The Members of the Board of Trustees are thoughtful, engaged, and committed to the work of BioNJ and we are deeply indebted for their passion for Patients and for inspiring our work each day.
Chairman: Christopher J. Schaber, Ph.D.
President and CEO, Soligenix, Inc.
Dr. Schaber has over 29 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. He has been the President and CEO and a Director of Soligenix since August 2006. Dr. Schaber was appointed Chairman of the Board on October 8, 2009. He has serves on the Board of Directors for the Alliance for Biosecurity since October 2014, and has been a member of the corporate councils of both the National Organization for Rare Diseases (“NORD”) and the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (“ASBMT”) since October 2009 and July 2009, respectively.
Prior to joining Soligenix, Dr. Schaber served from 1998 to 2006 as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Discovery Laboratories, Inc., where he was responsible for overall pipeline development and key areas of commercial operations, including regulatory affairs, quality control and assurance, manufacturing and distribution, pre-clinical and clinical research, and medical affairs, as well as coordination of commercial launch preparation activities. From 1996 to 1998, Dr. Schaber was a co-founder of Acute Therapeutics, Inc., and served as its Vice President of Regulatory Compliance and Drug Development. From 1994 to 1996, Dr. Schaber was employed by Ohmeda PPD, Inc., as Worldwide Director of Regulatory Affairs and Operations. From 1989 to 1994, Dr. Schaber held a variety of regulatory, development and operations positions with The Liposome Company, Inc., and Elkins-Sinn Inc., a division of Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories.
Dr. Schaber received his BA degree from Western Maryland College, his MS degree in Pharmaceutics from Temple University School of Pharmacy and his Ph.D. degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the Union Graduate School.
Immediate Past Chair: James Sapirstein, R.Ph., MBA
President and CEO, AzurRx BioPharma
Mr. Sapirstein has served over 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry. He is currently the President and CEO of AzurRx BioPharma. He has been part of almost two dozen drug product launches and specifically either led or has been a key member of several HIV product launches into different new classes of therapeutics at the time.
Mr. Sapirstein began his career in 1984 with Eli Lilly in sales, moving to Hoffmann-LaRoche in 1987, where he served for almost a decade as part of its commercial teams in the U.S. and abroad, rising to become a Product Director. He joined Bristol-Myers Squibb as the Director of International Marketing in the Infectious Diseases group in 1996. While at BMS, he worked on several important HIV/AIDS projects, including Secure the Future.
Mr. Sapirstein started his career in smaller biotech companies when he later joined Gilead Sciences, Inc. (GILD) in order to lead the Global Marketing team in its launch of Viread (tenofovir). In 2002, he accepted the position of Executive Vice President, Metabolic and Endocrinology, for Serono Laboratories. Later, in 2006, he became the founding CEO of Tobira Therapeutics, then a private company. Tobira Therapeutics was acquired by Allergan in 2016. In 2012, Mr. Sapirstein became the CEO of Alliqua Biomedical at Alliqua, Inc. Thereafter, he served as CEO of ContraVir Pharmaceuticals from March 2014 until October 2018. All of these are publicly listed companies. Mr. Sapirstein has raised over $200M in venture capital and public capital markets financing in his various engagements as CEO. He was named as a Finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2015 as well as in 2016.
He holds board positions on Marizyme (MRZM) (Executive Chairman), Enochian Biosciences (ENOB) and Leading Biosciences. In addition, Mr. Sapirstein is a Board Director for BIO, the leading biopharma industries organization promoting public policy and networking in the health care space, where he sits on both the Health Section and Emerging Companies Section Governing Boards.
Mr. Sapirstein received an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1997, and a BS (Pharmacy) from Rutgers University in 1984.
President and CEO: Debbie Hart, MS, CAE, APR
President and CEO, BioNJ
Ms. Hart, founding President and CEO of BioNJ, is dedicated to the mission and work of BioNJ. She worked alongside New Jersey’s biotechnology industry leaders to establish BioNJ in 1994 and has been dedicated to the organization since then. Ms. Hart has been active on the boards and committees of numerous government and academic institutions.
Ms. Hart was recently named by Governor Murphy to New Jersey’s Restart and Recovery Advisory Council and by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin to the Economic Advisory Council to Restart the Economy. Additionally, she was named by Governor Murphy to the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology where she serves as Vice Chair; as co-chair of the New Jersey Higher Education Strategic Plan Research, Innovation and Talent Working Group; and the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education and Business Partnership. Ms. Hart served as chair of the bipartisan, bicameral New Jersey Biotechnology Task Force which was charged with making recommendations to the Legislature for fostering the growth of the biotechnology industry in New Jersey. The report was issued in June 2018. Debbie serves on the boards of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and Choose New Jersey.
Ms. Hart serves on the New Jersey Presidents Council’s branding and marketing task force for New Jersey institutions. She was appointed to the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education and Business Partnerships and to the NJ Council on Innovation. She was named to the Advisory Boards of the New Jersey Innovation Institute and the Institute for Life Sciences Entrepreneurship at Kean University. She served as a member of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) Technology Advisory Board and is a former member and Chair of EDA’s Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT). Additionally, Ms. Hart served on the transition teams of two former New Jersey governors and was appointed by two Governors to the New Jersey Israel Commission for her work in economic development.
Past government support activities include the Prosperity New Jersey Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Cluster Study commissioned by a former Governor and conducted by Professor Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School, the Jobs Growth and Economic Development Commission established by a former Governor and chaired by Dr. Roy Vagelos as well as the Task Force on Higher Education Quality and Competitiveness of the State. Ms. Hart also served on the Business Task Force established by the New Jersey State Legislature in 2011.
A strong advocate for advancing education, Ms. Hart serves as a board member of the Rutgers University Blanche and Irwin Lerner Center for the Study of Pharmaceutical Management at Rutgers University Business School, and has served on the Advisory Board of the College of Science and Mathematics at Montclair University, the Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurship at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Silberman College of Business and the Science Advisory Board at Rider University as well as the advisory boards for the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s (NJIT) Biomedical Engineering Program, Monmouth University’s School of Science, Technology and Engineering and as a Director of the Liberty Science Center’s Women’s Leadership Council.
Ms. Hart served on the advisory board that guided the establishment of the nationally recognized Monmouth County Biotechnology High School and as a member of the New Jersey Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) Advisory Board. In 2005, she delivered the Commencement Address at Raritan Valley Community College’s graduation ceremonies.
As an advocate for the industry, Ms. Hart has testified before State and federal legislative committees. She is also a frequent speaker at industry events, including serving as the Keynote speaker at the Russian Pharmaceutical Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia; the Knowledge for Growth Conference in Ghent, Belgium; the Women’s Clinical Leadership Forum at the Partnerships in Clinical Trials conference in Orlando, Florida; and the Shanghai Bio Conference in Shanghai.
Ms. Hart was honored by the Women’s Fund of New Jersey as a Woman Advancing Science, and she and BioNJ were recognized by NJIT with a New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame Award.
Ms. Hart is an NJBIZ New Jersey’s Best 50 Women in Business honoree. In March 2014 in commemoration of Women’s History Month, she was nominated by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt and honored by the New Jersey General Assembly as a Woman Advancing Science. In May 2014, Debbie was named to PolitickerNJ’s Health Care Power List of 2014. In 2015, she was named as one of HudsonMod Magazine’s list of Women in Power and one of New Jersey’s Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs & Business Owners by Leading Women Entrepreneurs.
More recently, Ms. Hart was named one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People in Biotechnology by Scientific American Worldview; to ROI-NJ’s 2019 Influencers Power List; to the NJBIZ Health Care Power 50 for the third year in a row coming in at #6 in 2020, to the 2019 NJBIZ Manufacturing 50, to PharmaVOICE‘s 2019 100 Most Inspiring People list; one of New Jersey’s top CEOs by COMMERCE Magazine and for the eighth time in 2020 to the NJBIZ Power 100, a listing of the 100 most influential people in New Jersey business.
Ms. Hart holds an M.S. from the S. I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University where she graduated cum laude and a B.A. from Trenton State College, now The College of New Jersey, where she graduated magna cum laude.
Vice Chairman: Daniel J. O’Connor, J.D.
President and CEO, OncoSec Medical, Incorporated
Mr. O’Connor, a life-long resident of New Jersey, is the CEO, President and Director of OncoSec Medical Incorporated, a New-Jersey based biotech company developing TAVO, an intratumoral cancer immunotherapies using IL-12. During his two years as CEO, Mr. O’Connor has launched two KEYNOTE studies, combining Merck’s Keytruda® in PD-1 checkpoint refractory metastatic melanoma and in late-stage chemo-refractory triple negative breast cancer; has raised over $50M and in October 2019 announced a $30M strategic financing and collaboration with established biopharma partners.
Previously, Mr. O’Connor served as President and CEO of Advaxis Inc., and successfully up-listed the company to NASDAQ and turned around the company, raising more than $300M in funding and licensing deals, transforming it into a patient-focused, leading cancer immunotherapy company. He established major partnerships with companies that included Amgen Inc., Merck & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb. In addition, under his leadership, the company advanced four new cancer immunotherapy drug candidates into clinical trials, as well as several PD-1 combination clinical studies with Keytruda® and Opdivo®. Prior, Mr. O’Connor was the General Counsel and Senior Vice President for ImClone Systems where he led the clinical development, launch and commercialization of ERBITUX®, and positioned ImClone for sale to Eli Lilly in 2008. Mr. O’Connor served as General Counsel at PharmaNet (today, Syneos Health) and was part of the senior leadership team that grew PharmaNet from a start-up contract research organization into a leader in clinical research.
Mr. O’Connor currently serves on the Board of Directors for Seelos Therapeutics. He is a 1995 graduate of the Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and previously served as Trusted Advisor to its Dean. He graduated from the United States Marines Corps Officer Candidate School in 1988 and was commissioned a Lieutenant in the U.S. Marines, attaining the rank of Captain and was deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield. Mr. O’Connor was a former criminal prosecutor in Somerset County, New Jersey.
Treasurer: Monika A. Vnuk, M.D.
Vice President, R&D Business Development, Pfizer, Inc.
Dr. Monika Vnuk is Vice President of R&D Business Development for Pfizer, Inc. In this role, Dr. Vnuk leads an international team responsible for executing all pre-clinical business development transactions for Pfizer.
Since joining Pfizer in 2008, Dr. Vnuk has been responsible for leading the evaluation, execution and negotiations of many business transactions, including licensing deals, collaborations, joint-ventures and mergers and acquisitions, in support of Pfizer’s Innovative Medicines and Established Medicines businesses across developed and emerging markets.
Before joining Pfizer, Dr. Vnuk was a Vice President at Banc of America Securities. During her time with Banc of America, Dr. Vnuk helped life sciences companies complete initial public offerings, private placements and strategic transactions. Prior to her position at Banc of America, Dr. Vnuk was a Principal at Oxford Bioscience Partners, a venture capital firm focused on early stage biotechnology investments. During her five years with Oxford, she worked with the investment team in forming several biotechnology and medical device start-ups in addition to helping portfolio companies complete private financing transactions. Prior to her role with Oxford Bioscience, Dr. Vnuk was a Fellow at the Health Care Entrepreneurship Program at Boston University.
Dr. Vnuk is a 2000 Inductee to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. Dr. Vnuk holds a BA in Mathematics and Philosophy from Boston University and an M.D. from Boston University School of Medicine.
Secretary: Michele Korfin, R.Ph., MBA
Chief Operating Officer & Chief Commercial Officer, Gamida Cell
Michele Korfin is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Commercial Officer for Gamida Cell. Ms. Korfin has over 20 years of experience in oncology, focused on product launches, clinical development, oncology marketing strategy, commercial sales, market access and government affairs.
Gamida Cell is an advanced cell therapy company committed to cures for patients with blood cancers and serious blood diseases. The lead investigational therapy, omidubicel, has FDA Breakthrough Designation and successfully achieved the primary endpoint of the Phase 3 clinical trial evaluating patients who were eligible for allogeneic bone marrow transplant but did not have a matched donor. Gamida Cell also has a natural killer cell development program, with the lead investigational therapy, GDA-201, demonstrating encouraging efficacy in a Phase 1 clinical study in patients with lymphoma.
Prior to joining Gamida Cell, Ms. Korfin was the Chief Operating Officer of TYME Technologies. Ms. Korfin’s focus at TYME was to advance the pivotal clinical trials for SM-88, an oral therapy and the lead investigational agent for the TYME proprietary cancer metabolism-based therapeutics (CMBTsTM) platform.
Prior to joining TYME, Ms. Korfin was Vice President of Market Access at Kite Pharma, where she oversaw the market access strategy, including payer relations, reimbursement and government affairs for Yescarta®, the first approved CAR-T therapy in lymphoma. Ms. Korfin also established the Chain of Identity approach for the Kite CAR-T therapy and led the Kite Konnect team.
Prior to joining Kite, Ms. Korfin spent more than a decade at Celgene in a variety of key strategic and operational roles, including Global Marketing, head of the U.S. oncology sales force, U.S. Market Access lead, Lymphoma Marketing lead, and overseeing the global development programs for REVLIMID® in Lymphoma and CLL.
Ms. Korfin has also held prior positions at Merck & Co as a manufacturing scientist, Bain & Company as a consultant and Schering-Plough in sales and marketing. Ms. Korfin holds a Master in Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy from Rutgers University. Ms. Korfin is a licensed pharmacist in New Jersey. She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Andy, and their two children, Amanda and Jake.
Sol J. Barer, Ph.D.
Former Chairman and CEO, Celgene Corporation
Chairman of the Board, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
Dr. Barer spent most of his professional career with the Celgene Corporation. He was Chairman from January 2011 until June 2011, Executive Chairman from June 2010 until January 2011 and Chairman and Chief Executive Ofﬁcer from May 2006 until June 2010. Previously he was appointed President in 1993 and Chief Operating Ofﬁcer in 1994 before assuming the CEO position. He also served as Senior Vice President, Science and Technology, and Vice President/General Manager, Chiral Products, from October 1990 to October 1993, and Vice President, Technology, from September 1987 to October 1990. Dr. Barer was the founder of the biotechnology group at the Celanese Research Company which was subsequently spun out to form Celgene.
Dr. Barer currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the public companies Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Aevi Genomic Medicine and private companies Centrexion and Neximmune, is a Director of 3D Biotherapeutics and is Lead Director of ContraFect. He is the Founding Chair of the HMH Center for Discovery and Innovation. He is a Founder of MIG, an organization dedicated to helping Israeli biotech entrepreneurs and is a Venture Advisor to the Israel Biotechnology Fund as well as an advisor to biopharma companies.
In 2011, Dr. Barer was Chairman of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Governor’s Advisory Committee which resulted in sweeping changes in the structure of New Jersey’s medical schools and public research universities. He previously served as a Commissioner of the NJ Commission on Science and Technology. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of Rutgers University (until 2013). He also served two terms as Chair of the Board of Trustees of BioNJ (2010-2012). Dr. Barer was named to the “Worldview 100” (Scientific American’s 100 most inﬂuential ﬁgures in today’s world of biotechnology) in 2015, named one of “25 Leadership Legends of NJ” (NJBIZ) in 2012, “The 50 Most Powerful People in N.J. Health Care,” in 2012, inducted into the NJBIZ Hall of Fame in 2011 and was named as one of NJ’s top 10 scientists by New Jersey Business in 2008. Dr. Barer has received numerous professional awards.
Vice President, Head of North America Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility, Sanofi
As Head of North America Communications and CSR for Sanofi, Ms. Bechan is responsible for building and overseeing external and internal communication strategies and activities for the North America region, including messaging, media outreach, digital strategy, product communications and executive and internal communications. She also is responsible for the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, including corporate giving, volunteerism and social commitments.
Having worked in the communications field for more than 20 years, Ms. Bechan brings to the role extensive experience, both in the U.S. and internationally, to enhance the image and reputation of Sanofi in North America and drive communications excellence in our ever-changing health care environment. In addition to her North America responsibility, Ms. Bechan serves on Sanofi’s Global Communications Leadership Team and the U.S. Country Council. She also serves as the President for the Sanofi Cares Foundation and as the executive sponsor of both the Women Inspiring Sanofi Excellence (WISE) employee resource group and the Sanofi Diversity & Inclusion Council.
Prior to joining Sanofi, Ms. Bechan worked at Takeda Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. for 13 years, where she was most recently Vice President of Corporate Communications responsible for all corporate communications for the company’s four international commercial regions and global manufacturing, including the United States, Emerging Markets, Europe and Canada and North Asia. Ms. Bechan demonstrated her leadership experience in a variety of cultural contexts most notably spending significant time working in Takeda’s Japanese headquarters in Tokyo and living and working in Switzerland. Prior to Takeda, she held positions of increasing responsibility at Edelman Public Relations Worldwide and Andersen Consulting (Accenture).
Ms. Bechan holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. She also completed executive leadership studies at INSEAD and The London Business School.
President of Immunology and a member of the Janssen Americas Leadership Team, Janssen
Tom Cavanaugh is President, Janssen Immunology, and a member of the Janssen Americas Leadership Team. In this role, Tom leads the U.S. Immunology franchise, focused on driving medical innovation in rheumatology, dermatology and gastroenterology and home to brands including STELARA®, TREMFYA®, SIMPONI ARIA® and REMICADE®.
Tom is a results-focused leader with an ability to navigate through complex environments, develop talent and motivate diverse teams. Previously, Tom was President, Janssen Oncology, where he steered the organization through a period of unprecedented growth.
Tom joined Janssen in 2017 after a successful career at Celgene leading the U.S. Hematology/Oncology business as Corporate Vice-President and General Manager. Over the course of 14 years at Celgene, Tom held leadership positions of increasing responsibility in marketing, general management, medical affairs, and product development. His extensive global experience includes two roles in Europe as General Manager of Celgene’s business in Spain and Head of EMEA Marketing in Switzerland. Tom joined Celgene from Pharmacia, where he held roles in sales and product management.
Tom began his career as a chemist and pharmacy technician. He is a member of the BioNJ Board of Directors and the American Cancer Society’s Tri-State CEO’s Against Cancer. Tom holds a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from North Carolina State University. He lives with his wife and three children in New Jersey.
Executive Director & Head of Operations, MRL Business Development & Licensing, Merck & Co.
Ms. Conners is Executive Director and Head of Operations for the Business Development & Licensing arm of Merck Research Laboratories. Ms. Conners has been with Merck for more than 25 years and has a broad range of strategic and operational experience spanning roles in manufacturing, communications, marketing and research. Currently, she leads a team that oversees outreach and relationship management, communications, governance activities and knowledge management. Over her tenure, Ms. Conners has led teams supporting the development of medical education programs for a number of Merck products. She has supported the successful product launches of VYTORIN, CRIXIVAN and GARDASIL as well as the development of publications documenting The African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP). Ms. Conners started her career in Merck’s Manufacturing Division where she managed community relations programs and an array of communications projects including critical manufacturing and regulatory issues. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgia Southern University and completed an executive education program at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. Ms. Conners is active in a number of life science and licensing focused organizations.
Jayne C. Gershkowitz
Chief Patient Advocate, Amicus Therapeutics, Inc.
Ms. Gershkowitz joined Amicus Therapeutics in 2006 and serves as Chief Patient Advocate, responsible for developing and executing the global strategies that ensure patients remain at the core of all company operations.
A long-time patient advocacy professional, Ms. Gershkowitz leads the company’s highly regarded Patient and Professional Advocacy department, a function at the heart of Amicus since its earliest days as an R&D organization. She founded the company’s Patient Advisory Boards program, which helps give a voice to the concerns of Patients, families and caregivers and has been actively involved in Amicus’ public policy work to advocate for policies that satisfy unmet needs among those living with rare diseases, and manages Healing Beyond Disease™, an Amicus initiative to further serve the rare disease community in extraordinary ways.
In February of 2019, Ms. Gershkowitz received the second annual “Heart of BioNJ” Award in honor of her selflessness and dedication to patients in the rare disease community. She is also a 2018 PharmaVOICE 100 honoree, recognized for providing inspiration and innovation in the life sciences industry. Ms. Gershkowitz serves on industry, association and non-profit boards and committees, including founding Chair of BioNJ’s Patient Advocacy Committee; member of the Board of Trustees of the Healthcare Institute of NJ (HINJ); member of BIO’s Government Relations and Rare Disease specialty committees; Director of Together Strong; co-founder and board member of Professional Patient Advocates in Life Sciences (PPALS); part of the Corporate Alliance of Global Genes; and former vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). Ms. Gershkowitz is the former Executive Director of National Tay-Sachs & Allied Diseases Association.
A native of Medford, Massachusetts, Ms. Gershkowitz graduated from Syracuse University with a dual degree in Public Communications and English Literature and studied marketing management at Radcliffe College. She and her husband, Bruce, reside in Hightstown, New Jersey; they have two adult children.
Christian Kopfli, Esq.
CEO, Chromocell Corporation
Mr. Kopfli co-founded Chromocell in 2002, serving initially as General Counsel before becoming CEO in 2005. Prior to joining Chromocell, he was an Associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell, working in its New York City, Tokyo and Frankfurt offices. At Davis Polk, Mr. Kopfli worked extensively in mergers and acquisitions, capital markets and private equity transactions.
Mr. Kopfli received a doctoral degree in law (magna cum laude) from the University of Zurich in 2000 and earned his LL.M. from Columbia Law School in New York City in 1998. He is admitted to the Bar in New York and Switzerland.
Leigh Anne Leas
North America Head of Public Policy, Novartis
Ms. Leas serves as the Vice President and North America Head, Public Policy for Novartis, representing all business divisions. She is responsible for developing the organization’s policy priorities and positions on key federal and state public policy issues and government health care programs. Ms. Leas and her team assess the impact of potential legislation and regulations on the Novartis U.S. businesses, including innovative medicines, generics and biosimilar pharmaceuticals. She is a member of the Novartis Public Affairs Leadership Team and leads the U.S. Pricing and Access Steering Committee. Since joining Novartis in 2003, Ms. Leas has held a variety of roles focused on Public Affairs strategy and government access, public policy, managed markets strategy and pharma pricing/contracting. Her prior pharmaceutical industry experience included government pricing/contracting, managed care strategy and product director roles with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson. Prior to joining the pharmaceutical industry, Ms. Leas worked for 10 years in the health insurance and pharmaceutical benefits management industries in roles including underwriting and actuarial positions with United Healthcare, and pricing, operations, and account management leadership roles with PCS Health Systems, now a part of the CVS/Caremark organization. Ms. Leas is a board member of the National Pharmaceutical Council, an Advisory Board member of the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics and an Advisory Board member of the Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy Value-based Payment Consortium. She is a graduate of the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.
Will Lewis, J.D., MBA
Chairman and CEO, Insmed, Inc.
Mr. Lewis joined Insmed in 2012 as President and CEO and as a member of the Board of Directors. He became Chairman of the Board of Directors in November 2018. Mr. Lewis is the former Co-Founder, President and CFO of Aegerion Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and previously spent more than 10 years working in investment banking in the U.S. and Europe. Prior, Mr. Lewis worked for the U.S. government.
Mr. Lewis holds a BA degree cum laude from Oberlin College as well as an M.B.A. and a J.D. with Honors from Case Western Reserve University.
President, ConSynance Therapeutics
Mr. Maki previously served as CEO of Vicus Therapeutics, as Managing Director of Technology Directors, Inc., as Managing Director of Audax Group and as Principal, Bain Capital, as well as a consultant for Bain & Company.
Mr. Maki holds an AB degree from Harvard University. He has over 25 years of industry experience and has been a founding investor and/or board member of 11 life sciences companies. In addition, four of Mr. Maki’s portfolio companies had successful IPOs and grew to a combined market capitalization exceeding $2.5 billion dollars. Mr. Maki currently serves on the boards of Vicus Therapeutics, an immuno-oncology company and 3DMatrix, a wound healing device company.
Anthony S. Marucci, MBA
Founder, President, CEO and Director, Celldex Therapeutics, Inc.
Mr. Marucci is a Founder of Celldex and serves as the company’s President and CEO and as a member of the Board of Directors. Prior to his appointment as President and CEO in 2008, Mr. Marucci served as Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Secretary of Celldex. Celldex, founded in 2004 as a subsidiary of Medarex (Medarex is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bristol-Myers Squibb), was initially spun out as an independent private company in October 2005 with the asset acquisition of CDX-110 from Alteris Therapeutics, Inc. and the acquisition of Lorantis Limited (Cambridge, UK). In addition to these acquisitions, Mr. Marucci was also responsible for the AVANT Immunotherapeutics, Inc. and Celldex Therapeutics, Inc. merger completed during the first quarter of 2008 and the acquisition of CuraGen Corporation completed in the third quarter of 2009. He was Treasurer of Medarex from December 1998 to March 2004, where he held a series of senior financial positions since December 1998.
As a member of BioNJ’s Board of Trustees, Mr. Marucci served as its Treasurer through 2010. Mr. Marucci received a BS in Accounting from Kean University, an MBA from Columbia University and an Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership (EMHL) from Brown University.
Jeffrey A. Nau, Ph.D., M.M.S.
President and CEO, Oyster Point Pharma, Inc.
Dr. Nau is currently the President and CEO of Oyster Point Pharma. He has built his career on developing novel, innovative therapies for diseases of the eye, with almost 20 years of experience working with biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Most recently, he was Vice Presicent, Clinical and Medical Affairs, at Ophthotech. Prior to that, Dr. Nau was a Medical Science Director at Genentech working on the development of Lucentis®, a transformative drug for retinal diseases. Dr. Nau has been instrumental in building a number of innovative start-ups, such as Genaera Corporation, Acuity Pharmaceuticals and NeoVista, Inc.
He holds numerous patents and peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Nau has a Ph.D. in Public Health and Epidemiology from Walden University, a M.S. in Medial Science from MCP Hahnemann School of Medicine and a BS in Biology from Stony Brook University.
Greg Oakes, MBA
President, North America, Relypsa, Inc, Executive Vice President, Vifor Pharma
Mr. Oakes joined Relypsa, Inc. in September, 2020. Previously, Mr. Oakes served as Corporate Vice President – Global Integration Lead for Otezla at Amgen, where he oversaw the integration and continued success of the $2B brand. Prior to Amgen, Mr. Oakes was Corporate Vice President and US General Manager at Celgene, where he was responsible for Celgene’s I&I portfolio in the United States. Mr. Oakes also served as the Global Commercial Integration Lead at Celgene where he helped steer the $74B acquisition by Bristol-Myers Squibb and the $13.4B divestiture of Otezla. Prior to Celgene, Mr. Oakes held several positions at Novartis, including Head of Sandoz Biopharmaceuticals, North America, and Senior Vice President, US Market Access, Primary Care & Established Medicines, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.
Mr. Oakes began his career at Schering-Plough (Merck) where he held executive roles both in the United States and Europe. Greg has a bachelor’s degree in Marketing/Business Administration from Edinboro University, and a Master of Business Administration from Clemson University.
Andrew L. Pecora, M.D., FACP, CPE
CEO, Outcomes Matter Innovations, LLC
A nationally recognized expert in care transformation, Dr. Pecora is at the forefront of the health-systems improvement movement. As CEO of Outcomes Matter Innovations (OMI), he is a national advocate for making medical practices more efficient and profitable, and at the same time, improving patient care. Dr. Pecora, one of Modern Healthcare’s 2019 “50 Most Influential Clinical Executives,” is dedicated to pairing practices with artificial intelligence (AI) and health technologies to increase efficiencies, reduce costs and enable physicians to better do what they do best – heal patients.
Dr. Pecora joined OMI from Hackensack Meridian Health, where he was President, Physician Enterprise and Chief Innovation Officer. A certified hematologist and oncologist – and one of the world’s leading experts in blood and marrow stem cell transplantation, cellular medicine and immunology research – Dr. Pecora played a pivotal role in the recruitment of leading oncologists, initiation of innovative research and clinical trials, expansion of Patient care services and introduction of new, state-of-the-art technologies to shift administrative burdens from healthcare professionals.
While at Hackensack Meridian Health, he created and expanded the John Theurer Cancer Center, named one of the United States top 50 cancer centers – the only New Jersey institute with this designation – and played a key role in the success of multiple Hackensack Meridian strategic partnerships, including those with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center.
Dr. Pecora was instrumental in the John Theurer Cancer Center approval from the National Cancer Institute as a research consortium member of the NCI-approved Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center Consortium, awarded May 2019. This esteemed designation recognizes providers for their scientific leadership, community engagement, and the depth and breadth of their cancer research. The collaboration is one of just 16 NCI-designated cancer consortia.
Along with innovating in clinical settings, Dr. Pecora is a noted leader in building physician alliances. He was instrumental in the creation and development of Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA), one of the nation’s largest oncology physician networks. Dr. Pecora is also executive chairman of COTA, a health care software analytics company guiding value-based care delivery for payers and providers. A medical innovator, he co-founded PCT Caladrius, LLC; a company focused on development, manufacturing and delivery of cell-based therapies, later sold to Hitachi.
Dr. Pecora has been awarded the prestigious BioNJ Dr. Sol J. Barer Award for Vision, Innovation and Leadership; the ASCO Cancer Foundation Research Award and Gallo Award for outstanding cancer research; tapped as one of America’s Top Doctors, listed as a “Who’s Who in the World”; and selected as the PM360 Uber ELITE honoree. His award-winning research has been published in numerous peer-review medical journals and funded by organizations including the National Cancer Institute, AHEPA Research Foundation and biopharma giants Amgen and Merck.
Dr. Pecora is a Professor of Medicine and Oncology at Georgetown University and University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He is Associate Dean for Technology and Innovation at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University. He received his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and completed his fellowship in hematology/oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Stuart W. Peltz, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer, PTC Therapeutics, Inc.
Dr. Peltz founded PTC Therapeutics in 1998 and has served as CEO and a member of the Board of Directors since the company’s inception. Under his leadership, PTC has grown from a research organization to a publicly traded, global commercial organization with multiple approved products and a foundation of strong technology platforms that continues to drive a robust discovery pipeline for Patients with rare disorders.
Prior to founding PTC, Dr. Peltz was a Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University. Dr. Peltz is a recognized scientific leader in RNA biology in the area of post-transcriptional control processes involving mRNA turnover and translation, with more than 30 years of research and over 100 publications in this area. Dr. Peltz has received a number of business and scientific awards. Notably, he was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science in 2010. He was recognized as PharmaVOICE’s 100 Most Inspiring People in 2009 and received the Dr. Sol J. Barer Award for Vision, Innovation and Leadership in 2014.
Dr. Peltz received a Ph.D. from the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Wisconsin.
Navneet Puri, Ph.D.
Founder, Chairman & CEO, Nevakar, Inc.
Dr. Puri is a pharmacist by education with 20 years of healthcare industry experience. He founded Nevakar in 2015 with a vision of creating a fully integrated specialty pharmaceutical company focusing on hospital injectables and ophthalmic products.
Prior to Nevakar, Dr. Puri spent several years in product development and drug delivery of parenteral pharmaceuticals at Baxter Healthcare Corp. and Amgen Inc. He founded InnoPharma, Inc. in 2005, focusing on development of complex generic injectable dosage formulations. When Pfizer acquired InnoPharma in 2014, he stayed on as Vice President of Pfizer’s Worldwide Research & Development until 2015.
Dr. Puri received Future 50 magazine’s Smart CEO award in 2015. He was also awarded the EY Entrepreneur of The Year award from the state of NJ in 2015. Dr. Puri’s past board positions include InnoPharma, Eyenuk and Xeris Pharmaceuticals. His current board positions include Nevakar, Alzeca Biosciences and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Leadership Council. Dr. Puri earned a MS from the University of Mississippi and a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutics from Rutgers University.
Spiro Rombotis, MPH, MBA
President & Chief Executive Officer, Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Mr. Rombotis joined Cyclacel as its first CEO in 1997 and has served over 35 years at three public biotechs and two pharmas. He participated in in-licensing, clinical development, regulatory approval, partnering and commercial launch of several drugs, mainly in inflammation and hematology/oncology, including Abelcet®, Evacet/Myocet®, ProHance®, Remicade® and Reopro®. Major functional roles included international operations and business development as Vice President at Liposome (subsequently acquired by Elan) and previously Vice President in the pharmaceuticals division of Bristol-Myers Squibb. He began his career in the early ’80s, after training at Novartis, as one of the first employees of Centocor (subsequently acquired by Johnson & Johnson). He holds an MBA and MPH (Hospital & Health Services Management) with honors, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and a BA, Williams College. He serves on the Board of Trustees of BioNJ, the NJ biotech association.
Alan L. Rubino
President and CEO, RenovaCare, Inc.
Prior to joining RenovaCare, a public company that is the developer of patented technologies for spraying self-donated stem cells for the regeneration of tissues and organs, Mr. Rubino led a turnaround for Emisphere Technologies, Inc., where he helped to position the company among the leading global oral drug delivery firms. Emisphere’s turnaround was enhanced by a new four molecule collaboration with Novo Nordisk and anchored by the recent FDA approval of Novo Nordisk’s Rybelsus® which incorporated the company’s carrier technology to introduce the first-ever oral GLP-1 therapeutic for the treatment of diabetes. Mr. Rubino also serves on the RenovaCare Corporate Board of Directors.
Previously, he was President and CEO of New American Therapeutics Inc., a private specialty pharmaceutical company that acquired, marketed and developed therapeutic products. New American Therapeutics Inc. achieved major success through the acquisition, marketing and eventual sale of its herpes drug, Denavir® where the team tripled sales in 18 months. Denavir® was then sold to Renaissance Pharmaceuticals, for a multiple of three times sales. Prior to New American Therapeutics Inc., Mr. Rubino served as CEO and President of Akrimax Pharmaceuticals, where he and his team acquired Tirosint® and NitroMist®, two key NDA approved launch products. Rounding out his background, he had also been President and COO of another publicly held entity, Pharmos Corporation, where he led the transformation of the company through the acquisition of Vela Pharmaceuticals. Mr. Rubino also spent four years in senior leadership positions on the strategic services side of the health care sector with two other public companies, Cardinal Health and PDI Inc.
A major portion of Mr. Rubino’s career includes his 24 years spent at Hoffmann-La Roche, now Genentech (a subsidiary of Roche) which remains one of the world’s top 10 biopharmaceutical companies. At Roche, he was a corporate officer and member of the U.S. Executive Committee. He held a variety of key senior executive positions that encompassed business operations, business strategy, human resources, marketing, sales, corporate development and strategic planning.
Mr. Rubino currently serves on the Corporate Boards of Vericel Inc., Genisphere, Inc. and Sanuwave Health, Inc. For over 20 years he served on the Board of Rutgers University School of Business and the Lerner Center for Pharmaceutical Studies.
Mr. Rubino holds a BA in economics from Rutgers University along with a full minor in biology and chemistry. He also attended multiple executive education courses at Harvard Business School and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.
Marco Taglietti, M.D.
President and CEO, SCYNEXIS, Inc.
Dr. Taglietti joined Scynexis’ Board of Directors in 2014 as an independent Director becoming Scynexis’ CEO and President in April 2015. He served as Executive Vice President, Research and Development and Chief Medical Officer of Forest Laboratories, Inc. and also as President of the Forest Research Institute until its purchase by Actavis in 2014. During his career at Forest, Stiefel and Schering-Plough, Dr. Taglietti brought to market more than 35 different products in the U.S. and internationally through a variety of regulatory strategies including NDA 505(b)1 and 505(b)2, 510k medical device, ANDA for generics and EMA MAA in many different therapeutic areas, including anti-infectives, oncology, psychiatry, neurology, cardiovascular, respiratory, dermatology, metabolism and internal medicine.
Academic Advisor: Reynold A. Panettieri, Jr., M.D.
Vice Chancellor, Translational Medicine and Science
Director, Rutgers Institute for Translational Medicine and Science
Professor of Medicine, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Panettieri is Professor of Medicine, Vice Chancellor for Translational Medicine and Science at Rutgers University, and the Director of the Institute for Translational Medicine and Science. Previously, he was the Robert L. Mayock and David A. Cooper Professor of Medicine in the Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Division of the Department of Medicine, and served as Deputy Director of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine where he remains Professor Emeritus.
Dr. Panettieri’s basic science interests focus on airway smooth muscle function in asthma and the molecular and cellular mechanisms of airway smooth muscle function and growth. His lab also focuses on cytosolic signaling pathways that mediate gene expression and alter myocyte function. He is principal investigator on several NIH-sponsored grants and industry-sponsored clinical studies, is director of a program project grant examining novel approaches in modulating GPCR function and is the Principal Investigator of the CTSA Hub entitled ‘New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science’. He is the author of over 475 peer-reviewed publications.
Dr. Panettieri is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Robert E. Cooke Memorial Lectureship at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting, the Joseph R. Rodarte Award for Scientific Distinction and the Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishments from the American Thoracic Society. He is also an active member of national professional and scientific societies, including the American College of Chest Physicians and the American Thoracic Society. In 2013, he was elected Chair of the Respiratory Structure and Function Assembly of the American Thoracic Society.
In addition to his research and clinical interests, Dr. Panettieri served as Chair of the NIH Lung Cellular, Molecular, and Immunobiology Study Section, is a member of the NIH Distinguished Editorial Panel, and is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and Association of American Physicians. He manages the comprehensive clinical care of patients with asthma and is actively involved in clinical investigations focused on the management of asthma and COPD.
Corporate Venture Advisor: Jorge Ramirez, MBA
Principal, H.I.G. BioHealth Partners
Mr. Ramirez focuses on development stage and growth investments in the health care sector at H.I.G. BioHealth Partners. Previously, he was with ProQuest Investments, a health care focused private equity firm. During his eight years with ProQuest, the firm raised and fully invested two funds totaling $625 million. Mr. Ramirez represented ProQuest as an observer or board member in several successful companies, including Eagle Pharmaceuticals, Mevion Medical Systems, Revision Optics and MethylGene (now, Mirati Pharmaceutics). He currently serves on the advisory board of the Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies, a life sciences incubator funded by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
Mr. Ramirez has also held operating roles in health care companies. He was the General Manager of Neurology Products at Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems. He led the regulatory and clinical development teams for an epilepsy monitoring device and had P&L responsibility for Cyberkinetics’ research products. Previously, Mr. Ramirez was a management consultant at Monitor Company.
Mr. Ramirez earned degrees in Neuroscience and Spanish literature from Amherst College, where he graduated magna cum laude. He earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was a Pfizer Scholar and Social Enterprise Fellow.
Legal Advisor: Steven M. Cohen, J.D.
Partner, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
Chair of the firm’s emerging business and technology practice, Mr. Cohen represents entrepreneurs, private equity investors and venture capital funds. He advises clients in such industries as technology, life sciences, chemicals, consumer products, digital health and fintech. Mr. Cohen counsels mid-Atlantic region investors and emerging growth companies in a variety of business transaction, including equity financing transactions, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, initial public offerings (IPOs), joint ventures and international strategic partnerships.
With a knack for creating connections between investors and entrepreneurs, Mr. Cohen helps develop and implement growth strategies, working with companies throughout their entire lifecycle.
Widely recognized on the East Coast for his knowledge and skill, Mr. Cohen lectures frequently on emerging technology topics such as planning profitable exit strategies and obtaining angel and venture capital financing for early stage companies.
Mr. Cohen also is also managing partner of the firm’s Princeton office.
State Government Official Advisor: Kathleen Coviello
Vice President of Technology & Life Sciences Investments, NJEDA
Ms. Coviello is the Vice President of Technology & Life Sciences Investments at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), where she is responsible for working closely with the State’s emerging technology and life sciences companies and investors and delivering Edison Innovation Fund products to this community. Ms. Coviello also oversees the management of the NJEDA’s 46,000-square-foot New Jersey Bioscience Center (NJBC) – Incubator at North Brunswick and the NJBC – Step Out Labs, a 32,000-square-foot post-incubation facility. Under her leadership, the NJEDA’s Technology and Life Sciences (TLS) Division has delivered over $1 billion in direct investments, business incentives, tax credits and venture fund investments through the Edison Innovation Fund. During her tenure, New Jersey’s first accelerator – TechLaunch – was established, federal State Small Business Credit Initiatives funds were deployed into several regional venture funds, the State’s Angel Tax Credit Program was launched, and the New Jersey Founders & Funders program was born. Prior to joining the NJEDA, Ms. Coviello spent over 17 years in the banking industry, with the last eight focused on the NJ Technology Venture Lending Market. Her venture lending experience includes employment at Silicon Valley Bank, Comerica Bank and Progress’ Techbanc.
Investor Advisor: George Heinrich, M.D.
Vice Chair and CEO of New Jersey Health Foundation, Inc., and Foundation Venture Capital Group, LLC (FVCG)
Dr. Heinrich earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University and his M.D. degree from New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) with a residency in Internal Medicine at Martland Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. He is the Associate Dean for Admissions at the Rutgers – New Jersey Medical School, and Adjunct Professor in the NJMS Department of Medicine. Dr. Heinrich also serves as Vice Chair and CEO of New Jersey Health Foundation, Inc., and Foundation Venture Capital Group, LLC (FVCG) which support the formation of start-up companies at six partner institutions: Kessler Foundation, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Rowan University, Rutgers University and Stevens Institute of Technology. These organizations are dedicated to the advancement of research and education throughout New Jersey. FVCG has formed 14 companies with faculty to advance science. Dr. Heinrich formerly served as Chair of the Board of Trustees for New York Hospital Queens and the Silvercrest Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation. He has also been a trustee of the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System. Dr. Heinrich has and continues to serve on many other boards.
Strategy & Analytics Principal, Deloitte
Ms. Leste is a Strategy & Analytics Principal at Deloitte Consulting and leads the U.S. Life Sciences hypergrowth biotech and medtech practice. Ms. Leste is focused on enterprise growth – capability building and scaling with emphasis on financial value maximization. Her experience spans the health care value chain and has worked with numerous large and small biopharmaceutical, medtech and select large health non-profit firms. Prior to the merger with Deloitte in 2013, Ms. Leste was a Partner at Monitor Group where she led the U.S. Life Sciences practice. Ms. Leste has over 25 years of experience in strategic advisory consulting and worked directly at a top three medtech multinational. She has expertise in the area of health care marketplace profitability, consolidation and convergence, and over the course of her career, has gained a deep global perspective working in-market in over 18 countries, including a three year assignment based in Europe. Ms. Leste serves on the Board of Directors at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation (CRF) and the University of Florida Machen Scholars Leadership Council.
Strategy & Analytics Principal, Deloitte & Touche LLP
Mr. Wilcomes is a Certified Public Accountant with more than 20 years of accounting, auditing and internal control experience in serving significant domestic and global clients in the life sciences, consumer products, retail and private equity industries. He has significant experience with the evaluation of complex transactions, including acquisitions, restructurings, dispositions and carve-out of financial statements. Additionally, Mr. Wilcomes has extensive experience with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the United States (US GAAP). He serves clients with significant global operations in North America, Europe and Asia, including public and private companies as well as private equity- backed, foreign-owned and highly leveraged entities. Mr. Wilcomes has worked with Syneos Health, SK Life Science, Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, inVentiv Health, Inc., American Standard Brands, Toys “R” Us, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and Vitamin Shoppes.