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Manu Chakravarthy, MD, PhD

Chief Medical Officer, SVP Clinical Development


Manu Chakravarthy, M.D., Ph.D., is the Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President, Clinical Development for Axcella Health. In this position, he provides strategic direction and oversight for Axcella’s clinical research and development activities, including the execution of a variety of clinical trials across several indications. Manu brings a deep commitment to innovation and translational medicine with an unwavering focus to address serious unmet medical needs by translating breakthrough discoveries into the clinic, and meaningfully improve human health.

Prior to assuming his current role, Manu served as the Global Head of External R&D in diabetes and cardiovascular research at Eli Lilly & Co where he was responsible for external innovation efforts, including the identification/evaluation of novel therapeutics, platforms, and technologies for in/out-licensing, establishing academic collaborations, and consortia management across the value chain to complement and enhance Lilly’s internal R&D portfolio. He also served as the industry co-leader of the Innovative Medicine Initiative’s LITMUS project, one of the largest public-private consortia efforts to elucidate noninvasive biomarkers for NAFLD. Before his global leadership role at Lilly, Manu spent more than 7 years at Merck & Co., where he began his industry career in Experimental Medicine as an associate director and progressively gained increasing experience across the R&D spectrum from discovery, clinical pharmacology, biomarker development and late-stage drug development across several therapeutic areas. During this time, he assumed positions of increasing responsibility and leadership within the company, ultimately serving as a Distinguished Scientist/Executive Director in Discovery Medicine for the diabetes and cardiometabolic group within Translational Medicine.

Manu received his medical degree from the Univ. of Texas Houston Medical School, his doctorate in cell biology & physiology from the Univ. of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the MD Anderson Cancer Center, and his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from St. John’s University. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the Hospital of the Univ. of Pennsylvania and clinical Fellowship in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St Louis. Manu undertook postdoctoral research training as an American Diabetes Assoc. Postdoctoral Fellow at Washington Univ. School of Medicine in St. Louis with Prof. Clay Semenkovich focusing on lipid metabolism. His research elucidated the role of de novo lipogenesis via fatty acid synthase in hepatic steatosis, including the discovery of an endogenous ligand for the nutritionally regulated transcription factor, PPARalpha. Following his clinical and postdoctoral research training, Manu was appointed as Instructor of Medicine in the Department of Endocrinology & Metabolism at Washington Univ. School of Medicine. Manu is Board-certified in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism and continues to serve patients as an Adjunct Clinical Asst. Professor of Medicine at the Rutgers School of Medicine, NJ.


What led you to join Axcella?

The potential to disrupt the paradigm of traditional drug development and in the process, bring transformative therapeutics to address serious unmet medical needs. Axcella’s combinatorial amino acid platform allows for testing innovative hypothesis rapidly, and most importantly, safely in the clinic, thereby discharging key risks very early, increasing the probability of developing medicines that can positively impact patients’ lives.

Greatest non-professional achievement

Participating and winning a bronze medal in the first National triathlon championships in Mumbai, India

Favorite activities outside of work

Traveling all over the world with my wife and 2 daughters; distance swimming; cooking; movies (all kinds)

Favorite Authors

William Shakespeare and Michael Crichton

Favorite Movie

Shawshank Redemption