2020 Fellows


Meet the 2020 Henri Termeer Fellows. To apply for the Termeer Fellows program, click here.

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Hasan Celiker
Xeno Biosciences


Hasan Celiker is the founder and CEO of Xeno Biosciences, a biopharmaceutical company developing novel therapeutics for obesity and related metabolic diseases. He previously worked as a consultant at start-up companies in diverse technology areas such as synthetic biology, nanotechnology to agriculture. He earned his Ph.D. at MIT in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and completed doctorate work on the evolution of cooperation and interspecies interactions in microbial ecosystems.

Greatest accomplishment: Founding and building Xeno from the ground-up. Coming from an engineering background, diving head-first into drug development has been an exciting adventure, and turned out to be quite rewarding.

Greatest challenge as a leader and how you have overcome: Early on at Xeno, we went through a critical juncture, when multiple key value-driving events were unfolding simultaneously in the midst of a fundraising campaign. Managing various stakeholders, within and outside of the company, during such uncertain times was a difficult task. Ultimately, through a delicate balancing act, careful execution of the development program and, most importantly, transparent communication with all the stakeholders, we were able to successfully hit our milestones and close our fundraising.

What keeps you up at night: Patients -- In the healthcare industry, we are doing what we are doing, because we want to help reduce suffering in the world. This mission drives a sense of urgency to deliver potential therapies to patients as quickly as possible.

Book recommendation: Diagnosis: Solving the Most Baffling Medical Mysteries by Lisa Sanders

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: Resilience and persistence are among the most important characteristics of a biotech entrepreneur. During its lifetime, your company will likely have to go through several challenging periods due to a multitude of factors: limited resources, failed experiments, workplace problems to name a few. Navigating such extreme ups and downs that inevitably happen at an early stage biotech company requires a level-headed attitude and mission-driven teamwork.


Tim Knotnerus

Tim Knotnerus
AgomAb Therapeutics


Tim Knotnerus is CEO of AgomAb Therapeutics, a privately held Belgian based biotech company developing hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) mimetic antibodies. While the company’s antibodies maintain the full therapeutic potential of HGF, they display the excellent drug-like properties of antibodies, holding the promise for regeneration of tissues in a variety of clinical indications. In March 2019, the team closed a $23 million series A financing round from a syndicate of venture capital and strategic investors to fund the non-clinical development of the lead compound. Prior to AgomAb, Tim was VP Corporate Development at AM-Pharma where he and the team conducted a phase IIb trial in patients with sepsis-associated acute kidney injury, signed a $600M option-to-acquisition deal with Pfizer and raised a $133M private financing round. Prior to that, Tim was a senior associate at Aescap Venture, a venture capital fund investing in European medical companies. Tim holds an executive MBA from IMD (Switzerland), where he was named Valedictorian, and gained a Science and Innovation Masters and a Drug Innovation Masters, both with honors from Utrecht University (NL).

Greatest accomplishment: With our small team at AM-Pharma, we developed our lead drug from pre-clinical stage to phase 3 ready, in our mission to provide a first therapeutic solution to the millions of patients with acute kidney injury. At AgomAb Therapeutics, we are trying to do the same for the millions of patients in need for regenerative and anti-fibrotic treatments.

Greatest challenge as a leader and how you have overcome: My greatest challenge as a first time CEO is the balancing act to satisfy the needs of the various stakeholders (patients, employees, investigators, investors) involved in the process of drug development. I always aim to keep the end goal in mind when discussing and deciding on material topics, whilst communicating frequently and transparently.

What keeps you up at night: During COVID times the well being of the team and our beloved ones. More generally, the unexpected but inevitable development setbacks sometimes require containment and perseverance to keep pushing.

Book recommendation: Conscience and courage (of course), de Rebellen van Crucell, and the autobiographies from Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: Just do it, keep pushing. You will never find out unless you try it, but make sure to only work with the very best and with fun people because you will be facing resistance and challenges daily.


Natalie Yivgi Ohana

Natalie Yivgi Ohana
Minovia Therapeutics


Natalie Yivgi Ohana is the scientific founder and CEO of Minovia Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing innovative cell therapies for mitochondrial diseases. She received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from The Hebrew University and performed her postdoctoral fellowship at the Weizmann Institute of Science. She has over twenty years’ experience in mitochondrial research and currently leads the global organization in Israel, the U.S. and Switzerland. Natalie lives in the North of Israel; she is a wife and a mother to four girls.

Greatest accomplishment: Treating the first patient with Mitochondrial Augmentation Therapy – seeing a theoretical idea becoming a therapy.

Greatest challenge as a leader and how you have overcome: In the first round of Minovia (different indication) we failed to scale up the process and the board wanted to close the company. I maintained my belief in the technology and found a creative tax solution that convinced the directors and investors to keep the company going. This enabled the development of MAT as a solution for mitochondrial diseases and, about two years later, the first patient was dosed.

What keeps you up at night: The responsibility to my employees, patients and investors.

Book recommendation: The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years.

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: Remember to enjoy the way; it is not less important than the goal. Make sure to keep your family also part of your entrepreneurial path; they are your most significant partners and will make sure you will succeed.


Stan Wang M.D., Ph.D.

Stan Wang M.D., Ph.D.
Thymmune Therapeutics


Stan Wang is founder and CEO of Thymmune Therapeutics, an innovative cell therapy company working to address high unmet needs across immunology. Previously, Stan was Founding Chief Scientific Officer at Cellino Biotech, where he led R&D and application of its technology to rapidly engineer cells. Stan received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and his M.D. from Columbia University. He was a postdoctoral fellow in cell and gene therapy with George Church at Harvard Medical School.

Greatest accomplishment: Taking the leap into marshaling people and resources to advance promising technology towards therapies that can transform patients’ lives.

Greatest challenge as a leader and how you have overcome: Learning to transition colleagues in a way that maintains dignity and mutual respect.

What keeps you up at night: Reconciling the inevitable tensions of driving value generation for patients and stakeholders in the face of limited resources and time.

Book recommendation: Conscience and Courage by John Hawkins.

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: It’s important to heed the advice of trusted mentors, but it's your life at the end of the day. Your path is unique in its trials, tribulations, and celebrations, so don’t get caught up in perfectly emulating the career paths of those that you look up to.


Minmin (Mimi) Yen

Minmin (Mimi) Yen
PhagePro


Minmin (Mimi) Yen is CEO of PhagePro, an early-stage biotechnology therapeutics company that develops bacteriophage-based products to help the world’s most vulnerable communities. Previously Mimi earned her Ph.D. in microbiology at Tufts University and completed research on cholera in the Camilli Lab. She also pursued a Master's in Public Health at Boston University, specializing in Program Management and Global Health.

Greatest accomplishment: Being able to carve out an intersectional space in global health, biotech, and entrepreneurship that is uniquely ours.

Greatest challenge as a leader and how you have overcome: Recognizing that leading is not about managing. I used to worry about every little detail myself rather than trusting my team. We've invested time and effort into understanding each other's work and communication styles to function together as one unit, and we will continue to do so as we scale up.

What keeps you up at night: As our team continues to grow, how can I make sure our culture remains focused on equity and inclusion?

Book recommendation: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: Don't be afraid to ask for advice when you need it and to seize opportunities as they come. As a young woman of color, the hardest thing for me was, and still is, to get out of my own way and recognize that I have something unique to offer in this field. Stop questioning yourself and go for it.

 


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