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Speaker Biographies

Regen Med Investor Day News

Learn more about the program’s featured speakers and panelists!


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Usman Azam, M.D., Global Head, Cell & Gene Therapies Unit, Novartis
Dr. Azam is the Head of the Cell & Gene Therapies Unit (C&GTU) at Novartis Pharmaceuticals. He is also a member of the Pharmaceutical Executive Committee and Pharma Leadership Team. Most recently, Azam was the Head of Global Medical Affairs & HEOR General Medicines. Previously, he was the Chief Scientific Officer and Head of U.S. Medical, responsible for U.S. clinical development, evidence-based medicine, medical affairs and aspects of regulatory affairs for North America. He started his career at Novartis by leading global regulatory affairs for the Neurosciences & Ophthalmic Franchise within global development. Azam has an extensive U.S., global and international pharmaceutical industry background, with strong experience in science, regulatory and commercialisation. Azam is a graduate of the University of Liverpool, U.K., where he completed undergraduate studies in Human Biology and Anatomy. He graduated from the University of Liverpool School of Medicine and attained board certification as an obstetrician and gynecologist in the U.K. He undertook subspecialty training in the field of urogynecology at the University of Leicester, U.K., where he worked in the department of Epidemiology and Public Health and undertook research related to pelvic floor disorders. He has published in peer reviewed journals in the areas of sexual medicine, urogynecology and health economics.

Steve Bates, CEO, UK BioIndustry Association (BIA)
Mr. Bates joined the BIA as its CEO in July 2012. Since then, BIA’s membership has grown 25% and has hosted its most successful gala dinner. On behalf of the sector, Bates has championed the refilling of the Biomedical Catalyst, improvements to the R&D tax credits system and the establishment of the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre. Bates has led the BIA campaigns for improved access to finance for the sector through initiatives such as Citizens Innovation Fund. He attends the Ministerial Industry Strategy Group, Europabio’s National Association Council and was a member of the MHRA Expert Group on Innovation in Regulation. Bates has worked both in biotech and the highest levels of UK government for over 15 years. He was Senior Director, External Affairs and Market Access at Genzyme UK and Ireland, during which time he worked on the establishment of the Office for Life Science and was a member of the BIA’s Communications Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the industry, Bates was special advisor to John Reid MP in his time as Home Secretary, Secretary of State for Health, Northern Ireland Secretary and Defence Secretary and helped deliver policy initiatives as diverse as “Our inheritance, our future: realising the potential of genetics in the NHS 2003” to the implementation of the Serious Organised Crime Act of 2005. Earlier in his career, Bates led the Labour Party media team into the general election of 2001 and was formerly a broadcast business journalist at Dow Jones and ITN. Steve is a Cambridge University graduate.

Atta Behfar, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Cardiovascular Regeneration & Assistant Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic
Dr. Behfar completed his undergraduate training at Marquette University. He attended Mayo Medical School during which time he was enrolled in the Medical Scientist Training Program, earning an M.D. and Ph.D. in 2006. Behfar then joined the Clinician Investigator program and fellowship training in Cardiovascular Medicine and Heart Transplantation at the Mayo Graduate School of Medical Education. Behfar’s research focuses on translational cardiovascular regenerative medicine. Using state-of-the-art technologies developed at Mayo, he and his laboratory team are working to understand heart disease at its most elemental level. The team’s focus is specifically on the use of stem cells and non-cellular therapies to reverse injury caused by lack of blood flow to the heart. This work has yielded cardiopoietic and is now being tested first in Phase III clinical trials. In partnership with Dr. Andre Terzic, Director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine, Behfar is principally involved in ongoing clinical trials and collaborations aimed at testing the procedure in larger patient populations and further demonstrating efficacy.

Soraya Bekkali, M.D., VP, Ophthalmology Unit Head, Sanofi
Dr. Bekkali has more than 15 years of experience in global drug R&D from early development to launch across several therapeutic areas including cardiology, cystic fibrosis, ophthalmology and gene therapy. She has held senior roles in pharma including at Aventis and Sanofi as well as biotech company Orphan Europe, in addition to her experience in academia. Bekkali contributed to the creation of the new ophthalmology division at Sanofi as Chief Medical Officer before taking over the VP responsibility for the entire R&D Ophthalmology Unit in 2012. Bekkali is a board certified M.D. and received her degree from Paris University in France with certifications in Biostatistics and Clinical Pharmacology.

Peter Coffey, D. Phil. Professor, Cellular Therapy & Visual Sciences, University of College London Institute of Ophthalmology
Professor Coffey is internationally recognised as the leading expert in human embryonic stem cells and their potential use to cure blindness. He has many years of experience in cellular therapies as applied to retinal transplantation and recently was the principal author and co-author of two landmark papers demonstrating that implanting human cells could prevent visual loss. As Professor and Head of Ocular Biology and Therapeutics (ORBIT), Coffey has established the London Project to Cure Blindness which aims to deliver a human stem cell therapy for age-related macular degeneration.

Aniz Girach, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, NightstaRx
Dr. Girach qualified as an ophthalmologist with a specialty in retina from the University of Cambridge. After having spent 11 years in academia/NHS, he joined the pharmaceutical industry with Lilly, focusing on retinal diseases. Girach has 16 years of industry experience in roles with Merck, as their Global Head of Ophthalmology, Alcon, where he was VP of Clinical Development and ThromboGenics, where he was the Global Head of Ophthalmology/Chief Medical Officer overseeing the development and approval of Ocriplasmin (Jetrea)—a first in class biologic therapy for retinal disease. He has recently moved to NightstaRx as their Chief Medical Officer, overseeing the development of gene therapies for inherited retinal diseases. He is a member of three Scientific Advisory Boards for international ophthalmic organizations currently, and reviewer in five peer-reviewed journals, including Eye and IOVS. He has edited four books and published over 60 abstracts or manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals in ophthalmology, with numerous invited lectures at national/international ophthalmology meetings. His special interests are medical retina, vitreomacular interface abnormalities and gene therapy.

Silviu Itescu, M.B.B.S. CEO & Managing Director, Mesoblast
Prior to founding Mesoblast in 2004, Dr. Itescu established an outstanding international reputation as a physician scientist in the fields of stem cell biology, autoimmune diseases, organ transplantation and heart failure. He is an active faculty member of Melbourne and Monash Universities in Australia and was previously a faculty member of Columbia University in New York. Under his leadership, Mesoblast received the 2011 Deals of Distinction™ Award from The Licensing Executives Society (U.S. and Canada) for its alliance with Cephalon, later acquired by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and the 2013 Scrip Award for Financing Deal of the Year. In 2011, Itescu was named BioSpectrum Asia Person of the Year. In 2013, he received the inaugural Key Innovator Award from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture for his leadership and ingenuity in translational science and clinical medicine in relation to adult stem cell therapy. Itescu has consulted for various international pharmaceutical companies, has been an advisor to biotechnology and healthcare investor groups, and has served on the Board of Directors of a number of publicly-listed life sciences companies.

Anthony Mathur, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Cardiology, Barts Health NHS Trust; Professor of Cardiology, Queen Mary University of London
Dr. Mathur studied medicine at Emmanuel College Cambridge and University College London (UCL). Following graduation, he completed his pre-registrar training at several hospitals including the Royal Marsden and the Cardiac Transplant Unit of Harefield Hospital. He was appointed to the Cardiology Registrar post at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1995, where he obtained an M.R.C. clinical training fellowship to undertake a Ph.D. at UCL. On completing his Ph.D., he returned to the London Chest Hospital to complete his clinical cardiology training and undertook a clinical lectureship at Queen Mary University of London to pursue a research interest in mitochondrial function in the failing heart. In 2002, Mathur was appointed as a Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist at Queen Mary and Barts and the London NHS trust, where he started to develop his research program of stem cell therapy for the treatment of cardiovascular disease based on foundations that were laid during his Ph.D. He became Professor of Cardiology at Queen Mary and Barts and the London NHS Trust in 2009 and recently completed a ten year programme of clinical trials for cell therapy in heart disease – REGENERATE.

Cedric Moreau, Director, Healthcare, Bryan Garnier
Mr. Moreau has 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry acting as equity analyst (awarded for both individual and team performances) for 10 years, and since 2010 has worked as Healthcare Director at Bryan Garnier in the corporate finance department, developing specific skills and expertise in capital market transactions. Moreau acquired strong experience in the dynamic and innovative segments of biotech, diagnostics, med-tech, bioinformatics and healthcare services. Moreau has intimate knowledge of this industry and its financial and industrial features. Combining a technical and financial market understanding of the healthcare business, he has taken part in several transactions including IPOs, capital increases, private placements and M&A advisory. In the last few years, Moreau has taken part in several transactions at Bryan Garnier: IPOs (DBV: $135m; Genomic Vision: €26m; Erytech: €28m; Zealand Pharma: €50m); M&A deals (BioMérieux-AES: €183m; Cellectis-Cellartis together with a €50m private placement); ABO (Mauna Kea: €20m; Ablynx: €45m) and several advisory mandates for the French sovereign BPI fund (co-investment for build-up/M&A transactions).

Emma Morris, M.D., Ph.D., Reader in Immunology & Immunotherapy, University College London (UCL); Honorary Consultant Haematologist (BMT), UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust & Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
Dr. Morris is a clinician scientist based at UCL, with a research programme focused on the development of novel gene and cell therapy approaches for the treatment of cancer, infection and immune disorders. Her research group is interested in altering both the specificity and the function of gene-modified immune cells. Morris leads a growing Phase I clinical trial portfolio (all ‘first in man’) which includes four trials with TCR modified autologous or allogeneic T cells and one trial with gene-modified haematopoietic stem cells. Morris trained in Clinical Medicine at the University of Cambridge before specializing in Haemato-oncology and allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. She is currently a BMT Consultant at UCL Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. In parallel, Morris completed a Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge and has since received research funding from the LLR, MRC, CRUK and the Wellcome Trust. She is also currently one of the National Institute for Health Research UCLH/UCL Biomedical Research Centre Directors.

Kieran Murphy, President & CEO, GE Healthcare Life Sciences
In his current role, Mr. Murphy leads GE Healthcare Life Sciences, a $3.7 billion molecular medicine business that provides a broad range of industry-leading technologies and services for drug discovery, preclinical and clinical development and biopharmaceutical manufacturing, as well as molecular tools for therapy selection and treatment monitoring in patient care. Murphy was appointed CEO in May 2013, following a strategic decision to combine the product and technical capabilities of two former GE Healthcare units, Life Sciences and Medical Diagnostics. Murphy joined GE Healthcare in 2008 from Whatman, a $230 million global supplier of filters and membranes for laboratory research, life sciences and medical diagnostic applications. Murphy has over 20 years of experience in the global life sciences and biotechnology industry, beginning his career with Janssen Pharmaceutical, a division of Johnson & Johnson, followed by leadership roles with Mallinckrodt, veterinary medicines provider Vericore, Novartis, Adprotech, ML Laboratories and Innovata. Murphy earned his bachelor’s degree in 1984 from University College, Dublin. He subsequently graduated from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology with a master’s degree in Marketing.

Jean-Christophe Renondin, M.D., Managing Director, Healthcare, Bryan Garnier
Dr. Renondin has worked in the healthcare industry for more than 26 years, in banking, on the investment side in North America and Europe and in the pharma industry. Renondin has developed an intimate knowledge and experience on financing innovation in different sectors in various healthcare segments such as biotech, specialty pharma, diagnostics and medtech and has led numerous transactions in private placement, IPO and M&A. Renondin is a physician by training and holds an M.B.A. from the Tuck School of Business Administration, Dartmouth.

Morrie Ruffin, Managing Director, Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM)
Mr. Ruffin has 20 years of experience in the biotech and healthcare industries. In addition to forming ARM and serving as its Managing Director, he is also the Managing Partner at Adjuvant Partners, a strategic consultant and business development firm. Prior to Adjuvant, he was CEO of LifeTech Innovations (LTI), a business development and strategic advisory consulting firm based in Bethesda, MD. Prior to his position at LTI, Ruffin was EVP of Capital Formation and Business Development at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the largest trade organization representing the biotech and drug development industries. In addition to his business development work at BIO, Ruffin was responsible for leading the industry’s capital formation advocacy efforts with a particular focus on economic incentives to promote investment in early stage biotech and med-tech businesses.

José-Alain Sahel, M.D., Professor of Ophthalmology, Pierre & Marie Curie University Medical School; Cumberlege Professor of Biomedical Sciences, University College London Institute of Ophthalmology
In addition to his other roles, Dr. Sahel is Chairman of the Departments of Ophthalmology at the Quinze-Vingts National Ophthalmology Hospital and at the Rothschild Ophthalmology Foundation. He is also Director of the Vision Institute in Paris which has 18 principal investigators and more than 250 staff members. The primary focus of his fundamental and clinical research is understanding the mechanisms associated with retinal degeneration, together with the conception, development and evaluation of innovative treatments for currently untreatable retinal diseases. Sahel oversees more than 50 clinical trials and chairs a network of more than 80 European clinical trial centers on retinal diseases. He was elected member of the Academy of Sciences-Institut de France, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis. Sahel sits on several editorial boards including Science Translational Medicine. He authored several patents and co-founded a number of companies including Fovea Pharmaceuticals, Gensight Biologics and Pixium Vision.

Jonathan Schneck, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pathology, Medicine & Oncology, Institute for Cell Engineering, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHMI)
Dr. Schneck received his M.D. and Ph.D. in Immunology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. After completing his degree, Schneck trained in Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital National Medical Center in Washington, DC. From there he went to the National Institute of Allergy and Immunology at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda and did his postdoctoral training at the Laboratory of Immunology. He joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1990 and is currently a Professor in Pathology, Medicine and Oncology, and in the Institute for Cellular Engineering (ICE). He has received several awards including the Mellon Clinician Scientist Award, Harry Weaver Neuroscience Scholar Award, RJR Research Scholars Award, Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation Scholar’s Award and recently was given a gift from the Susan Wojcicki and Dennis Troper Charitable Foundation for his groundbreaking work in cancer immunology. Schneck’s work has focused on understanding and manipulating T cell responses and related technology development. Notably, he has developed, patented and licensed several products including the soluble multivalent MHC complex, MHC-Ig, sold by Becton Dickenson under the product name of DimerX, and artificial Antigen Presenting Cells, aAPC. He is also a founder and head of the SAB of NexImmune, a biotech start-up company that has licensed the aAPC technology. In addition, he is actively involved in teaching at JHMI and leads the Genes to Society Immunology course in the School of Medicine. Current projects in the lab relate to CD8 T cell function and multi-scale analysis of immune responses.

Keith Thompson, President & CEO, Cell Therapy Catapult
Mr. Thompson was appointed as CEO in May 2012 to establish the Cell Therapy Catapult, part of a major Technology Strategy Board initiative, bridging the gap between academia and commercialisation. Thompson has rapidly built the Catapult, establishing a team of over 70 cell therapy experts in new state-of-the-art laboratories in London, to build health and wealth in the U.K. Thompson joined the Catapult from the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) where he was National Director, focussing on modernising the blood supply from vein to vein and expanding the service into cell therapy. Prior to this, Thompson held various senior domestic and international positions where he grew several biomanufacturing businesses to become global players. He was at various times, Managing Director of Bioscot, one of Scotland’s first biotechnology companies, VP of Serologicals Diagnostics Operations, then VP of Global Manufacturing, Chairman of the U.K. Blood Forum, a Director of the European Blood Alliance and Treasurer of the International Plasma Fractionators Association. He has held various non-executive director positions in biotechnology companies as well. Thompson holds first and second degrees in Biological Sciences and Applied Genetics from Birmingham University along with an M.B.A. from Edinburgh University.