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Michael Ehlers, M.D., Ph.D.

Limelight Bio & Apple Tree Partners


Michael Ehlers is Chief Scientific Officer and Venture Partner at Apple Tree Partners (ATP), a leading life sciences fund. He also Chief Executive Officer of portfolio company Limelight Bio, a cutting-edge start-up biotechnology company focused on genetic medicines and gene therapy. Dr. Ehlers grew up rural Nebraska and earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Caltech. He holds M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. At ATP, Dr. Ehlers directs the fund’s scientifically-driven investment strategy by identifying and evaluating new breakthrough science around the world and turning it into business plans, management teams, and drug discovery and development programs. As CEO of ATP portfolio company Limelight Bio, Dr. Ehlers leads a team of biotech entrepreneurs deploying innovating technology platforms to create breakthrough therapies for debilitating inherited diseases of the eye, brain, muscle, and liver.

Prior to joining ATP and Limelight Bio in 2019, Dr. Ehlers was Executive Vice President for Research & Development at Biogen, one of the world’s oldest and largest biopharmaceutical companies. At Biogen, Dr. Ehlers directed global research and development including discovery sciences, translational medicine, clinical development, and regulatory sciences with a focus on neurological, immunological, and rare diseases. During his time at Biogen, advanced 20 novel clinical candidate compounds and oversaw the approval of SPINRAZA (nusinersin), the first drug approved for spinal muscular atrophy. Before Biogen, Dr. Ehlers was Group Senior Vice President for BioTherapeutics and Chief Scientific Officer for Neuroscience at Pfizer where he created and advanced the Neuroscience and Rare Disease portfolios at Pfizer successfully bringing 22 compounds into the clinic, as well as directing global development activities in biologics design, synthesis, and manufacturing, and steering a network of academic collaborations focused on immunology and oncology. Before entering his industry career in 2010, Dr. Ehlers was George Barth Geller Professor and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Duke University Medical Center, where he pioneered studies on neuronal organelles and the trafficking of neurotransmitter receptors.

He is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2003 Eppendorf & Science Prize in Neurobiology, the 2007 John J. Abel Award in Pharmacology, the 2007 Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award, an NIMH MERIT Award, and the 2009 National Alliance for Schizophrenia and Depression Distinguished Investigator Award. He received the 2008 Breakthrough Research Award of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center given to a single scientist in North Carolina, and the 2016 Biomedical Research Award of the Massachusetts Medical Society given to a single business leader in New England. In 2013 he became the 11th recipient of the Thudichum Medal of the Biochemical Society of the United Kingdom an award inaugurated in 1974 to honor eminent scientists who have made outstanding contributions to neurochemistry and related subjects, whose recipients include two Nobel laureates. Dr. Ehlers has authored over 100 scientific papers, has served on the Editorial Boards of Annual Reviews in Medicine, Annual Reviews in Pharmacology and Toxicology, the Journal of Neuroscience, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, and sat on advisory committees of the National Institutes of Health. He is a member of the American Society for Cell Biology Governing Council and the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience Board of Directors. He serves on the advisory boards of several private foundations, and advises major pharmaceutical, venture, academic, government, and biotech organizations.