People

We have a team with the expertise and drive to deliver.

Management

Stéphane Boissel

President & CEO

Stéphane was appointed Chief Executive Officer of SparingVision concurrently to the first closing of the series A financing in August 2020. He is also Chairman of the Board of the Company.

Prior to joining SparingVision as CEO, Stéphane served as Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy of Sangamo Therapeutics, based in San Francisco (USA). He joined Sangamo Therapeutics in 2018 on the back of the acquisition by the latter of TxCell SA, a CAR-Treg company he was the CEO of. Stéphane is an experienced biotech professional who brings over 25 years of leadership experience across corporate finance, strategy and business development. Prior to his appointment as CEO of TxCell in 2015, he served as CEO of Genclis, a molecular diagnostics company. From 2002 to 2010, he served as CFO then Deputy-CEO of Innate Pharma SA, and from 2010 to 2014 he served as Deputy-CEO of Trangene SA. Earlier in his career, Stéphane worked in investment banking for Lazard, where he focused on principal investment in France, Singapore and Hong Kong. He also served as board member or Chairman of the board in different companies in the tech and biotech spaces across different countries.

Mr. Boissel completed his undergraduate work in management and finance at the University of Lyon and Paris-Dauphine in France and received his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.

Stéphane is based on both sides of the ocean.

Dan Chung

CMO

Dr. Chung was appointed Chief Medical Officer of SparingVision in February 2021. In his role, he leads the clinical development and research into SPVN06, SparingVision’s flagship development asset, and is responsible for the clinical development of current and future pipeline products. Dr. Chung also leads the education of the medical community and patient advocacy.

Prior to joining SparingVision as CMO, Dr. Chung led the global medical strategy for ophthalmology at Spark Therapeutics, a leading rare disease gene therapy company and a member of the Roche Group. He played a pivotal role in the clinical development and approval of Luxturna™, the first gene therapy to be approved in the US for a genetic disease. During his time at Spark he served as the inherited retinal disease and ophthalmology expert across various company divisions and worked in medical affairs, clinical development and patient advocacy. Prior to Spark, Dr. Chung worked for 11 years at the Scheie Eye Institute within the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, specialising in gene-based therapies for inherited retinal diseases and cilia mediated disease.

Dr. Chung received his medical degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1994 and undertook postgraduate training at the National Eye Institute, Summa Health Systems and Cole Eye Institute at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

Dr. Chung is based in Philadelphia, USA.

Myriam Marussig

COO

Myriam was appointed Chief Operating Officer of SparingVision in October 2017 to undertake the operational translation of the SPVN06 gene therapy candidate from Institut de la Vision into Development.

Prior to joining SparingVision, Myriam served as Senior Director of preclinical and early clinical development of Genticel, based in Toulouse (FR). She joined Genticel, a spin-off of the Pasteur Institute, in 2004, to implement the development of an HPV therapeutic vaccine based on a new antigen delivery system. As Scientific Project leader and Director of Development, she led the translation of basic scientific findings into GMP manufacturing to clinical Phase 2. To support the Development strategy and plan, she built internal teams and strong long-term networks of CRO, experts, investigators and KOLs while participating at the fund raising and IPO. Myriam is an experienced biotech professional who brings over 20 years of leadership experience of team and project management across R&D, preclinical, manufacturing, clinical operations, regulatory affairs and strategy. Prior to her appointment at Genticel in 2004, she served as multi-project manager at Biovector Therapeutics, a gene and antigen delivery system company. Earlier in her career, Myriam worked 10 years in academic research at INSERM in Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital (Paris) and then at the Karolinska Institute (Stockholm, SE).

Myriam obtained a PhD in Life Sciences from Paris XI University. Her postdoctoral work at the Karolinska Institute and the University of Stockholm focused on the identification of immunobiological mechanisms and treatments in different viral and parasitic diseases.

Myriam is based in Paris, France

Florence Lorget

CDSO

Florence was appointed Chief Development Sciences Officer of SparingVision.

From 2018 to 2020, Florence was the Senior Director for Nonclinical Safety Evaluation at Sangamo Therapeutics, a genomic medicine company, where she oversaw the pharmacology, toxicology and PK activities for a large portfolio of gene editing, gene regulation and gene therapy programs in various therapeutic areas. Prior to Sangamo, from 2013 to 2018, she was a Senior Scientist in the Safety Assessment department at Genentech. There, she was the Toxicology Therapeutic Area Lead for Ophthalmology. She also led the Ocular Platform Team, a cross-functional team focusing on the early development of long acting delivery strategies. From 2007 to 2013, Florence was a Senior Pharmacologist/Toxicologist at BioMarin where she was a key contributor to the nonclinical development of Vimizim®, an enzyme replacement therapy for Morquio syndrome, a rare lysosomal storage disorder, and of Vosoritide, a C-type natriuretic peptide for the treatment of Achondroplasia. Florence started her industry career at Amgen working on the Avimer™ technology. Florence obtained a Master in Bioengineering from the University of Technology of Compiegne (France). She received a Pharm D and a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Picardie- Jules Verne (France).

Her postdoctoral work at the Nestle Research Center (Lausanne, Switzerland) and at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) focused on osteoclast biology and the role of TGF-b on mesenchymal stem cell biology, respectively. Dr. Lorget has been a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology since 2014.

Florence is based in San Francisco, USA

Rajiv Gangurde

CTO

Dr. Rajiv Gangurde joined SparingVision as Chief Technology Officer in October 2020. In this role, he oversees technical operation activities including process and analytical development, manufacturing, and quality assurance.

Rajiv has over 14 years of industry experience in biopharmaceutical development, harnessed in the biotechnology hub of Massachusetts, USA. Most recently, Rajiv served as Senior Director and Head of Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls (CMC) at Voyager Therapeutics, a gene therapy company based in Cambridge, MA. In this role, he was responsible for CMC strategy and management of the company’s entire gene therapy portfolio. Prior to Voyager, Rajiv was Director of Bioprocess Development and Manufacturing at Genocea Biosciences, where he led upstream and downstream process development and biochemistry groups for early- and late-stage recombinant-protein-based therapeutic vaccines. Prior to Genocea, Rajiv served as Head of Protein Sciences at LakePharma (previously called, Blue Sky Bioservices), leading therapeutic protein production efforts for pre-clinical studies.

Rajiv obtained his Ph.D. in Life Sciences from Mumbai University in India and did postdoctoral research at the Department of Biochemistry at the New Jersey Medical School, and at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University.

Rajiv is based in Massachusetts, USA.

Stanislas Piot

CFO

Stanislas Piot was appointed Chief Financial Officer of SparingVision in March 2020.

He was previously CFO of Balyo an industrial robotic company based in Paris area where he prepared and managed the IPO on the Paris Stock market in 2017 and supported the growth of the company.

He started his career at Banque Worms in Hong Kong and then joined the capital market teams of Crédit Lyonnais in Paris before joining Oddo in 2000, where he specialized in M&A and IPOs of growth stocks. Then, he moved to Natixis, where he spent three years before joining Ipsogen in October 2007 as CFO managing the IPO on the Alternext market in June 2008.

Stanislas Piot then worked at Stentys from May 2010 until March 2017.He is a graduate of Université de Paris II in Econometrics and Finance. Stanislas is based in France

Stanislas is based in Paris, France

Scientific Founders

Prof. José Alain Sahel

Co-founder

José-Alain Sahel studied medicine at the Medical School of Paris University and ophthalmology at the University of Strasbourg and at Harvard University (Boston-Cambridge, USA).

He was appointed Professor of Ophthalmology at the University Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg. Currently, José-Alain Sahel is Professor of Ophthalmology at Pierre and Marie Curie University Medical School, Paris, France and Cumberlege Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the Institute of Ophthalmology-University College London, UK. He chairs the Departments of Ophthalmology at the Quinze-Vingts National Eye Hospital and at the Rothschild Ophthalmology Foundation. In 2016, he was appointed Professor and Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School and The Eye and Ear Foundation Endowed Chair.

The primary focus of Sahel’s fundamental and clinical research is the understanding of the mechanisms associated with retinal degeneration, together with the conception, development and evaluation of innovative treatments for retinal diseases, with a special focus on genetic rod-cone dystrophies (e.g. neuroprotection, stem cells, gene therapy, pharmacology, and artificial retina).

José-Alain Sahel scientific group (with Saddek Mohand-Said and Thierry Léveillard) was the first to hypothesize and demonstrate that rod photoreceptors produce a protein that rescues cone photoreceptors, thereby maintaining light-adapted and high-resolution vision.

Thierry Léveillard

Co-founder

Dr. Chung was appointed Chief Medical Officer of SparingVision in February 2021. In his role, he leads the clinical development and research into SPVN06, SparingVision’s flagship development asset, and is responsible for the clinical development of current and future pipeline products. Dr. Chung also leads the education of the medical community and patient advocacy.

Prior to joining SparingVision as CMO, Dr. Chung led the global medical strategy for ophthalmology at Spark Therapeutics, a leading rare disease gene therapy company and a member of the Roche Group. He played a pivotal role in the clinical development and approval of Luxturna™, the first gene therapy to be approved in the US for a genetic disease. During his time at Spark he served as the inherited retinal disease and ophthalmology expert across various company divisions and worked in medical affairs, clinical development and patient advocacy. Prior to Spark, Dr. Chung worked for 11 years at the Scheie Eye Institute within the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, specialising in gene-based therapies for inherited retinal diseases and cilia mediated disease.

Dr. Chung received his medical degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1994 and undertook postgraduate training at the National Eye Institute, Summa Health Systems and Cole Eye Institute at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

Dr. Chung is based in Philadelphia, USA.

Scientific Advisory Board

Prof. José Alain Sahel

Co-founder

José-Alain Sahel studied medicine at the Medical School of Paris University and ophthalmology at the University of Strasbourg and at Harvard University (Boston-Cambridge, USA).

He was appointed Professor of Ophthalmology at the University Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg. Currently, José-Alain Sahel is Professor of Ophthalmology at Pierre and Marie Curie University Medical School, Paris, France and Cumberlege Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the Institute of Ophthalmology-University College London, UK. He chairs the Departments of Ophthalmology at the Quinze-Vingts National Eye Hospital and at the Rothschild Ophthalmology Foundation. In 2016, he was appointed Professor and Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School and The Eye and Ear Foundation Endowed Chair.

The primary focus of Sahel’s fundamental and clinical research is the understanding of the mechanisms associated with retinal degeneration, together with the conception, development and evaluation of innovative treatments for retinal diseases, with a special focus on genetic rod-cone dystrophies (e.g. neuroprotection, stem cells, gene therapy, pharmacology, and artificial retina).

José-Alain Sahel scientific group (with Saddek Mohand-Said and Thierry Léveillard) was the first to hypothesize and demonstrate that rod photoreceptors produce a protein that rescues cone photoreceptors, thereby maintaining light-adapted and high-resolution vision.

Prof. Jean Bennett

USA

Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology – Co-Director of Center for Advanced Retinal & Ocular Therapeutics, University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Jean Bennett, MD, Ph.D., is the F.M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, and Co-Director of the Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics (CAROT) at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She has developed gene transfer approaches to test treatment strategies for retinal degenerative and ocular neovascular diseases, to elucidate retinal differentiation pathways and to identify pathogenetic mechanisms that lead to blindness.

Her research with Dr. Albert Maguire, conducted at UPenn over the past 25 years, has established the scientific underpinnings which made it possible to test the first potential definitive retinal gene therapy treatment for patients with blinding retinal degenerations. Dr. Bennett is the Scientific Director of gene therapy clinical trials for a congenital blindness. These studies, carried out at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and sponsored by Spark Therapeutics, led to the approval of the first gene therapy drug (Luxturna) for a genetic disease in the USA. This is also the first gene therapy drug to be approved worldwide.Dr. Bennett’s Center continues to strive to develop treatments that could be applied to other genetic and acquired blinding conditions.

Prof. Paul Sieving

USA

Professor of Ophthalmology at University of California Davis School of Medicine and the former Director of the US National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health

Dr. Paul A. Sieving is an ophthalmologist with extensive expertise in inherited retinal diseases (IRD). He served as Director of the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health for nearly 20 years where he led the research programs to advance national vision health. Dr. Sieving previously was the Paul R. Lichter Professor of Ophthalmic Genetics at the University of Michigan Medical School for 17 years and founded the Centre for Retinal and Macular Degeneration. Dr. Sieving received his M.D. from the University of Illinois where he trained in ophthalmology and obtained a Ph.D. in bioengineering.

He has developed and led translational therapy programs for IRD conditions using human ocular gene therapy and neurotrophic factor implants.Dr. Sieving has received prestigious awards including the Società Oftalmologica Italiana Honorary Award in Ophthalmology in 2016.

He holds elected membership in the National Academy of Medicine USA and the German National Academy of Science. Since leaving the NIH in 2019, he founded the new Centre for Ocular Regenerative Therapy “CORT” at the University of California Davis.

Prof. Botond Roska

Switzerland

Founding Director, Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB), Basel, Switzerland

Prof. Roska, MD, Ph.D., has over 15 years of experience studying neuronal activity and neurodevelopmental diseases of the retina.In 2018, together with Prof. Hendrik Scholl, hefounded the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel. Since 2014, he has been a Professor at the Faculty of Medicine and since 2019 at the Faculty of Science at the University of Basel, Switzerland. He earned a medical degree at the Semmelweis Medical School in Hungary in 1995, before completing his Ph.D in Neurobiology at the University of California Berkeley in 2002 and becoming a Harvard Society Fellow in Genetics in 2005.

Prof. Roska is an neuroscientist and molecular geneticist who has made significant scientific contributions to his field, including working in collaboration with Prof. Jose Sahel and his research group to study retinal cell-type-targeted approaches to restoring visual activity in patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa patients.

He has received a number of awards for his research, including the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, and most recently, the Körber European Science Prize and the Sanford and Susan Greenberg End Blindness Visionary Prize.

Prof. Elias Arnér

Sweden

Head and Professor of Biochemistry Division, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Dr. Elias Arnér is Professor in Biochemsitry at the Karolinksa Institute in Sweden, and is an expert in selenoproteins and the mammalian thioredoxin system. Elias completed his MD and Ph.D. at the Karolinska institute, and was Dean of postgraduate education at the university 2005-2007, before becoming Professor in Biochemistry in 2009. Elias’ Ph.D. thesis was on nucleotide metabolism and nucleoside analogs as therapeutics, and his post doc work into selenoproteins, and specifically thioredoxin reductase, came to form the main line of research in his laboratory.

His expertise in his field led to him being appointed in 2020 as the Head of Department at the Department of Selenoprotein Research at the National Institute of Oncology in Hungary. Elias has authored over 150 publications and in 2019 was appointed as Board Member of the Council for Medicine and Health at the Swedish Research.

Prof. Pierre Chambon

France

Professor of Molecular Genetics at the Institute of Advanced Studies Strasbourg University Founder & former Director of Institute for Genetics, Cellular and Molecular Biology, France.

Pierre Chambon, who is Professor of Molecular Genetics at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Strasbourg University, is Honorary Professor at the Collège de France (Paris), and Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the Strasbourg University. He is the founder and former Director of the Institute for Genetics and Cellular and Molecular Biology (IGBMC), and the founder and former Director of the Institut Clinique de la Souris (ICS/MCI), in Strasbourg, France.

Over the last 50 years, his scientific achievements are logically inscribed in an uninterrupted series of discoveries in the field of transcriptional control of gene expression in higher eukaryotes: discovery of PolyADPRibose (1963), discovery of multiple RNA polymerases (1969), major contribution to the elucidation of chromatin structure, the Nucleosome (1974), discovery of animal split genes (1977), discovery of multiple promoter elements and their cognate factors (1980-1993) and of transcriptional enhancers (1981).

During the last 30 years his studies on the structure and function of nuclear receptors have changed our concept of signal transduction and endocrinology.

Board of Directors

Laurent Arthaud

BPI France

Laurent Arthaud started his career in 1986 at the French Ministry of Finance.

From 1993 to 1995, he became an Advisor to the Minister of Labor, and then, an Advisor in charge of the labor to the Prime Minister, Alain Juppé. In 1997, Laurent Arthaud joined Rhône-Poulenc as General Secretary of the Corporate Research. In 1999, he founded Aventis Capital, the venture arm of Aventis, with a corporate venture fund Genavent.

In November 2006, he joined CDC Entreprises as Deputy CEO, and in 2012, became General Manager for Life Sciences, Ecotechnology and French Tech Acceleration of Bpifrance Investissement.

He is member of the Boards of Director of Adocia, Aledia, Calyxt, Cellectis, Enyo, Ribogenics, SparingVision and member of the Supervisory Board of Kurma LifeSciences Partners. Laurent Arthaud graduated from Ecole Polytechnique and from French National School of Statistics and Economic Administration (ENSAE).

Stéphane Boissel

SparingVision

Stéphane was appointed Chief Executive Officer of SparingVision concurrently to the first closing of the series A financing in August 2020.

He was previously Chairman of the Board of the Company. Prior to joining SparingVision as CEO, Stéphane served as Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy of Sangamo Therapeutics, based in San Francisco (USA). He joined Sangamo Therapeutics in 2018 on the back of the acquisition by the latter of TxCell SA, a CAR-Treg company he was the CEO of. Stéphane is an experienced biotech professional who brings over 25 years of leadership experience across corporate finance, strategy and business development. Prior to his appointment as CEO of TxCell in 2015, he served as CEO of Genclis, a molecular diagnostics company. From 2002 to 2010, he served as CFO then Deputy-CEO of Innate Pharma SA, and from 2010 to 2014 he served as Deputy-CEO of Trangene SA. Earlier in his career, Stéphane worked in investment banking for Lazard, where he focused on principal investment in France, Singapore and Hong Kong. He also served as board member or Chairman of the board in different companies in the tech and biotech spaces across different countries.

Mr. Boissel completed his undergraduate work in management and finance at the University of Lyon and Paris-Dauphine in France and received his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.

Stéphane is based on both sides of the ocean.

Jeanne Cunicelli

UPMC Enterprises

Jeanne Cunicelli is Executive Vice President at UPMC Enterprises.

Leveraging the multifaceted resources of $21 billion world-renowned health care provider and insurer UPMC, Jeanne leads its Translational Sciences team that invests in, and supports the development and commercialization of, cutting-edge therapeutics, diagnostics, and integrated health care solutions.

They collaborate closely with scientist-entrepreneurs to invest in creation of new companies, as well as in building companies at all stages that are developing innovative products to fundamentally improve health care.

Since joining UPMC in 2017 and with the formation of the Immune Transplant and Therapy Center (ITTC), Jeanne has built a world-class team of highly-skilled investment and scientific experts, enabling the group to form five companies, invest over $200 million in life sciences, and support more than 40 research projects generated by the University of Pittsburgh. Jeanne leads UPMC’s effort to deploy $1 billion in life sciences innovations over the next five years, including continuing to strengthen the Translational Sciences portfolio. She is responsible for overseeing the review and due diligence of nearly 60 investment opportunities in the pipeline today. She currently serves on the boards of two portfolio companies, BlueSphere Bio and Generian, and is a member of the executive committee of the UPMC Genome Center.

Jeanne has more than two decades of experience as a life science venture capital investor and advisor. Prior to joining UPMC, she was a Managing Director and Investment Partner at Bay City Capital, where she lead and/or served on the Boards of Directors of IDev Technologies, Protez Pharmaceuticals, NuPathe, Inc., Calypso Medical, Oculex Pharmaceuticals, MAP Pharmaceuticals and Syntonix Therapeutics. Jeanne is a member of the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Mellon University, serving on the executive committee of the board, as the chairman of the compensation committee and as a member of the finance and audit committees. She received an MBA in Finance from the University of San Francisco and holds a B.A. degree in Cognitive Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University.

Sabine Dandiguian

Jeito Capital

Sabine Dandiguian is managing partner at Jeito Capital and has over 30 years of experience in Pharmaceutical and Medical Device industry with a proven track record in commercialization, new business models and management.

She spent more than 20 years in growing business leadership positions at Johnson&Johnson, in particular as President of Janssen France in 2005 where she managed to transform the business model of a company founded on general medicine into a company focused on highly specialized domains (oncology, virology, psychiatry). After 5 years, she was appointed Managing Director of European emerging countries, in charge of a cluster covering Russia, Turkey, Middle East and Africa, and 3 years after was promoted Company group Chairman, President Europe in the Medical Sector of Johnson&Johnson leading a business of $3,5Md and 4500 people.

Sabine Dandiguian has been recognised as Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite, Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur and is a member of the « Assemblée des 100 » of Institut Pasteur.

She is also member, since the inception, of W.I.T.H association (Women Innovating Together in Healthcare)

Geoffroy de Ribains

Advent France Biotechnology

Geoffroy de Ribains is Partner at Advent France Biotechnology. Geoffroy has a diverse range of expertise including financing, company building and management, strategic and business planning, and product development in European and US Biotech, Medtech and Diagnostics.  

Before joining Advent France Biotechnology, Geoffroy was CEO of Step Pharma, a Paris-based start-up active in immunology and cancer where he led the discovery of a new class of small molecule enzymatic inhibitors from target to preclinical candidate stage and raised €16M from investors including Kurma Partners, Sygnature Discovery, BPIfrance, Inserm Transfert Initiative and Israel-based Pontifax.

Prior to founding Step Pharma he was an Investment Director at Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners (now Andera Partners), a leading European private equity firm. While at Atlas Venture and then at Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners, Geoffroy has been directly involved in a total of 20 new investments, 6 M&A transactions, 3 company closures and in the boards of 8 companies.

Prior to being a venture capitalist, Geoffroy was research scientist in Pavonis Inc., a biotech, VC-backed start-up company based in the Boston area, and a consultant for Bioserve Ltd., a consulting firm specialized in biotech.

Geoffroy earned a MSc. in Molecular Biology from University of Paris.

Owen Smith

4BIO Capital

Owen is an Investment Director at 4BIO Capital with significant experience working with early-stage biotechnology companies.

Owen is currently a Director at Locki Therapeutics, and while at Arix Bioscience, previously acted as an Observer on the boards of LogicBio and Depixus.

Owen holds a Masters of Science in Experimental and Translational Therapeutics from the University of Oxford in and is also qualified as an accountant, having spent several years working in assurance and advisory roles at Grant Thornton with public and private clients.

Karen Wagner

Ysios Capital

Dr. Karen Wagner is Managing Partner at Ysios Capital, a leading life sciences venture capital investor, where she focuses on therapeutic investments and coordinates the identification and evaluation of investment opportunities.

She serves on the board of Galecto, Vivet Therapeutics, AELIX Therapeutics and Minoryx Therapeutics and is an observer at the board of Xeltis. Formerly, she was board member at Cardoz and Kala Pharmaceuticals.

Prior to joining Ysios in 2008, Karen had over 10 years of experience in business development in various biotech and pharma companies. At GLYCART in Zurich, Switzerland, she worked together with Ysios colleague Joël Jean-Mairet. After the sale of GLYCART to F. Hoffmann-La Roche in 2005, she was responsible for business development and alliance management for Roche in the areas of drug discovery technologies, preclinical oncology and viral diseases. After leaving Roche, she managed a consultancy firm providing advice and hands-on support to various biotechnology companies in business development and strategy.

Karen holds a master’s degree in Molecular Biology and a PhD in Cell Biology, both from the University of Konstanz, Germany.

Benjamin Yerxa, PhD

Foundation Fighting Blindness

As its Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Yerxa is responsible for the overall management of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the world’s leading private funder of research on potential treatments and cures for inherited retinal degenerative diseases including age-related macular degeneration.

He also serves as CEO of the Retinal Degeneration Fund, a wholly owned, not-for-profit subsidiary focused on making venture philanthropy investments to further the Foundation’s mission.

Dr. Yerxa has more than 25 years’ experience in biotechnology, drug development, and in translating promising research discoveries into clinical milestones and treatments. His experience, from drug discovery through product launches and in leadership positions, is in the pulmonary, oral health, cardiovascular, HIV, and ophthalmology fields.

Just before joining the Foundation, Dr. Yerxa was president and co-founder of Envisia Therapeutics, a company focused on developing novel ocular sustained delivery therapies for the front and back of the eye.

Dr. Yerxa holds 60 U.S. patents. An inventor of DIQUAS™, an innovative treatment for dry eye approved in Japan, he has been involved in the discovery and development of investigational new drugs, Phase 3 clinical programs, new drug applications, and drug approvals.

Dr. Yerxa earned his PhD in organic chemistry from University of California, Irvine, and BA in chemistry from the University of California, San Diego.

Clinical Advisory Board

Prof. Jean Bennett

USA

Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology – Co-Director of Center for Advanced Retinal & Ocular Therapeutics, University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A

Jean Bennett, MD, Ph.D., is the F.M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, and Co-Director of the Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics (CAROT) at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She has developed gene transfer approaches to test treatment strategies for retinal degenerative and ocular neovascular diseases, to elucidate retinal differentiation pathways and to identify pathogenetic mechanisms that lead to blindness. Her research with Dr. Albert Maguire, conducted at UPenn over the past 25 years, has established the scientific underpinnings which made it possible to test the first potential definitive retinal gene therapy treatment for patients with blinding retinal degenerations. Dr. Bennett is the Scientific Director of gene therapy clinical trials for a congenital blindness. These studies, carried out at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and sponsored by Spark Therapeutics, led to the approval of the first gene therapy drug (Luxturna) for a genetic disease in the USA. This is also the first gene therapy drug to be approved worldwide. Dr. Bennett’s Center continues to strive to develop treatments that could be applied to other genetic and acquired blinding conditions.

Prof. Jacque Duncan

USA

Academic Director, Retina Service, Department of Ophthalmology, at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), US Chair of FFB Scientific Advisory Board, U.S.A

Dr. Duncan, MD, has over 20 years of experience treating and characterizing patients with retinal degenerations. She earned a medical degree at the University of California, San Francisco, where she also completed an ophthalmology residency. Dr. Duncan then completed a medical retina fellowship at the Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, where she focused on patients with age-related macular degeneration and inherited retinal degeneration. She returned to UCSF and joined the faculty in 2000. She is a professor of clinical ophthalmology at UCSF.

As a translational clinician-scientist and Academic Director of the Retina Service of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Dr Duncan has expertise in the diagnosis and management of patients with retinal degenerations.
In her research, she is studying treatments to preserve vision and to develop new outcome measures to monitor photoreceptor survival during the course of disease progression.

She has received research funding from the US Food and Drug Administration Office of Orphan Product Development, The Foundation Fighting Blindness, Research to Prevent Blindness, the Lowy Macular Research Institute, the Beckman Institute for Macular Research, Karl Kirchgessner Foundation, Hope for Vision, and the American Geriatrics Society.

Prof. Eric Pierce

USA

Professor of Ophthalmology Massachusetts Eye and Ear Harvard Medical School, US

Dr. Eric Pierce received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He did his residency in Ophthalmology at Harvard and fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital, Boston where he also took his first faculty position. He was then recruited to the department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. He returned to Harvard in 2011 to establish the Ocular Genomics Institute.

Dr. Pierce is an ophthalmologist and molecular geneticist whose research program is dedicated to understanding the molecular mechanisms of inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs), and improving therapeutic interventions for these conditions. IRDs are a leading cause of blindness worldwide, and are characterized by progressive dysfunction and death of retinal photoreceptor cells.

Dr. Pierce’s research program is focused on identifying new IRD disease genes, investigating the mechanism by which mutations in the identified genes lead to blindness, and using this information about disease pathogenesis to develop rational therapies to prevent vision loss.

Prof. Marc Pennesi

USA

Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, Case Eye Institute Ohio Health & Science University, U.S.A

Prof. Mark Pennesi, MD, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in Ophthalmology at Oregon Health & Science University.  He holds the Kenneth C. Swan Endowed Professorship and is the chief of the Paul H. Casey Ophthalmic Genetics Division at the Casey Eye Institute.  Dr. Pennesi attended the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering and was awarded the Herman P. Schwann award in bioengineering for exemplary scholarship.

Prof. Pennesi pursued combined MD/PhD at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, followed by a residency in ophthalmology at University of California, San Francisco, where he was awarded the Hogan-Garcia Award for best resident research project. He is the recipient of an FFB career development award, an RPB career development award, and an FFB enhanced career development award, and has been elected into both the Macula Society and the Retina Society.

Prof. Pennesi is a clinician scientist with a passion for developing novel therapeutic regimens for inherited retinal diseases. He has helped propel the Casey Eye Institute into a leader in novel therapies for inherited retinal dystrophies, and has been the PI or Co-PI on numerous clinical trials into treatments for inherited retinal diseases. He is a principal investigator on the Allergan Brilliance trials, which saw the first patient treated with gene editing from CEP290-related retinopathy.

Prof. Eyal Banin

Israel

Professor of Ophthalmology ; Director, Center for Retinal and Macular Degenerations (CRMD), Department of Ophthalmology, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel

Prof. Eyal Banin, MD, Ph.D., is Director of the Center for Retinal and Macular Degenerations (CRMD) at the Department of Ophthalmology at Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, holds a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the Hebrew University, and completed his ophthalmology residency at Hadassah Medical Center. Following a post-doctoral and medical retina fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Scheie Eye Institute in Philadelphia, he was appointed head of the Medical Retina Service and the CRMD at Hadassah.

His main clinical and research focus is in the field of retinal and macular degenerations, including the development and application of novel cell- and gene-based therapies for these diseases. The recipient of many research grants from Israeli and foreign institutions, Dr. Banin has authored and published over 140 articles in leading medical journals.

Prof. Masayo Takahashi

Japan

President of Vision Care & Project Leader at RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, Japan

Prof. Takahashi, MD, Ph.D., is a world-renowned scientist whose clinical and research work has focused on ophthalmology and retinal diseases. In 2014, Prof. Takahashi and her team at the RIKEN institute in Japan succeeded in a world-first transplanting of cells made from induced pluripotent stem cells into a human body. This landmark achievement was achieved by reprogramming the patient’s own cells into iPSCs, before differentiating them into retinal pigment epithelium cells and transplanting them.

Prof. Takahashi graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at Kyoto University in 1986 and went on to receive a Ph.D. from the university in 1992. In 1995 she began post-doctoral research at the Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute in California.

In 2006, she became Team Leader at the Laboratory for Retinal Regeneration at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan, before becoming Project Leader in 2012. In 2019, she left RIKEN to become President of Vision Care, a biotech company focused on ophthalmology and regenerative medicine. In 2015, Prof. Takahashi was awarded the Ogawa-Yamanaka Prize in Stem Cell Biology.

Prof. Bart Leroy

Belgium

As its Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Yerxa is responsible for the overall management of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the world’s leading private funder of research on potential treatments and cures for inherited retinal degenerative diseases including age-related macular degeneration.

He also serves as CEO of the Retinal Degeneration Fund, a wholly owned, not-for-profit subsidiary focused on making venture philanthropy investments to further the Foundation’s mission.

Dr. Yerxa has more than 25 years’ experience in biotechnology, drug development, and in translating promising research discoveries into clinical milestones and treatments. His experience, from drug discovery through product launches and in leadership positions, is in the pulmonary, oral health, cardiovascular, HIV, and ophthalmology fields.

Just before joining the Foundation, Dr. Yerxa was president and co-founder of Envisia Therapeutics, a company focused on developing novel ocular sustained delivery therapies for the front and back of the eye.

Dr. Yerxa holds 60 U.S. patents. An inventor of DIQUAS™, an innovative treatment for dry eye approved in Japan, he has been involved in the discovery and development of investigational new drugs, Phase 3 clinical programs, new drug applications, and drug approvals.

Dr. Yerxa earned his PhD in organic chemistry from University of California, Irvine, and BA in chemistry from the University of California, San Diego.

“We are a biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of genomic medicines for the treatment of blinding inherited retinal diseases.”

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