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Startup Spotlight: HOPO Therapeutics imagines a future without heavy metal poisoning

Hannah Weber on campus
Hannah Weber

Startup Spotlight profiles startups founded by current Berkeley Haas students or recent alumni.

HOPO Therapeutics is a Berkeley-based biotech startup working to develop treatments for people exposed to toxic heavy metals in their homes, environments, and during medical procedures and treatments.

Hannah Weber, MBA/MPH 23, met HOPO co-founders Julian Rees and Rebecca Abergel—both scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and leading experts in heavy metal poisoning–last year at a meet and greet hosted by the Berkeley Life Sciences Entrepreneurship Center. 

The meeting was fortuitous. Weber came to Haas with a mission to work on developing a product or drug that could improve global health and to create a new model for access to medicine. Rees and Abergel told her that they’d been working on a drug to address lead poisoning and radiological hazards and were ready to find a partner to help raise funds and bring the drug to market. The meeting led Weber to join their team as vice president of strategy and business development.

A leap forward

More than 800 million children—about one third of the world’s young population—are currently living with lead poisoning, according to a UNICEF report. Other reports suggest half the current American population was exposed to harmful levels of lead in early childhood. 

HOPO Therapeutics’ first product— HOPO-101—is a novel oral treatment that works by selectively binding to toxic metals so they can be removed from the body, a leap forward from older-generation treatments that also remove essential minerals in the process, Weber said.

The company expects the Phase 1 clinical trial to begin later this year, testing for the treatment’s safety in humans. “This innovative product has a broad application for hundreds of millions of people around the world suffering from heavy metal poisoning, and needs to be launched in a way that maximizes its application for public health,” said Weber.

“This innovative product has a broad application for hundreds of millions of people around the world suffering from heavy metal poisoning.”

HOPO-101 has received government funding to date, but one of Weber’s first goals for the company is to secure venture backing, starting with the company’s first seed round. Over the next five years, the company plans to develop relationships with physicians, governments, impact investors, and global health nonprofits to establish distribution channels. 

“This is a lesson in sticking true to our values and finding partners that share our global health mission, and are eager to help us make it happen,” she said.

Weber pointed out that the pandemic has increased awareness of the importance of private and public partnerships in global health—her original mission for coming to Berkeley Haas.

“It’s made us all aware of the need for quick development and quick distribution of affordable life-saving drugs,” she said. “It’s also made the world appreciate the importance of public and private partnerships and the importance of collaboration across the table.” 

Working on the company while at Haas also has its benefits, she said. “There are so many classes that allow you to explore your own venture within the classroom,” Weber said, noting that Health Management professional faculty members Kim MacPherson and Jeffrey Ford have been particularly helpful mentors. Weber has also found many opportunities to tap into the Bay Area startup ecosystem to advance the company, participating in the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program for entrepreneurs, as well as the San Francisco B-School Disrupt showcase.

A passion for improving access

Weber, whose father was a physician, has been around healthcare her entire life and said she’s always had a passion for treating patients who had little access to care. Though she entered the undergraduate program at Georgetown University on a pre-med track, she quickly pivoted to global health and, more specifically, sought to focus her career on addressing how the pharmaceutical sector could be a partner in improved access.

An internship in Tanzania during college working on introducing digital innovations into government hospitals also led her to consider the impact a private company could have on global health. That led her to L.E.K. Consulting after graduating, where she worked in the Life Sciences Practice for nearly four years. Learning about strategy and market access from the point of view of pharmaceutical companies, made her look forward to being involved in making some of those company-forming decisions.

“I was excited at the prospect of working with a team developing novel medicines and asking big questions about how we could get them to people that needed them most,” Weber said. “I was looking to get involved with a small company launching a new technology, one that had that mission in mind.”

That mission led her to pursue an MBA/MPH at Haas, and has been the foundation for growing HOPO Therapeutics.

“I had a strong conviction that it was possible to do well and to do good. Business school has been an eye-opening chance to see how it’s possible,” she said.  “Luckily, I’ve found a community at Haas and at HOPO that really resonates with that idea.” 

Stereotypes about professional expertise contribute to the gender pay gap, study finds

Credit: sturti for iStock

When the Equal Pay Act passed into law almost 60 years ago, women working full time made 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. Since then, the gender earnings gap has narrowed but remains stubborn: A Pew Research Center analysis found that women earned 84 cents for every dollar that a male worker took home in 2020.

Common explanations offered for this disparity—which is present across most industries and professions, and is larger for minority women—include the perception that women are less likely than men to “lean in” and negotiate raises and promotions; women’s disproportionate childcare responsibilities; and stereotypes about women’s and men’s respective strengths and talents, which influence the industries they’re steered toward or from.

A new paper by Haas professors Mathijs de Vaan and Toby Stuart, published in American Sociological Review, highlights an underexplored way in which stereotyping can impact the livelihoods of women—particularly those working in high-skilled, client-based professions—long after they’ve committed to their industry of choice. The researchers reveal that gender stereotyping can weaken clients’ perceived trust in female professionals’ core offering: their expertise.

“All high-skill, client-based markets depend on trust, because the consumer is a non-expert relative to the provider,” says Stuart. “If you hire a banker, a mechanic, a management consultant, a financial advisor, or a physician and you don’t trust them, what do you do with the advice they give you? Do you follow it?” Most likely, he notes, you won’t follow the solution they’re recommending. Instead, you’ll seek a second opinion.

Gender and second opinions

Drawing from a rich dataset of medical claims information, Stuart and de Vaan examined whether physicians’ gender determined the perceived value of their expertise—as measured by how often patients sought second opinions.

They found that both men and women were more likely to opt for second opinions if the purveyor of the first opinion was a female specialist. However, male patients were much more likely than women to seek a second expert opinion.

The researchers also quantified the cost of this greater doubt in female physicians’ expertise, and discovered that on a per-patient basis, female specialists generated 10.7% lower billings than their male colleagues in the year following the average patient’s first visit.

“We think the results would be similar in professional settings with the same characteristics: where the client is uninformed relative to the service provider, and where there are gender stereotypes about professional competence, which definitely exist in finance, banking, management consulting, the legal profession, and many others,” Stuart says.

Patterns in placing trust

Stuart and de Vaan drew from an uncommonly comprehensive dataset: the Massachusetts All Payers Claims Database, which contains information about the medical claims of nearly every Massachusetts resident. The researchers zeroed in on data about first-time visits to medical specialists for new-to-the-patient health conditions between 2010 and 2015.

Digging into the data, the researchers unearthed several gender-related patterns in the relationships between specialists and their patients. First of all, the majority of patients preferred seeing specialists who shared their gender, including for first-opinion visits; across the board, patients were 22% more likely to see specialists of the same gender than those of the opposite gender.

The researchers also noted that after an appointment with a female specialist, both men and women were more inclined to obtain a second opinion from another specialist than they were if the first appointment was with a male physician. This likelihood was much stronger among male patients—perhaps because some women’s preference for the expertise of a male physician was partially offset by the desire to see a doctor of their own gender.

Male patients in particular tended to switch to male specialists for their second opinions—and since patients seeking second opinions most often stuck with the second specialists for any recommended medical services, what naturally followed were significant disparities in billings.

Male patients contributed disproportionately to the 10.7% shortfall in female physicians’ patient billings. The researchers observed that when a female specialist saw a male patient, her average one-year billing amount for him was 18% less than the average billing amount for a male colleague seeing a male specialist. This difference was only 7% for female patients.

Shifting perceptions, then reality

Stuart says he hopes awareness about these stereotypes might start to lead to shifts in both perceptions and reality. For his part, Stuart found the patterns revealed by his research striking enough that he’s shifted his own behavior.

“I categorically refuse a male specialist now that I’m aware of this,” he says, explaining that it’s one way to provide his own counterweight, however miniscule, to the pervasive perceptions that over time create very real outcomes.

“We hold all of these gendered beliefs about work even if we are not aware of them, and they have a way of becoming reality.”

 

Read the full paper:

 

Gender in the Markets for Expertise

By Mathijs de Vaan and Toby Stuart

American Sociological Review

 

Big Shot

Using Trump’s endorsement to boost vaccinations

Screenshot of Fox News showing Donald Trump's picture on the left and a hand holding a syringe on the right. Closed captioning of Trump's words reads: But it's a great vaccine, it's a safe vaccine.

While health officials have struggled to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates nationwide, a simple approach has proven effective at convincing some skeptics to get their shots: a video compiled from Fox News clips of former President Trump and his family urging his supporters to get vaccinated.

Researchers from Berkeley Haas, Stanford University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University compiled a public service announcement from existing footage and aired it on more than 150,000 YouTube channels in more than 1,000 U.S. counties with vaccination rates below 50%. Compared with similar counties where the ad wasn’t shown, those counties recorded an additional 104,036 vaccinations.

While the researchers had no control over which channels the ad would appear on, the Google Ads’ algorithms sent it most often to Fox News’ YouTube channels, where it was attached to segments hosted by Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and other Trump supporters and vaccine skeptics. It also appeared on some neutral channels and some not supportive of Trump, including MSNBC and NBC News.

According to Professor Steven Tadelis, a co-author, the messaging was also relatively inexpensive. “Creating an intervention that effectively costs about $1 per extra vaccine is remarkably cost-effective and a small fraction of the cost of other interventions,” he says, noting that studies of U.S. state vaccine lotteries put the cost at $68 to $82 per vaccine.

However, while the ads moved some skeptics to action, they were only effective in counties with up to 70% Trump voters. The heaviest pro-Trump counties were unmoved.

YouTube channels where ads were placed

Graph showing that the ad appeared most on Fox News followed by Forbes Breaking News. The ad appeared least on CNBC.

Percent of unvaccinated Republicans expressing a “great deal of confidence” in vaccine advice from specific sources

Bar graph showing increasing confidence in Donald Trump but waning confidence in Joe Biden, Anthony Fauci, personal doctors, or the scientific community.

Geographic distribution of advertising campaign by county

Map of the United States with counties colored to show one of the following: low saturation, high saturation, control counties, or excluded counties (because of high vaccination rates, large population, or poor CDC records).

 

Berkeley Haas welcomes nine new professors

New Berkeley Haas faculty members 2022
From top row, left to right: New Berkeley Haas assistant professors Tanya Paul, Ali Kakhbod, Carolyn Stein; Sa-Kiera Hudson, Ambar La Forgia, Sytkse Wijnsma, Sarah Moshary, Matthew Backus, and Valerie Zhang.

Nine new assistant professors have joined the Haas School of Business faculty this year, with cutting-edge research interests that range from illicit supply chains to unequal social hierarchies; from financial crises to the incentives that shape innovation; and from health care management to decentralized finance to marketing and the demand for firearms.

The nine tenure-track hires are the result of a concerted effort by Dean Ann E. Harrison and other Haas leaders to expand and diversify the faculty.

“We are thrilled to welcome this wonderful, diverse new group of academic superstars to Berkeley Haas,” says Dean Ann E. Harrison. “We clearly are bringing the best to Haas, increasing the depth and breadth of our world-renowned faculty, and reinforcing our place among the world’s best business schools.”

The new faculty members have hometowns throughout the U.S. and around the world, including Texas, New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois; Iran, the Dominican Republic, China, and the Netherlands. Seven of them are women; one is Black, and one is Latinx.

“This is our most diverse cohort of new faculty ever, each one a rock star in their own right,” says Jennifer Chatman, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management. “We are very proud that we were able to lure them to Berkeley Haas.”

The new faculty members start on July 1, with most beginning to teach in spring 2023. They bring the total size of the ladder faculty to 88, up from 78 in 2020-2021.

Meet the faculty

Matthew Backus
Matthew Backus

Assistant Professor Matthew Backus, Economic Analysis & Policy
(he/him)

Hometown: Chicago, Ill.

Education: 
PhD, Economics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
MA, Economics, University of Toronto
BA, Economics and Philosophy, American University

Research focus: Industrial organization

Introduction: I’m an economist with broad interests. Most recently, I’m interested in how we can use the tools developed by the industrial organization community to understand inequality and the distributional effects of policy.

Teaching: Microeconomics and Antitrust Economics (MBA)

Most excited about: After spending a year visiting, I’m most excited about the economics community at Berkeley.

Fun fact: I have a border collie, who is in training as a herding dog.

 

Sa-Kiera Hudson
Sa-Kiera Hudson

Assistant Professor Sa-kiera (Kiera) Tiarra Jolynn Hudson, Management of Organizations 
(she/her)

Hometown: Albany, NY

Education: 
PhD/MA, Social Psychology, Harvard University
BA, Psychology and Biology, Williams College

Research focus: I study the psychological processes involved in the formation, maintenance, and intersections of unequal social hierarchies, with a focus on empathic/spiteful emotions, stereotypes, and legitimizing myths.

Introduction: I am a social psychologist by training, focusing on the nature of intergroup relations as dominance and power hierarchies. I have studied several psychological processes, including the role of legitimizing myths in justifying unequal societal conditions, the role of group stereotypes in the experience and perception of prejudice, and the role of empathic and spiteful emotions in supporting intergroup harm. My work is multidisciplinary, incorporating quantitative as well as qualitative methods from various disciplines such as political science, sociology, and public policy.

I am a fierce advocate for building community, providing mentorship, and supporting authentic inclusion for everyone. I believe it is a moral imperative to be present as a vocal, queer-identified Black women in academe, given the lack of representation, and I’m excited to see how I can contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at Haas.

Teaching: Core Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (MBA)

Most excited about: I identify UC Berkeley as my intellectual birthplace. It was during a summer internship program through the psychology department in 2010 where I first became interested in studying power structures and intergroup relations simultaneously. My overall research interests haven’t changed since that fateful summer. Being a faculty member here is truly a dream come true!

Fun fact: I love organizing and planning, so much so I taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign to create my own planner. I am also an avid foodie and cannot wait to check out the Bay’s food and wine scenes.

 

Ali Kakhbod
Ali Kakhbod

Assistant Professor Ali Kakhbod, Finance
(he/him)

Hometown: Isfahan, Iran

Education:
PhD, Economics, MIT
PhD, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS), University of Michigan

Research focus: Information frictions; liquidity; market microstructure; big data; and contracts

Introduction: I am a financial economist with research interests in financial intermediation, liquidity, contracts, big (alternative) data, banking and financial crises. A common theme of my research agenda is to study various informational settings and their financial and economic implications. For example: When does securitization lead to a financial crisis? Why is there heterogeneity in the means of providing advice in corporate governance? How does information disclosure in OTC (over-the-count) markets affect market efficiency? My research has both theory and empirical components with policy implications.

Teaching: Deep Learning in Finance (MFE)

Most excited about: Berkeley Haas is the heart of what’s next with world-class faculty working on exciting and innovative research. Given that my interdisciplinary research interests span finance, economics and big data issues, I could not ask for a better fit.

Fun fact: In my free time, I like to ski, sail, hike, and enjoy the outdoors.

 

Ambar La Forgia
Ambar La Forgia

Assistant Professor Ambar La Forgia, Management of Organizations
(she/her)

Hometown: I was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but I grew up in Washington, DC and São Paulo, Brazil.

Education:
PhD, Applied Economics and Managerial Science, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
BA, Economics and Mathematics, Swarthmore College

Research focus: Health care management; mergers and acquisitions; firm performance

Introduction: My research studies the relationship between organizational and managerial strategies and performance outcomes in the health care sector. In particular, I use quantitative methods to study how the strategic decisions of corporations to merge, acquire, or partner with other organizations can change managerial processes in ways that impact both financial and clinical performance. A secondary research strand studies how health care organizations adapt their service delivery and prices following changes in state and federal legislation. 

Before joining UC Berkeley, I was an assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. I am excited to continue to explore issues of healthcare quality, equity, and cost, while digging deeper into the management practices and organizational structures that could influence these outcomes.

Teaching: Leading People (EWMBA)

Most excited about: It is an honor to join the world-class faculty at Haas, and I am so excited to learn from and collaborate with my MORs colleagues on both the macro and micro side. Since my research is interdisciplinary, I also look forward to connecting with scholars in the School of Public Health.

As a self-proclaimed “city girl,”  I am excited to get out of my comfort zone and explore the natural beauty of Northern California.

Fun fact: My hobbies include yoga, urban gardening, adopting animals and stand-up comedy.

 

Sarah Moshary
Sarah Moshary

Assistant Professor Sarah Moshary, Marketing
(she/her)

Hometown: New York City, NY

Education:
Phd, Economics, MIT
AB, Economics, Harvard College

Research focus: Marketing and industrial organization

Introduction: My research interests span quantitative marketing, industrial organization, and political economy. I am currently working on projects related to paid search advertising, the pink tax (price gap in products targeted to women), and the demand for firearms. Before joining Haas, I worked at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and at the University of Pennsylvania.

Teaching: Pricing (MBA)

Most excited about: I am excited to get to know my future colleagues!

Fun fact: My two hobbies are running and pottery—though I am more enthusiastic than talented at either :).

 

Tanya Paul
Tanya Paul

Assistant Professor Tanya Paul, Accounting
(she/her)

Hometown: Murphy, Texas

Education:
PhD, Accounting, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
BS, Economics, Statistics and Finance, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Research focus: Standard-setting and financial reporting; the determinants and consequences of voluntary disclosures

Introduction: After getting my PhD, I spent a year at the Financial Accounting Standards Board learning about contemporary accounting issues and understanding the types of questions that standard setters are grappling with. I hope to continue working on research that is helpful to standard setters in coming up with standards that ultimately improve financial reporting.

Teaching: Corporate Financial Reporting (MBA)

Most excited about: ​​I love how interconnected the area groups are within Haas. There are so many potential learning opportunities, especially for a newly minted researcher like me.

Fun fact: In my free time, I love to read and play the piano—I had learned it as a child and am trying to relearn it now as an adult.

 

Carolyn Stein
Carolyn Stein

Assistant Professor Carolyn Stein, Economic Analysis & Policy
(she/her)

Hometown: Lexington, Mass.

Education:
PhD, Economics, MIT
AB, Applied Mathematics and Economics, Harvard College

Research focus: Economics of science, innovation, and applied microeconomics

Introduction: I study the economics of science and innovation. My research combines data and economic theory to understand the incentives that scientists face and decisions that they make, and how this in turn shapes the production of new knowledge.

One thing I love about economics is that it’s less of a narrow subject area, and more a set of tools and principles that apply to a stunningly wide array of topics. I’m excited to work with Haas students to help them understand how economic principles can improve their decision-making, both in their careers and in other areas of their lives—maybe even in ways that surprise them!

Teaching: Microeconomics (EWMBA)

Most excited about: I’m excited to be part of a large and superb applied microeconomics community—at Haas, and more broadly at Berkeley as a whole.

Fun fact: I am an avid cyclist and skier, and I was on the cycling team at MIT. Since moving to the Bay Area, I’ve loved the hills and mountains in the area. I’m working on taking my riding off road (gravel and mountain biking) and skiing off-piste (backcountry).

 

Sytske Wijnsma
Sytske Wijnsma

Assistant Professor Sytkse Wijnsma, Operations and IT Management
(she/her)

Hometown: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Education:
PhD, Management Science and Operations, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
MPhil, Management Science and Operations, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
BSc & MSc, Economics and Finance, VU University, Amsterdam

Research focus: My primary research interest is designing supply chain and policy interventions that help solve real-world challenges with social and environmental impact.

Introduction: I am very excited about my projects on illicit supply chains and how they undermine social and environmental goals. The context of these projects spans a wide range of areas, from illicit waste management to illegal deforestation. I am also excited to deepen and expand ongoing research collaborations with governments and industry to investigate these issues.

Teaching: Sustainability in Business (Undergraduate)

Most excited about: Many things! Berkeley Haas, being at the forefront of sustainability, has a unique position that combines the same ideals that drive my research with opportunities for collaborative research with serious impact. The amazing colleagues and close connections to industry make it even more exciting to join this community!

Fun fact: My first and last name originate from Fryslân, a northern province in the Netherlands, where it is still tradition to name your children after family members. So although my name is quite rare in the rest of the world, in our family it crops up in every generation!

 

Valerie Zhang
Valerie Zhang

Assistant Professor Valerie Zhang, Accounting
(she/her)

Hometown: Shanghai, China

Education:
PhD, Northwestern Kellogg School of Management
MA, Economics, University of Toronto
BCom, Finance and Economics, University of Toronto

Research focus: Information dissemination; information cascades on social media; retail investor behavior; decentralized finance

Introduction: I am passionate about doing research or working on personal projects that can express my creativity. I enjoy merging disjointed ideas and working on interdisciplinary research. My dissertation combines two literatures: one in computer science on information cascades on social media, and another in finance and accounting on the effects of disseminating financial news. I am also very curious about emerging technologies that are reshaping the financial industry. Since I work on areas that are new to the research community, I sometimes feel like a lone traveler exploring completely new territories. It is terrifying but also extremely rewarding!

Teaching: Financial Accounting (Undergraduate)

Most excited about: I look forward to inspiring my students to be entrepreneurial and to come up with creative business ideas or projects.

Fun fact/hobby: I write short stories. The one I am working on has an alien and a squirrel in it.

2022 Haas Healthcare Conference to focus on health inequities, precision medicine

Bear statues on the Berkeley Haas Campus.

Healthcare inequities, provider burnout, and precision medicine to predict and treat disease are among the topics on tap for the upcoming Haas Healthcare Conference

“Meeting this Moment in Healthcare” is the theme for this year’s event, which will be held virtually March 10-11. The annual conference, organized by the student-led Haas Healthcare Association, will span two days.

Conference organizers are Abhishek Gupta, Nick Helgeson, and Taryn Stromback, all MBA 22.

“COVID-19 has not only shined a light on gaps in the healthcare system, but it has also accelerated the funding and innovation in the industry needed to address those challenges,” said Stromback. “Our conference brings together leaders from across all healthcare sectors to discuss how the industry is using this momentum to drive change today, and how this will shape the future of health.”

Somesh Dash, BS 01, general partner at venture capital firm IVP, will kick off Thursday’s session with a fireside chat, followed by a panel discussion on growing early-stage startups and a pitch competition, where eight UC Berkeley and UCSF startups will present to healthcare venture capitalists. 

Friday’s line-up includes keynotes from David Rhew, global chief medical officer and VP of Healthcare at Microsoft, and Heather Mirjahangir Fernandez, CEO and co-founder of Solv

During the lunch hour, Marian Wentworth, president and CEO of Management Sciences for Health, joins Steve Davis, senior strategy advisor for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for a fireside chat about global collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other notable guest speakers include Amy Fan, MBA 19, co-founder of Twentyeight Health, and Jason Bellet, BS 14, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Eko Health.

The day also includes panel discussions on addressing systemic healthcare inequities in the US; the power of precision medicine in predicting, preventing, and treating disease; provider burnout and the future of the clinician workforce; and why women’s health should be everyone’s issue. 

The conference is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased here.