academic career as a molecular and cell biologist started as a graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, then as a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University in cancer research. He was a senior fellow at the National Institutes of Health and a career civil servant with CBER, a part of the FDA located on the NIH campus involved with regulation of vaccines and biologic drugs. Later, as a senior scientist at the Linus Pauling Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., Dr. Leavitt cloned and characterized several important human gene families linked to the development of cancer. After six years at the Pauling Institute, he became Scientific Director at the California Institute for Medical Research, and then Director of Research at Adeza Biomedical. During his academic career, Dr. Leavitt was responsible for the isolation of four fundamental human genes and the development of two powerful gene promoters for genetic engineering of cells and tissues. His research was supported with grants and contracts from the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, the U.S. Air Force, and private foundations.

Dr. Leavitt has published over 60 research papers. He also has three patents, one of which Stanford University successfully licensed to the biotech industry.


  • Senior Fellow, National Institutes of Health (FDA)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins University
  • Ph.D., Biochemistry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • B.S., Chemistry, Bethany College

Special Appointments

  • Peer Review NIH Funding Study Sections
  • Army Breast Cancer Funding Study Section
  • Consultant for the Channing, Weinberg Venture Fund
  • Visiting Scientist, Laser Lab, U.S. Air Force Academy

Selected Publications

  • Stott, B, “Therapy in the Cellular Age”, Leavitt, J quoted in Therapy Times, March 24, 2008
  • Leavitt, J, “The Skinny on Stem Cells: Successful Human Cloning Stirs Hope and Controversy”, Nerac Insights,, February 2008
  • Leavitt, J, “Better Than Stem Cells? Short Interfering RNA Hold Promise For Dramatic New Treatments”, Nerac Insights, May 2007
  • Lin, CS, Part, T, Chen, ZP, Leavitt J, “Human plastin genes. Comparative gene structure, chromosome location, and differential expression in normal and neoplastic cells”, J. Biol. Chemistry 268:2781-92, 1993
  • Lin, CS, Aebersold, RH, Kent, SB, Varma, M, Leavitt, J, “Molecular cloning and characterization of plastin, a human leukocyte protein expressed in transformed human fibroblasts”, Molec. Cell Biology, 8:4689-68, 1988
  • Gunning, P, Leavitt J, Muscat, G, Ng, SY, Kedes, L, “A human beta-actin expression vector system directs high-level accumulation of antisense transcripts,” Proceedings Natl Acad Sci, USA 84:4831-5, Communicated by Linus Pauling, 1987
  • Aebersold, RH, Leavitt, J, Saavedra, RA, Hood, LE, Kent, SB, “Internal amino acid sequence analysis of proteins separated by one- or two-dimensional gel electrophoresis after in situ protease digestion on nitrocellulose”,  Proceedings Natl Acad Sci, USA 84:6970-4,,Communicated by Leroy Hood, 1987
  • Leavitt, J, Ng, SY, Varma, M, Latter, G, Burbeck, S, Gunning, P, Kedes, L, “Expression of transfected mutant beta-actin genes: transitions toward the stable tumorigenic state”, Molec. Cell. Biology, 7:2467-76, 1987
  • Ng, SY, Gunning, P, Eddy, R, Ponte, P, Leavitt, J, Shows, T, Kedes, L, “Evolution of the functional human beta-actin gene and its multi-pseudogene family: conservation of noncoding regions and chromosomal dispersion of pseudogenes”, Molec. Cell. Biology, 5:2720-32, 1985
  • Leavitt, J,; Gunning, P, Porreca, P, Ng, SY, Lin, CS, Kedes, L, “Molecular cloning and characterization of mutant and wild-type human beta-actin genes”, Molec. Cell. Biology, 4:1961-9, 1984
  • Leavitt J, Bushar, G, Kakunaga, T, Hamada, H, Hirakawa, T, Goldman, D, Merril, C, “Variations in expression of mutant beta actin accompanying incremental increases in human fibroblast tumorigenicity”, Cell, 28:259-68, 1982
  • Leavitt J and Kakunaga, T, “Expression of a variant form of actin and additional polypeptide changes following chemical-induced in vitro neoplastic transformation of human fibroblasts”, J. Biol. Chem., 255:1650-61, 1980
  • Vandekerckhove, J, Leavitt, J, Kakunaga, T, Weber, J, “Coexpression of a mutant beta-actin and the two normal beta- and gamma-cytoplasmic actins in a stably transformed human cell line”, Cell, 22:893-9, 1980

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The Skinny on Stem Cells | Successful Human Cloning Stirs Hope and Controversy

When scientists at a small private company successfully cloned human embryonic stem cells, hopes rose for cures to such diseases as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Muscular Dystrophy, and for repairing spinal cord injuries. It also amplified ethical, moral and religious arguments against cloning. Yet, there are currently millions of people who could benefit from either direct implantation of autologous stem cells or from the spin-off discoveries of stem cell research. Therefore, I say let’s move forward.

Better Than Stem Cells? Short Interfering RNA Hold Promise For Dramatic New Treatments

The seemingly esoteric field of siRNA or "short interfering RNA," used to silence genes, has rightfully created a significant buzz in the scientific and investment communities over for the last two to three years. It is likely that in the next 10 to 20 years, siRNA will dominate drug development, with many successful drugs currently targeting specific proteins. Furthermore, many disease-causing proteins thought to be "undrugable", like the metastatic biomarker L-plastin for colon, breast, melanoma, prostate, and bladder cancer, could now be targeted by RNAi drugs.

Max-Planck v. Whitehead: A Case Study in the Perils of Collaboration

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Wissenschaften E.V. v. Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research is a case currently pending in a Massachusetts federal court.  Its outcome may determine who will profit from the commercialization of valuable therapeutic technology based on small interfering RNA molecules (siRNA). 

A Brief History of Monoclonal Antibodies

The Cloning of Human Embryonic Stem Cells - and Human Beings?

When Did Proteomics Begin?

Early Stage University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Analysis

The Holy Grail of Cancer Research - A Protein That Enables Aggressive Tumor Growth and Metastasis


RNAi Litigation Blog

Interested in following the trial through our analysts' eyes? Check out our RNAi Blog.

Nerac’s IP Analysts and Advisors have launched a new blog called “RNAi Litigation”, available to the public on April 19th at

Nerac Analysts will report on the daily developments and testimonies at the trial, and will be exchanging thoughts about this litigation with all interested parties. Among the analysts contributing to the discussion are John Leavitt, Ph.D., Molecular Biologist and Geneticist, and Scott Lloyd, J.D., Registered Patent Attorney and Biologist.


Nerac Analyst John Leavitt Quoted in Therapy Times - March 08

In an article titled, “Therapy in the Cellular Age: Stem Cells and the Expanding Therapies,” published March 28 in Therapy Times, Dr. John Leavitt shares his insights on what diseases the technology might address.


Pharmacovigilance: Staying Compliant is Critical


Ablynx Competitive Intelligence Overview

This example of a Nerac Research and Advisory "Special Project" Services request is an overview of competitive intelligence on Ablynx NV, a biopharmaceutical company based in Belgium. It includes information to provide a first-pass evaluation of Ablynx as a possible business partner or acquisition target.

In Vitro Validation of ITK and T-Plastin as Effective Drug Targets for Hematopoietic Malignancies

This technical market assessment is an example of a Nerac Research and Advisory "Special Project" Services report.

Ablynx Competitive Intelligence Assessment

This report is an example of  a Nerac Research and Advisory "Special Project" Services request.  The report consists of a detailed compilation of competitive intelligence on Ablynx NV, a biopharmaceutical company based in Belgium. It includes a broad range of information, with Nerac analysis, that may be used to evaluate Ablynx as a possible drug development partner. It is designed to provide the framework for eventual due diligence.

Competitive Intelligence Briefing | Anti-Cancer Drugs in Development

Nerac's Competitive Intelligence Briefings provide thorough, consolidated competitive intelligence on drug pipeline development activity. Here are just some of the ways our CI Briefings can help provide competitive advantage:

• Monitor developments for every competing drug in your current drug development pipeline

• Monitor your drug targets as targets for other drug development

• Organize and deliver a custom Excel database showing new developments for competing drugs in various phases

• Deliver a written monthly or quarterly report on drugs that have moved forward or dropped out of the development process

Our Pharmaceutical Analyst Team combs through hundreds of competitive alerts and consolidates the information into an easy-to-use report that provides critical intel on competitive activities.

Sample Report | IP Commercialization Evaluation


John Leavitt, Ph.D. Nerac
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