OncXerna Therapeutics is led by a team with deep discovery and clinical development expertise in the field of oncology who are dedicated to the pursuit of improving drug development by making sure the right treatment gets to the right patients. Supported by a strong foundation of industry knowledge and regulatory, medical, and operational experience, the team is well-positioned to make this pursuit a reality. Located in Waltham, Massachusetts, we are committed to globally leading a new way forward for precision medicine.
Laura Benjamin, Ph.D.
Before starting the company in 2018, Laura was a Vice President in Oncology at Eli Lilly where she led cancer discovery and translational discovery teams in NY and Indianapolis. She worked closely with the clinical teams to support multiple clinical programs, most notably the ramucirumab program from Phase 2 to commercial launch in colorectal, gastric, and non-small cell lung cancers. Additionally, she helped build the cross-functional initiative to discover, test and advance biomarker development in oncology clinical trials across the portfolio. Prior to joining Lilly, Laura spent 10 years as a tenure track professor in the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. During this time, she supported and mentored Ph.D. students, postdocs and medical students with NIH and foundation grants. When she left Harvard in 2009, Laura was an Associate Professor and was co-Director of the Vascular Biology Center at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Both Laura’s postdoctoral work and academic research at Harvard focused on cellular and molecular mechanisms driving cancer, with a particular interest in the role of the microenvironment on cancer progression and response to targeted therapies. Laura received a B.A. in Biology from Barnard College, Columbia University and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania.
Hagop Youssoufian, M.D.
Dr. Youssoufian is a physician-scientist with more than 25 years of experience in drug development working with seed-stage ventures to multi-national biotech and pharmaceutical corporations. After a successful academic career as a clinician, teacher and NIH-funded investigator, he held increasingly senior roles in clinical and translational science at Bristol-Myers Squibb (Head of Experimental Medicine), Sanofi Aventis (Distinguished Scientist), ImClone (CMO), Ziopharm Oncology (President of R&D and CMO), Progenics (EVP of R&D), and BIND (CMO). He supported or led the development and approval of a number of medicines including Sprycel, Taxotere, Erbitux, Cyramza, Lartruvo and Copiktra. He is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the recipient of many national and international awards, and the author of more than 100 publications. He received a B.S. in biology from Boston College and M.Sc./M.D. from University of Massachusetts Medical School, followed by fellowships at Johns Hopkins, Harvard and MIT.
Prior to joining OncXerna, Colleen served as Partner Therapeutics’ Chief Development Officer and Head of Regulatory and Quality. Before her move to biotech, Colleen established a distinguished career at Eli Lilly and Company spanning 20 years in oncology drug development where she held leadership roles in global regulatory, and health outcomes. Colleen’s final role at Lilly was as Verzenio global product development leader where she combined innovation with speed and empowered her team to create and execute a development strategy that led to the approval and launch of Verzenio for metastatic breast cancer, as well as the first positive early stage breast cancer study for a CDK 4&6 inhibitor. She received her B.S. in Chemistry, B.S. in Pharmacy from Butler University and an MBA from Purdue’s Krannert School of Business in 2016.
Prior to joining OncXerna, David served as the Chief Business Officer of BioLineRx, an oncology drug development company, for seven years, during which he was responsible for building the company’s portfolio and partnering with several leading oncology companies. Before joining BioLineRx, he served at Sanofi-Aventis in a number of management positions, including Marketing, Mergers and Acquisitions, Finance and Business Development, where he focused on oncology. David received an MBA from the Tuck Business School at Dartmouth University and a B.A. in statistics and political science from the University of Haifa.
Evan has over 27 years of executive experience and spent the last 19 years as a CFO in the healthcare industry. Prior to joining OncXerna, he was the CFO of Orchestra Biomed, Inc., where he facilitated the closings of two equity financing rounds with collective proceeds of $57 million and assisted with the development of a global partnership valued at more than $200 million. Prior to his time at Orchestra Biomed, Inc., Evan was the CFO of Cerecin, Inc., an Alzheimer’s disease-focused company backed by Nestlé Health Science, and Executive Vice President and CFO of Clinical Data, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company that was acquired by Forest Laboratories, Inc. (now, Allergan) for $1.6 billion. He also served as the CFO of the microbiome-focused company Synthetic Biologics, Inc., and the CFO of the immuno-oncology company Agenus, Inc., where he helped monetize a GlaxoSmithKline plc royalty stream for gross proceeds of $115 million. In addition to these roles, Evan also previously served as the CFO of the medtech companies Avedro, Inc. and ZymeQuest, Inc., the CFO of the software company Knowledge Impact, Inc., and the CFO and Chief Operating Officer of ACNielsen Corporation. Evan holds a B.A. in History and Political Science from the University of Western Ontario and a post-graduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Windsor.
Carolyn Cagnassola, R.Ph., J.D.
Carolyn brings over 30 years of quality expertise and experience to OncXerna. In her 27 years at Eli Lilly and Company, she held various leadership roles in the quality organization, supporting manufacturing, packaging, product complaints, development, clinical trial material, regulatory, safety, and clinical trial data, analysis and disclosure. She also had several roles outside of quality, including development project management for Zyprexa IM. Carolyn was part of the management team that led the successful GCP inspections supporting the approval of several new products including Cyramza, Trulicity, and Verzenio. After her retirement, she became an independent consultant and advised pharmaceutical companies regarding quality/compliance issues. Prior to Lilly, she was a pharmacist for Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
Carolyn received a B.S. in Pharmacy from Purdue University, and received a J.D. from Indiana University.
Kerry Culm, Ph.D.
Kerry brings over 15 years of clinical drug development expertise and experience in small molecule and therapeutic protein development in rare disease and oncology indications including Head of Clinical Pharmacology and Quantitative Bioanalytics at ImmunoGen Inc., where she was responsible for clinical pharmacology strategy for global clinical and preclinical development of oncology therapies. Prior to joining ImmunoGen, Kerry spent 13 years at Sanofi Genzyme, most recently serving as a Global Project Head, where she led the therapy project teams for Fabry disease, Gaucher disease type 3 and multiple gangliosidosis/galatosialidosis indications. Kerry received a B.S. in Biochemical Pharmacology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She received a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Tufts University School of Medicine.
Jonathan T. Graves
Jon has over 20 years of extensive experience in financial controllership, planning and analysis in the healthcare industry. Prior to joining OncXerna, Jon served as Vice President of Financial Operations at Corindus Vascular Robotics, Inc., a publicly traded global technology leader in robotic-assisted vascular interventions (acquired by Siemens Healthineers Company in 2019). Previously, Jon served as Controller of the North American division of Swedish Orphan Biovitrum AB, an international, publicly traded rare disease company, where he was responsible for the oversight of the finance and accounting functions for North America’s product sales. Prior to that, Jonathan served for ten years at Thermo Fisher Scientific in various finance leadership roles, most recently as Controller of a global business unit within the Portable Analytical Instruments Division and earlier in his career, served as Experienced Senior at Arthur Andersen LLP. Jonathan received a B.S. in Accounting from Providence College and is a Certified Public Accountant.
Celia Harrison, Ph.D., J.D.
Celia brings 18 years of relevant legal and clinical experience acquired from working in the biotechnology industry, private practice and clinical research. Prior to joining OncXerna, Celia was Senior Attorney at Seres Therapeutics, Inc., where she had responsibility for legal matters including intellectual property and contract agreements to support research and development, clinical operations, manufacturing and information technology. Before joining Seres Therapeutics, Celia was the solo practitioner at the Harrison Law Office, where she specialized in U.S. patent applications in the biochemical, chemical and medical device arts as well as in patent prosecution. After completing her legal studies, Celia was a Patent Associate at Greenberg Traurig where she conducted domestic and foreign patent prosecution, licensing and intellectual property due diligence in licensing ventures and mergers and acquisitions. Earlier in her career, Celia spent eight years as a Scientist at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and began her career as a post-doctoral fellow at the Rockefeller University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Celia continues to serve as Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the Tufts University School of Medicine, a post she has held since 2009. Celia received a B.S. in Biology from Pacific Lutheran University, a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California Berkeley and a J.D. from Boston College Law School.
William McDonald, Ph.D.
Bill brings more than 20 years of experience in process development and the manufacturing of antibodies, recombinant enzymes, antigens, antibody targets, viral vectors and vaccines. Prior to joining OncXerna, Bill served as Vice President, CMC at Contrafect Corporation where he was responsible for all CMC activities for Contrafect’s novel biologics platform of anti-microbial therapies. Previously, Bill served as Executive Director and Manufacturing Site Head at Celldex Therapeutics, Inc., where he oversaw the Fall River GMP manufacturing facility and was responsible for internal manufacturing of all early clinical stage biologics. Bill also held roles of increasing responsibility at Syngeva BioPharma Corp. (acquired by Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in 2015), including Senior Director of Process Development. He also previously served as Head of Process Science at Pfizer, Inc., Director of Antigen Production at Genocea Biosciences Inc. and Director of Biochemistry at VaxInnate Corporation. Within the scope of technical operations, he has supported the development and manufacture of several approved biologics including Kanuma, Soliris and Strensiq. Bill received a B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Florida and received a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology at Cornell University.
Mark Uhlik, Ph.D.
Mark brings over 15 years of translational oncology and drug discovery/development expertise through preclinical, translational, and clinical development experience in immuno-oncology and tumor microenvironment biology. Prior to joining OncXerna, Mark served as Vice President of Translational Oncology at HiberCell and Biothera Pharmaceuticals (acquired by HiberCell in 2020) leading multiple efforts to support the development of their clinical lead asset, Imprime PGG, spanning the realms of preclinical mechanism-of-action, clinical proof-of-mechanism, biomarker development, and clinical data analysis. Before Biothera, Mark was an investigator in the Oncology Division at Eli Lilly and Company where he led several small and large molecule drug discovery projects within the Cancer Angiogenesis and Tumor Microenvironment groups and also supported patient tailoring strategies for the anti-VEGFR2 agent, Cyramza.
Mark earned his B.S. in Microbiology from Colorado State University where he received a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. While at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Mark received his Ph.D. studying the NF-kB signaling pathway and its role in T-cell activation and HTLV-I-mediated pathogenesis and conducted his post-doctoral work within the lab of Dr. Gary Johnson, first at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver and then at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, where he studied MAPK signaling pathways and elucidated the function of the scaffold protein CCM2.
An experienced leader, Becky is responsible for the global strategy and execution of cross-functional operations and program management related to drug development and business growth. Prior to joining OncXerna, Becky served in multiple roles of increasing responsibility for almost 20 years at Eli Lilly & Co., most recently as Director, Clinical Operations Implementation, where she was responsible for the global implementation of the Simplicity Clinical Trial Management System for site monitoring and central monitoring services across the company. Prior experience at Eli Lilly include sales, clinical trial management, clinical research monitoring and she also earned a Black Belt in Six Sigma. Becky began her career as a Clinical Dietitian at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Becky received a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences from the University of New Hampshire and is a registered dietitian with the American Dietetic Association.
Vincent is the Chairman of Pivotal Life Sciences. He is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Nan Fung Group, and is responsible for the Group’s strategic development, as well as for overall operations. Prior to joining Nan Fung Group in 2009, Vincent gained extensive experience in the financial sector, including as a Vice President of Barclays Capital Asia Limited and of Citigroup Global Markets Asia Limited. He has served on the boards of several public and private companies in both the biotech and real estate sectors. Mr. Cheung graduated with honors in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Chrystyna Bedrij Stecyk
Chrystyna Bedrij Stecyk, is a Principal of Griffin Securities, Inc., an investment banking firm, she co-founded in April 1997. At Griffin Securities, Ms. Bedrij Stecyk focuses on providing business and financial services to companies and institutional investors. Ms. Bedrij Stecyk was a co-founder of Agilis Biotherapeutics (acquired by PTC Therapeutics), the first company that advanced a gene therapy that will likely be the first marketed gene therapy that is administered directly into the brain. She is also co-founder of several other private gene therapy companies and the Orion Biotech Opportunities Corp. She also serves as a member of the board on several biotechnology companies, both private and public. Ms. Bedrij Stecyk received an MBA in Finance from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business and a B.A. in Economics from Vassar College. She is also registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and is a licensed General Securities Principal and Representative, Investment Banking Principal and Representative, Operations Professional, and Research Analyst.
Benjamin joined Panacea Venture in 2018, he is a scientist, entrepreneur, investor, and merchant banker. Most recently Benjamin served as the CEO of ImaginAb, Inc. a ventured backed company developing a cutting-edge platform to address an urgent unmet need in immuno-oncology. Immediately before that, he was the Chairman and CEO of London based Immune Targeting Systems, Inc. leading the immune therapy company through significant strategic growth, innovative product development and establishing a presence in France and North America. Prior to returning to operational roles, he spent nine years as a Managing Director at Burrill & Company, a global life sciences venture firm where he evaluated investment opportunities and assisted a global clientele in completing licensing, partnering and M&A transactions. He also played a key role in establishing the Malaysian Life Sciences Fund I and served as a director. Earlier in his career as an R&D executive, he has experience in building talented research team in immunology, stem cell biology, genomics, gene therapy and molecular diagnostics in both biotechnology start-ups and multinational pharmaceutical companies including Roche Diagnostics and Novartis.
Ben received his academic training in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Stanford University. Benjamin resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Peter Bisgaard joined Pivotal Life Sciences as Managing Director in 2017. He has 20+ years of experience investing in biotech, medtech, diagnostics and research tools. Prior to joining Pivotal, Peter was a senior team member of Novo Ventures (US) Inc. As part of the senior team, he was responsible for overall investment and portfolio strategy with special responsibility for the ongoing development of Novo Ventures in the US. Peter joined Novo Ventures in 2001 in Denmark. Prior to Novo Ventures he was with McKinsey & Co.’s Corporate Finance and Strategy Practice. Peter is the member of —or has been a member of— the Board of Directors of a number of public and private biotech, medtech, diagnostics and research tools companies including RA Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:RARX), Nevro Corp (NYSE:NVRO), Alder Biotherapeutics (NASDAQ:ALDR), Otonomy (NASDAQ:OTIC), HTG Molecular Diagnostics (NASDAQ:HTGM), Eargo Inc, Engrail therapeutics, Maplight Therapeutics, Entasis Therapeutics, Bolt Therapeutics and Inozyme Inc. Peter has an M.Sc. in Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark and has a post graduate degree in Mathematical Modeling in Economics by the European Consortium for Mathematics in the Industry.
“Our team is highly dedicated and motivated everyday by the potential of bringing new hope to patients currently overlooked by traditional cancer therapies. OncXerna truly has a unique culture where everyone is eager to learn, collaborate and contribute to the goal of advancing precision medicine.”
– Kerry Culm, VP Clinical Development