Our Team

We are united by our vision that people should have access to effective medication to treat life threatening diseases, regardless of where they live, and we are committed to help make this happen. We are scientists, consultants and social equity advocates with a strong connection to East Africa, dedicated to improving the live's of people in this region.

Justin Omolo, PhD

Co-Founder
Director of Research

Jennifer Woltz, MS

Co-Founder
Executive Director

Wanzi Pretlow

Board Member

Terra Reneau

Director of Operations

Leslie Smith

Outreach Strategist

Bhaswati
Bhattacharya, MD

Advisor

Jay Lalezari, MD

Advisor

Robert Voeks, PhD

Advisor

Steven R. King, PhD

Asili

Justin Omolo, Ph.D

Dr. Justin Omolo is a Tanzanian citizen who earned his MSc in Chemistry from the University of Botswana. While pursuing his MSc, his research interest was in phytochemistry – analyzing plant extracts for active compounds with antimicrobial and antioxidant efficacy. After graduating his MSc studies, he joined the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) as an assistant lecturer. Dr. Omolo earned his PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa in Organic Chemistry under the sponsorship of SABINA through the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) program. He was the first RISE student to earn a PhD, consequently it earned him the SABINA staff membership representing UDSM node. His PhD project was a continuation of the MSc on the identification of active ingredients from medicinal plants. In doing so, he has traveled an original and creative path, exploring surprising links between the knowledge of traditional healers and the techniques of modern bioinformatics and synthetic chemistry. Furthermore, he has been involved with projects in collaboration with Tanga Aids Working Group (TAWG), some of which were an integral part of his PhD studies. Justin is currently working as the Head of Department of The Institute for Traditional Medicine Research at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Dar es Salaam. Apart from working on bioactive compounds from medicinal plants, he has been involved in several projects on health (field work and lab based) ranging from water hygiene and sanitation, development of herbal formula (including Sickle cell Disease, HIV, purification of waste water). Justin is fluent in Swahili and English. He currently lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Jennifer Woltz, MS

Jennifer Woltz has been working in the field of Clinical Research since 2002 on both Pharmaceutical and Investigator Initiated trials that have spanned multiple specialties including HIV, Reproductive Health, Oncology, and Orthopedics. Prior to working in clinical research, Jennifer served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania as a Biology and Chemistry teacher at a girls Secondary School . While there, she worked with Traditional Healers and local Botanists, learning about the indigenous flora and ethnobotanical practices of the region. Jennifer has a BA in Neuroscience from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and an MS in Biology from New York University. Working with the New York Botanical Gardens, her research focused on the conservation of a medicinal tree in Belize, ​​​​​​​Bursera simaruba, also known as the Gumbo-limbo or tourist tree. Jennifer speaks German and Swahili fairly well, and currently resides in the San Carlos, California.

Terra Reneau

Terra Reneau is an Ethnobotanist who holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology from UC Berkeley and a certificate in Clinical Herbalism. She is the creator of an herbarium initiative, partnering with Native California tribal communities to develop new methods of collaborative plant-based research. Terra is an Ethnobotanical Advisor for Decriminalize Nature in California and is currently researching methodologies that bridge the divide between traditional knowledge systems and contemporary biomedical approaches. She has worked in various sectors of the natural products industry and learned traditional plant medicine through apprenticeship with the Jicarilla-Apache in rural New Mexico. Terra currently lives in San Francisco and spends much of her time at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens where she is completing a training program and offering guided plant walks.

Bhaswati Bhattacharya, M.D.

Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya serves as Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and practices Ayurveda and holistic family medicine in Manhattan and India. Her work focuses on ancient medical systems and their interface with the modern world. She has received numerous prestigious awards, including the AMA Leadership Award and Graduate Orator from Harvard University. Board certified in Holistic Medicine and in Preventive Medicine, Dr. Bhattacharya holds an MD from Rush Medical College, a PhD in Ayurveda from Banaras Hindu University, an MPH from Harvard University and an MA in Pharmacology and Neuroscience from Columbia University, as well as a BA from University of Pennsylvania. She is a 2018-2022 Fulbright Specialist in Public Health, serving in India during the pandemic. Published by Penguin Random House, her book Everyday Ayurveda is a national best-seller.

Steven R. King, Ph.D

Dr. Steven R. King is an ethnobotanist who has conducted field research on the use of plants for food and medicine in the highland and lowland regions of South America, Africa and parts of Southeast Asia. He is currently chief of sustainable supply and ethnobotanical research at Jaguar Health. He has had the good fortune to work with the Tanga Aids Working Group (TAWG) and Tanga Hospital in the early 1990’s in Tanzania as part of the collaborative international field research programs of Shaman Pharmaceuticals. He has helped develop crofelemer first oral botanical drug approved by the US FDA. He and his colleague in several Andean countries have created a long term sustainable harvesting program of Croton lechleri, (the source of crofelemer), a wide spread and well known traditional plant medicine utilized by numerous indigenous and local peoples of the Northwest Amazon basin. Dr. King holds a B.S. in Human Ecology from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine and a Ph.D in Biology with a focus on ethnobotany and economic botany from City University of New York (CUNY). He was the first fellowship student in the Institute of Economic Botany of the New York Botanical Garden.

Jacob P. Lalezari, M.D.

Jacob Lalezari, M.D., is the Medical Director of Quest Clinical Research in San Francisco, California. Since 1989, Dr. Lalezari has been a Principal Investigator for all phases of clinical trials testing new antiviral therapies and/or vaccines for HIV/AIDS, Cytomegalovirus, Herpes Simplex Virus, Hepatitis B & C, Human Papilloma Virus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Influenza Virus and SARS-CoV-2. Dr. Lalezari’s work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Infectious Diseases and Annals of Internal Medicine. Dr. Lalezari received his M.D. in Internal Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania and holds a M.A. in English Literature from the University of Virginia.

Robert Voeks, Ph.D

Dr. Robert A. Voeks is a professor in the Department of Geography & the Environment at California State University, Fullerton, and the editor of the journal Economic Botany. He is the author of Sacred Leaves of Candomblé: African Magic, Medicine, and Religion in Brazil, The Ethnobotany of Eden: Rethinking the Jungle Medicine Narrative, and co-editor of African Ethnobotany in the Americas as well as numerous articles and book chapters. Dr. Voeks holds a PhD in Geography from the University of California Berkeley, and an MSc in Geography from Portland State University.

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Asili Research Alliance is a California nonprofit public benefit corporation and contributions are tax exempt under US IRS code 501(c)3. Our Federal EIN is 82-5248095 and California corporation number is C31954.

Asili Research Alliance