Chief Executive Officer & Founder
Ron Berger serves as the CEO and Founder of VRL, Inc. He purchased the simian laboratory from Esoterix in 2004. The business has seen significant growth under Mr. Berger’s leadership with the addition of new products and services that have helped to improve the quality of research. In 2006, Mr. Berger established VRL China, offering a complete line of diagnostic services then in 2014 growth continued when he purchased the BioReliance Animal Health Services division as part of an expansion plan for offering diagnostics of rodents, rabbits and other research service models. Mr. Berger earned his B.A. in Mathematics (minor in Chemistry) in 1971 from St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, Texas. He has spent most of his career working in IT and specifically programming. His knowledge and expertise of programming has enabled the company to maximize efficiencies and turnaround times for clients.
Dennis Pitts serves as President of VRL, Inc. He earned a B.S degree from Purdue University in Animal Agribusiness and an EMBA from University of Wisconsin. He had stints as Director of Business Development at SNBL USA and as Non-human Primate Manager at Harlan Laboratories. Pitts joined VRL in 2018 as the Director of Business Development and Marketing after working with VRL as an outside consultant focusing on sales and growth strategies. His scientific background combined with his marketing expertise has given VRL a strong vision for moving forward in the competitive area of animal diagnostic testing, and he looks forward to expanding VRL’s diagnostic testing offerings.
Babette Cade, MBA
Business Unit Director/Controller
Babette Cade serves as the Business Unit Director/Controller of VRL. She earned her B.S. Degree in Accounting/Management and her master’s degree in Specialized Accounting from Franklin University. Additionally, she is working towards her PhD in Accounting and is at ABD (All But Dissertation) status. Her dissertation is “Pre and Post Sarbanes-Oxley 5 years, and How it has Changed the Accounting Field”. Upon joining VRL in 2014 as an accountant, her focus was on accounts payable, payroll, working with CPAs and banks, and all financials for each office. Currently, as the Business Unit Director/Controller of the VRL offices, she works diligently on the cost of services, the company’s financials, payroll, banking, and with our CPAs. Additionally, she maintains an excellent team of employees for the labs and offices in her human resources role while working with the President and CEO to develop growth strategies. Babette also teaches evening classes at the San Antonio Texas A&M Campus as a part-time adjunct professor in the accounting department.
Arlene Leon, PhD
Director of Operations and Scientific Affairs
Dr. Arlene Leon is the Director of Operation and Scientific Affairs of VRL where she is responsible for lab operations, quality control, product manufacturing, and assay development. With almost 20 years of experience in diagnostics, Dr. Leon makes outstanding contributions to the depth of knowledge and experience that VRL offers to our clients. Dr. Leon obtained her MS from Florida International University in Miami, Florida. After finishing her MS degree, Dr. Leon worked in the field of immunology, animal colony management, and transgenic animals. She then obtained her PhD from University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Leon worked as the Principal Scientist/Scientific Director in the Animal Health Services Department at BioReliance, formerly Microbiological Associates. At BioReliance she developed diagnostic testing for rodent pathogens and introduced the use of new technologies like Microarray Multiplex serology testing and genotyping among others.
Javier Mota, PhD
Sr. Principal Scientist and R&D Manager
Dr. Javier Mota serves as the Sr. Principal Scientist and R&D Manager at VRL. For much of his career, Dr. Mota has studied the many diverse aspects of human diseases including Dengue Fever, Malaria, Chagas disease, HIV, and Tuberculosis. Among his many achievements, he has developed a unique humanized mouse to model Dengue fever, and helped to develop an immunohistochemistry/immunofluorescence analysis to track vaccine expression in tissue from SIV infected/vaccinated non-human primates. He obtained his Ph.D. in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology/Immunology from the National Autonomous University of México. Dr. Mota comes to us from the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute where he served as a Research Scientist.
Paulina Escandon, PhD
Dr. Paulina Escandon graduated with her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences in May 2020 at Texas A&M University. In addition, she worked as Post-Doctoral Research Associate for 2-years in the Department of Pharmaceutical Science at the North Texas Eye Research Institute in the University North Texas Health Science Center. Her Ph.D. was focused on developing a rapid point-of-care immunoassay capable of identifying viral antibodies in infected/exposed avian species, using recombinant nucleoprotein expressed with E. coli. As a Post-Doctoral Research Associate, she works on in-vitro research on Keratoconus associated with cellular morphology and therapeutics. Her research focused on the effects of gonadotropins in stromal cornea cells. The stromal cornea cells were used with a novel 3D in-vitro model, exhibiting extracellular matrix structural and morphological characteristics.
Kathy Johnson, PhD
Dr. Kathy Johnson received a PhD in Microbiology and a MS in Parasitology from Purdue University. She brings over a decade of experience in clinical diagnostics of infectious diseases within academic research, public health, and veterinary laboratories. Her PhD focused on the development of molecular biology-based assays as well as performing epidemiological studies to characterize Mycoplasma ovis in sheep and goats. Dr. Johnson most recently worked within the COVID-19 molecular diagnostics and virology groups at the Maryland Department of Health State Laboratory in Baltimore.
Danny R. Ragland, BS, DVM, DACVPM
Dr. Dan Ragland earned an undergraduate degree in Biology-Chemistry from South Arkansas University (1972) and received a doctorate in veterinary medicine (1980) at Tuskegee University. He gained valuable clinical research and biocontainment experience during assignments as a laboratory animal veterinarian at Letterman Army Institute of Research, San Francisco, CA, and a 4-year residency in anatomic pathology at the Army’s Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID), Ft. Detrick, MD, where he participated in studies investigating viral pathogens and toxins, including Ebolavirus, Lassavirus, Argentine Hemorrhagic Fever Virus, ricin and microcystin. He was a study pathologist for radioprotectant research at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI) and was the lead veterinarian on the DoD contract that produced heptavalent Botulinum Immunoglobulin (BIG) from hyperimmunized horses (1993-1997). Dr. Ragland was the attending veterinarian and director of the Laboratory Animal Diagnostic Service at BioReliance, Rockville, MD, (1997-2005), where he advised and facilitated development of laboratory animal health programs, and supported GLP toxicology and bioservices teams. From 2005 to 2008, Dr. Ragland directed the laboratory animal program for Lonza Corporation, Basel, Switzerland, where he was responsible for a production animal colony that supported GMP bioproducts and GLP bioservices. Recently (2008-2020), Dr. Ragland was responsible for the animal program at the National Institutes of Health Integrated Research Facility, Ft. Detrick, MD, developing animal models for imaging studies to investigate high consequence infectious diseases. He is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.
R&D Lab Supervisor
Lisa Tomanek is the R&D Lab Supervisor at VRL-San Antonio. Lisa has over 16 years of experience in the field of virology, immunology, and microbiology. She received her Bachelors of Science Degree in Biology with an emphasis in Cellular Biology at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. She then began her research career at Oklahoma State University where she studied the Influenza virus at the molecular level. After moving to the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, she investigated the importance of chemokines in the immunological response of mice to Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 infection. In 2006 she joined the VRL-San Antonio Research and Development team and since then has been a vital component to the growth of the organization.
NHP Lab Supervisor
Lizeth Garcia is Lab Manager at VRL San Antonio. Mrs. Garcia has almost 10 years of experience in Molecular Genetics, Microbiology, and Virology. She received a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology with a concentration in Microbiology and Immunology, and a minor in Chemistry from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Years later, she graduated with a Master’s of Science in Clinical Molecular Genetics from Northern Michigan University. She has collaborated in several research studies as part of VRL family. Her experience and knowledge has led to her current position, overseeing VRL San Antonio’s day-to-day diagnostic testing operations.
Maryland Lab Manager
Jason Lankasky is Lab Manager for VRL-Maryland. Prior to joining VRL, Mr. Lankasky worked with the USDA-ARS for 2 years researching genetic anti-bacterial characteristics of tuberous plants. He has also worked with the DoD-NMRC for 7 years researching low grade traumatic brain injury causes and treatments on various animal models. During this time, he gained experience with a wide range of animals, focusing on aquatics and small rodents. The knowledge gained from these positions has led to a smooth transition, now overseeing VRL-Maryland’s day-to-day diagnostic testing operations. Mr. Lankasky earned a B.S. from the University of Maryland in Neurobiology and Physiology, and a M.S. from UMGC in Bioinformatics.
National Sales Manager
Industry veteran, John Firneno has been named VRL National Sales Manager. Fresh off stints with Flagship Biosciences and Envigo, John brings a wealth of experience adding both sales management support and strategic account management to this key area of the country for VRL. From managing vivaria, colony production to in-vivo/in-vitro toxicology, John’s broad experience in delivering both products and services for pharmaceutical, biotech, medical devices and academia provides a unique understanding of client needs. With a B.S. degree in Management, John has also been an ISO Lead and has served as an IACUC Chair. With his success in building client relationships to meeting client needs, we welcome John Firneno to the VRL team.
Chris Rogers is a Sales Manager for VRL based in Houston, TX. Mr. Rogers comes to VRL from Envigo, where he acquired significant industry knowledge and experience during his nearly 9-year tenure. Mr. Rogers has received numerous accolades, including his recent election to the Board of AALAS Texas Branch. He will be covering the southern and central regions of the U.S. and is eager to expand VRL’s diagnostic testing portfolio. Mr. Rogers has a Bachelor of Arts from Loyola University New Orleans.
Ruth Mitchell is a Sales Manager for VRL based in Winston Salem, NC. Her experience spans 20 years in pharmaceutical, medical device, and healthcare product and service industries. Miss Mitchell comes to VRL from Eversana Life Sciences and has received numerous industry accolades. Miss Mitchell is responsible for expanding VRL service offerings to portions of the Midwest, Mid Atlantic, and Southeastern United States. Miss Mitchell holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Campbell University
Dr. Faithe Duberchin
International veterinarian, Dr. Faithe Duberchin, is a Sales Manager for VRL covering the western and central regions of the U.S. Located in San Diego, California, Dr. Duberchin has worked in the veterinary space across the globe from the USA, Australia, Asia, the United Kingdom, and Europe. She received her degree from the University of Queensland, Australia and is a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and registered in both the United Kingdom and Australia. Dr. Duberchin is passionate about diagnostics and epidemiology. She will be focusing her knowledge of veterinary medicine, practice consultancy and account management to facilitate the highest standards of client care and management. In her spare time, she gardens on a ½ acre of land and restores Modernist furniture.
Michelle Doneburgh is a Sales Manager for the Northeast and portions of the Mid-Atlantic region. Originally from Syracuse, New York, Michelle comes to VRL with over 20 years of experience as a licensed veterinary technician and 17 years of experience in companion animal health diagnostics and pharmaceutical sales. She has always had a love for animals, science and medicine, with special interests in clinical pathology and cytology. Michelle is very excited to join the team and looks forward to bringing her years of experience, knowledge and enthusiasm to her new role.
Michelle currently lives in Maryland with her dog Riley and 6 cats: Henry, Sydney, Tucker, Gertrude, Harriett and Gideon. Some might call her a “crazy cat lady”, but she prefers “feline enthusiast”. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys gardening, reading and true crime documentaries and podcasts.
Program Manager/Client Service Manager
Ryan Walters serves as Client Service Manager for VRL-Gaithersburg. Mr. Walters has over two decades of experience in related animal health science fields with over ten years of managerial experience. Currently, he is responsible for maintaining client accounts, client logistics, and overall client satisfaction. He maintains VRL Maryland’s Quality Program including internal and external quality audits, operations quality (equipment, protocols/SOPs, document control, information management, etc.), and procedural quality analytics (precision, range, linearity, sensitivity, accuracy, recovery, specificity, etc.). Mr. Walters maintains GLP lab standards and 21 CFR Part 11 & 58 compliance. He also serves as the Chair of IACUC, an organization that upholds the regulations associated with Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Skilled in the methods of Lean Six Sigma, Mr. Walters relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste and reducing variation. Mr. Walters earned his BS in Biology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA in 1998. Mr. Walters is a board-certified Histotechnician (HT) from the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP).
Client Service Specialist
Kevin Simonds is a Client Service Specialist, with over 10 years’ experience in developing client relationships. He understands the needs of clients and ensures expectations are met or exceeded. Kevin enjoys assisting clients and providing them with the tools they need to be successful. Kevin has been involved with technology companies providing a variety of services and products. He contributes his success to being able to help clients get the information they need quickly and efficiently. Kevin is always working to better understand his clients.