João Siffert, MD
Chief Executive Officer, Head of Research & Development and Chief Medical Officer
João Siffert, M.D., joined Abeona as Head of Research and Development and Chief Medical Officer in 2018, bringing 30 years of combined experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, clinical care, and academia. In February 2019, he was appointed Chief Executive Officer after serving in the role on an interim basis from November 2018. In February 2019, he was also appointed to the Board of Directors. Dr. Siffert has successfully led multiple drug development programs from pre-clinical to regulatory approvals and commercial launches in the U.S. and Europe and has held several scientific leadership positions in biotech and pharma, including programs in gene therapy.
In 2017, Dr. Siffert was appointed to the Board of Directors of gene therapy developer AveXis Inc., which was subsequently acquired by Novartis. Dr. Siffert began his career in industry at Pfizer, where he held medical roles of increasing responsibility from 2002 to 2005. He served as Chief Medical Officer of Avera Pharmaceuticals from 2005 to 2007, before holding the same position at Ceregene from 2007 to 2011, where he was responsible for clinical development of adeno-associated viral (AAV2)-based gene therapies for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Dr. Siffert also led the R&D, medical, regulatory, compliance, manufacturing and quality organizations at Avanir Pharmaceuticals from 2011 to 2016. Most recently, he was the Chief Scientific and Medical Officer for Nestle Health Science, where he led translational research, clinical development and operations, regulatory, medical affairs, and health economics. Before joining industry, Dr. Siffert spent seven years in academic practice as a neuro-oncologist.
Dr. Siffert earned his M.D. from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, as well as an M.B.A. from Columbia University. He completed medical residencies in pediatrics at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine and in neurology at Harvard Medical School, followed by a fellowship in neuro-oncology at NYU. The American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry certified Dr. Siffert in 1996.
Chief Financial Officer
Christine Silverstein has been CFO of Abeona since January 2019, bringing 15 years of experience in capital markets strategy, financial services, investor relations and healthcare media communications to the Company. Prior to her current role, she served as Senior Vice President of Finance & Investor Relations for Abeona. Silverstein has held various executive roles within the biotechnology industry including Head of Investor Relations at Relmada Therapeutics, Inc., Vice President of Corporate Development at PlasmaTech Biopharmaceuticals, and Managing Director at SCO Financial Group, a New York-based life sciences fund. Earlier in her career, she held senior positions at two boutique New York corporate and capital market advisory firms, The Investor Relations Group (IRG) and Corporate Profile LLC. Silverstein began her career in financial services as a registered investment advisor (RIA) at Royal Alliance Associates before moving to the investor and corporate relations industry. A member of the National Investor Relations Institute, Ms. Silverstein holds a B.S. from the Peter Tobin College of Business at St. John's University.
Chief Business Officer
Max Colao joined Abeona in 2018, bringing more than 20 years of global pharmaceutical and biotechnology experience. Prior to Abeona, he most recently served as Senior Vice President of U.S. Commercial Operations at Alexion Pharmaceuticals where he led a team of several hundred people and was responsible for $2 billion in sales across three franchises. Mr. Colao has an extensive track record of successful innovative and competitive biotechnology launches in oncology, nephrology, rheumatology, and ultra-rare diseases. He earlier served as Vice President of the U.S. Metabolic Disorders Business Unit where he established Alexion's second business unit and successfully launched two novel enzyme replacement therapies including Strensiq®. Prior to Alexion, Mr. Colao spent 18 years at Amgen, where he held roles of increasing responsibility in global sales and marketing, departing in 2013 as Vice President of Inflammation Sales. He earned his MBA from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and his B.S. in applied mathematics and economics from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Chief Accounting Officer
Ed Carr, Chief Accounting Officer, joined Abeona in 2018, bringing more than 25 years of corporate public accounting experience to the Company. Most recently, he served as Vice President and Assistant Controller at Coty Inc., a publicly listed multinational company. Mr. Carr has significant experience managing various accounting, financial reporting, internal controls, tax and treasury matters. Prior to Coty, he served for more than 10 years as Chief Accounting Officer at Foster Wheeler AG. Mr. Carr, who is a Certified Public Accountant, began his career at Ernst & Young LLP. He holds a B.S. and Master of Professional Accountancy from West Virginia University.
Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary
Edward Sturchio joined Abeona in 2019 as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, bringing nearly 20 years of global life sciences expertise to the Company. Edward is an accomplished executive and lawyer with a deep understanding of complex legal and corporate issues and extensive background in corporate, securities, transactional and life sciences regulatory matters. He is a thought leader in corporate and life sciences law who has written and lectured extensively.
Prior to Abeona, Edward served as Global General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Advanced Accelerator Applications S.A. (AAA). In these roles, he was responsible for worldwide legal, compliance and intellectual property functions across 22 sites in 13 countries and a global team of more than ten legal and non-legal colleagues. Before joining AAA, Edward worked in the Corporate and Securities and Life Sciences departments of Greenberg Traurig LLP and Day Pitney LLP, and began his career as a law clerk for the Honorable France A. Schott, J.S.C.
Edward earned a J.D. degree from Seton Hall University School of Law and a B.A. degree in psychology from Villanova University. He is admitted to the bars of the State of New York, State of New Jersey and Washington D.C.
Victor Paulus, Ph.D
Senior Vice President, Head of Regulatory Affairs
Victor Paulus, Ph.D. joined Abeona in 2019, bringing 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, including over 20 years specializing in Regulatory Affairs. Prior to joining Abeona, he served as Vice President and Global Head of Regulatory Affairs at the clinical-stage immunotherapy company Hookipa Pharma. Previously, Dr. Paulus was Global Head of Regulatory Affairs for Advanced Accelerator Applications, a Novartis Company, where he secured orphan designations and product approvals for Gallium Ga68 dotatate and Lutetium Lu177 dotatate. Earlier in his career, Dr. Paulus served as Director of Regulatory Affairs for Pediatric Vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline and Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs for Biosimilar drug development at Dr. Reddy’s. He also held roles of increasing responsibility at Organon, Elusys Therapeutics, and the Population Council. Dr. Paulus began his career as a laboratory technician at the Salk Institute manufacturing vaccines for the US Army and then managed a cell culture laboratory at Centocor and viral vaccine production at what is now Sanofi Pasteur. He was also Manager of Regulatory Affairs for MCM (Merck-Connaught-Merieux), developing novel combination pediatric vaccines. Dr. Paulus has BSc degrees in Biology and Biochemistry, an MSc in biology (parasitology) and a Ph.D. in public health.
Senior Vice President, Quality & Technical Operations
Jay Bircher, Senior Vice President of Quality and Technical Operations, brings more than 28 years of pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device experience, knowledge and leadership in the areas of microbiology, quality assurance, quality control, regulatory compliance, validation, sterile manufacturing and operational excellence. Mr. Bircher has lead FDA (CBER and CDER), EMEA and other regulatory body inspections with successful outcomes.
Prior to Abeona, he held quality positions of increasing responsibility with GlaxoSmithKline, Amgen, Tyco Healthcare and most recently Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), where he was Head of Quality from groundbreaking of a 120,000 ft2-sterile manufacturing facility through an FDA pre-approval inspection (PAI) and eventual launch of several ready-to-administer, prefilled syringe products. Later in his tenure at BD, Mr. Bircher served as Head of Manufacturing where he was responsible for all formulation, fill and packaging operations. He holds a B.S. from Marshall University and is Six Sigma certified.
Juan Ruiz, MD, PhD
Head of European Medical Affairs
Juan Ruiz, Ph.D., joined Abeona as Chief Medical Officer in 2017 and transitioned to Head of European Medical Affairs in October 2018, bringing years of experience in clinical drug development including C-level positions at Lykera Biomed and Digna Biotech, where he spent more than 10 years leading teams dedicated to developing gene therapy translational medicine programs. His proven track record demonstrates a start-to-finish scope, from early preclinical and proof of concept studies to manufacturing, regulatory IND and IMPD submissions, clinical trial design and execution, as well as manufacturing and quality control of the adenoviral vectors. Dr. Ruiz has been instrumental in achieving multiple Orphan Product Designations, has led teams for successful Scientific Advice and Protocol Assistance meetings with the FDA and EMA, and has helped design Patient Reported Outcomes (PRO) in the U.S. to assess skin outcome measures in patients with systemic sclerosis for use as primary endpoints in late-stage clinical trials.
He is the author of more than 40 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and is an inventor on multiple issued patents. Dr. Ruiz earned his Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Navarra. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Connecticut and earned his MBA from the IESE Business School at the University of Navarra.
Jodie Gillon, M.P.H.
Vice President, Patient Advocacy & Clinical Affairs
Jodie Gillon, M.P.H. joined Abeona in 2019, bringing more than 20 years of industry experience in various roles across Development, Medical and Corporate Affairs. Prior to joining Abeona, she cumulatively spent over a decade with Pfizer as the Global Medical Lead for Patient Engagement within the Rare Diseases Business Unit and the Director of Medical Communications within the Chief Medical Office. In these roles, Ms. Gillon facilitated collaborations with patient groups across many therapeutic areas and served as a core member of several cross-functional teams. Prior to Pfizer, she was the Head of Patient Advocacy and Professional Affairs with Achillion Pharmaceuticals. Ms. Gillon also previously served as the Head of the Chief Medical Office of AstraZeneca, which was preceded by additional roles at Novartis and Oridion. She holds a M.P.H. with a dual degree in Health Economics and Epidemiology from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a BSFS from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.
Vice President, Human Resources
Kristina Maximenko joined Abeona as Vice President of Human Resources in 2018, bringing significant experience in multiple functional areas such as recruitment, employee relations, organizational development and employment law with a focus on rapidly growing small- to medium-size companies. Most recently, Ms. Maximenko was Global Director of Human Resources at Advanced Accelerator Applications (AAA), an innovative nuclear medicine company that was acquired by Novartis in January 2018. In this role, she led the human resources (HR) function across 11 international AAA locations and served as the human resources head in the U.S. Ms. Maximenko was instrumental in growing the company from about 400 people to more than 650 people globally in two years, setting up company-wide HR programs and building cohesive company culture. She also played a key role during the integration process of AAA into Novartis and was a member of AAA’s Executive Committee.
Prior to that, Ms. Maximenko was a Global Human Resource Manager at FastGroup, a European technology company. She established their presence in the U.S. and built the HR function from the ground up. From 2010 to 2012, Ms. Maximenko worked in Employee Relations Operations at Macquarie, an Australian investment bank, where she supported three business groups in all phases of employee lifecycle, international assignments and compliance. She earned her Master’s in international law from Far Eastern National University in Russia.
Vice President, Business Operations
Scott Nogi joined Abeona as Vice President of Business Operations in 2018. Prior to Abeona, he served as Executive Director of Kolot Chayeinu / Voices of Our Lives, where he led the business strategy and operations, finances and staff and board relations for the non-profit organization. Before that, Mr. Nogi was Vice President of Business Development at Access Pharmaceuticals, Inc. where he worked on out-licensing. He was also Vice President of Operation at SCO Capital Management, where he managed all back-office staff and systems. Mr. Nogi earned his MBA in management and strategy from the Stern School of Business at New York University and his BFA also from New York University.