Orphan Drugs & Rare Diseases 2020

Michael Zaiac

Head, Medical Affairs Oncology Region Europe, Novartis

Steven Zimmer


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Janet Allen

Director of Strategic Innovation, Cystic Fibrosis Trust

Janet Allen trained as a physician and practised in academic medical centres.  Following post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School, Dr Allen gained faculty positions at the University of Cambridge and was then appointed Chair of Molecular Medicine at University of Glasgow.  Dr Allen moved to senior management posts in Parke Davis and then Pfizer.  Since 2002, Dr Allen has been involved in developing research strategies for the Conway Institute at University College Dublin and for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.  Since 2012, Dr Allen joined the Cystic Fibrosis Trust where she now holds the post of Director of Strategic Innovation. In this role, she has been exploring the use of advanced analytical tools to develop predictive tools for precision/personalised medicine for people with CF.

Jonathan Appleby

Chief Scientific Officer, Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult

Jonathan Appleby is currently Chief Scientific Officer at the UK’s Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT Catapult). The CGT Catapult employs over 200 full time staff, spread across two main centres. Dr Appleby leads the London based 1200m2 development laboratories which are focussed on the creation of analytical and process development solutions for ATMPs. The Catapult also runs a 7000m2 commercially licensed manufacturing site in Stevenage where several companies produce ATMPs for clinical use.Prior to joining the CGT Catapult Jonathan was Chief Scientific Officer for cell and gene therapy in GSK’s Rare Diseases Unit. In addition to the CSO role he was Project Leader and accountable for the EU Submission of StrimvelisTM, the first paediatric CD34 Stem Cell Gene Therapy to be licensed anywhere in the world. He was also project leader for a similar asset focussed on Metachromatic Leukodystrophy. In 2018 both assets were licenced to Orchard Therapeutics, a deal that he was central to shaping and delivering. As CSO for the rare diseases gene therapy portfolio Jonathan was also responsible for evaluating new therapeutic opportunities and was a member of GSK’s Technology Investment Board.

Jonathan has 20 years’ experience of R&D and has worked in all phases of drug development from target identification through to phase IV across a broad range of therapeutic areas.

Dr. Rohit Batta

Chief Medical Officer, Vicore Pharma AB, Chair, Rare Diseases and Gene Therapy Expert Group

Rohit is the Chief Medical Officer of Vicore Pharma, a Swedish rare disease biotech company dedicated to developing medicines for fibrotic lung diseases. Rohit has 19 years of experience as a medical doctor with an extensive background leading medical and clinical development teams whilst developing drugs for rare diseases. His previous roles include Senior Director of Cell and Gene Therapy at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) leading the clinical development and defining the clinical strategy for haemoglobinopathy gene therapy medicines. He also led the GSK global medical and late stage clinical development teams to launch the world’s first gene therapy for patients with a paediatric rare disease which gained the 2017 Prix Galien Orphan Drug Innovation of the year. Rohit holds a medical degree from Kings College London and is a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners and a fellow of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine where he also chairs the Rare Diseases Expert Group.

Mikel Berdud

PhD, Senior Principal Economist, OHE, Visiting Researcher, Public University of Navarre (Upna)

Mikel’s current research interests are the economics of the pharmaceutical industry; including innovation and incentives for encouraging medical R&D, regulation of pharmaceutical markets and social welfare analysis, and competition and incentives for health care providers.

Before joining OHE in 2015, Mikel worked as teaching and research assistant at the Public University of Navarra. He was (and is still) involved in several research grants funded by the Spanish Commission of Science and he taught Microeconomics and Game Theory in Economics, and Business Administration and Management degrees.

Mikel holds a PhD in economics from the Public University of Navarre (Upna) where he conducted research applying behavioural game theoretical and economics of information models to the analysis of incentives in public and health organisations. He also conducted qualitative research to analyse how intrinsically motivated doctors working for public health organisations should be incentivised.

Manolo Bellotto

General Manager, Gain Therapeutics SA

Manolo has an international Rx pharmaceutical experience encompassing product, medical and advocacy development, commercialization and international research collaborations in major and rare/orphan disease indications across various continents.


Among others, Manolo worked for Vifor Pharma, Helsinn Healthcare, DKSH and the European Society of Medical Oncology and has consulted for international projects for companies such as Abbott, Celgene, BMS, GSK, Loxo Oncology, Teva.


He holds a Ph.D. in molecular developmental genetics from the University of Zurich after having studied at The Biocentre of the University of Basel and at the Fredrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel.


As an international life sciences executive, he is devoted to science, medicine and market access in such a way that he values bringing together various stakeholders and functions in order to build value and give a sustainable and responsible access to innovation in healthcare.

Didier Caizergues

Head, Regulatory Affairs Department, GENETHON

A Doctor in Pharmacy, who holds a degree in Health law. He enjoyed a long career in the field of Regulatory Affairs.

He began his career as a consultant with International Drug Development (IDD), but soon joined the company SYNTHELABO in its Research and Development center where he worked for nine years. In this office Dr Didier CAIZERGUES oversaw the registration of new molecules that had evolved from cardiovascular, urological and anti‐depressive research.

He later headed up the international registration department for the Pierre Fabre group and for the next six years he practices to the fields of anti‐cancer drugs, anti‐depressants and orphan diseases. In 2001 he joined the GENETHON as Director of International Regulatory Affairs where he set up a regulatory affairs department specialized in gene and cell therapies in the fields of rare diseases. He obtained several clinical trials authorization in European countries and US for gene therapy products with lentivirus and AAV in the fields of muscular dystrophies and paediatric immunodeficiencies. He also manages scientific advice with the European Medicines Agency. He is also in charge of the assessment of new molecules or molecules already marketed still in the field of rare diseases in different working groups in European projects (Treat‐NMD).

Sonali Chopra

Director, Alliance and Advocacy Relations, Genentech, Inc.

Sonali Chopra is the Director of Alliance and Advocacy Relations at Genentech.  In her role, she leads a team responsible for advocacy relations for ophthalmology, neuroscience, immunology, and rare disease.  Previously, she oversaw all of oncology advocacy relations for Genentech.  She joined Genentech as a Senior Manager in Advocacy Relations in January 2010 focusing on support for the breast cancer advocacy community as well as for colorectal cancer, skin cancer, prostate, gastric and ovarian cancer.  Sonali comes to Genentech from Bayer and where she worked in healthcare reimbursement, advocacy relations and public health.  At Bayer, Sonali managed reimbursement and patient assistance for specialty pharma and worked with patient advocates on access-related issues.  Prior to Bayer, she led a project with the non-profit Lesotho-Boston Health Alliance that rebuilt the organizational structure of two pilot hospitals in Lesotho, Africa, and laid the groundwork for a grant to study cervical cancer. She has also worked as a healthcare consultant for Lash Group advising clients on reimbursement launch strategies.  Sonali holds Masters degrees in Business Administration and Public Health from Boston University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Integrative Biology from the University of California Berkeley.

Emily Crossley

Co-founder and joint CEO, Duchenne UK

Emily set up the Duchenne Children’s Trust in 2012 after her son was diagnosed with Duchenne. Before that she was a reporter and anchor for Channel 4 News and CNN International. The Duchenne Children’s Trust raised £3.5million in its first three years, to spend on clinical trials, research, and clinical trial infrastructure. The charity set up the annual Duchenne Dash, which brings in money for research and raises awareness around Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Emily has advocated on behalf of patients around the world. She’s spoken many times in the Houses of Parliament. She is a member of the MHRA patient group consultative forum.

Robert Donnell

Head of Business Development at Durbin PLC

Robert Donnell has 20 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical sector, working for large blue-chip companies such as Procter & Gamble and AstraZeneca.Robert joined Durbin, one of the world’s leading specialist Comparator and Clinical Trials Supply companies in 2009. He is responsible for global business development across the Durbin Group, including developing relationships and devising strategic partnerships with multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.Robert has advised several UK Members of Parliament on Healthcare policy and lectures extensively on Global supply issues.

Karen Facey

Sr. Research Fellow, Impact HTA - Co-Lead Investigator, WP10

After working as a senior statistician in Pharma and UK medicines regulation, Karen Facey became the founding Chief Executive of the first national health technology assessment (HTA) agency in Scotland. For the past 17 years, Karen has been an independent consultant on health policy, HTA and patient involvement.  She has been a Non-Executive Director on a Scottish Health Board and for 11 years led work on the NHSScotland resource allocation formula. She now has a part-time role as Co-Principal Investigator in the EC H2020 funded IMPACT HTA project at the University of Edinburgh. She is leading a work package on appraisal of rare disease treatments, which has involved review of international appraisal processes, ethnographic observation of committees and development of principles for outcomes-based managed entry agreements. Much of this work has involved review of processes for ATMPs, with specific work undertaken on the potential use of RWE to support access.

Leslie Galloway

Expert Adviser, NICE, Chairman, Ethical Medicines Industry Group

Leslie built a successful career over 40 years in senior management roles in both the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, culminating in the successful turnaround of a pharmaceutical business.

He was elected EMIG Chairman in 2005 and has been instrumental in the metamorphosis of EMIG from being a business/networking group to the influential trade association it is today. In 2005, EMIG began with 17 Member Companies and today, has 270+, of which, 90% choose to be represented only by EMIG. Consequently, EMIG represents c. 50% of UK branded medicines.

In July 2014, Leslie was elected VP, European Confederation of Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurs (EUCOPE). He was Vice Chairman of the NICE Project Development Group for Local Formularies Good Practice Guidance, a member of the NICE Medicines Optimisation Guidance Development Group and was recently appointed as an Expert Adviser to the NICE Centre for Clinical Practice.

He was a member of the Accelerated Access Review Reference Group and a member of the Cancer Drugs Fund Working Group. He has published numerous articles, is a frequent speaker at national and international seminars, a Member of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Engagement Group, a Member of MENSA and is a visiting lecturer at the University of Cambridge.

Josie Godfrey

Director, JG Zebra Consulting, Project Director, Duchenne UK's Project Hercules

Josie Godfrey is the Director of JG Zebra Consulting. Josie is Strategic Director for Duchenne UK’s ground-breaking multi stakeholder collaboration, Project HERCULES. She is a member of the International Rare Disease Research Consortium (IRDiRC) Working Group 3 looking at methodologies for assessing treatments for rare diseases and has acted as co-Chair of the EUCOPE Gene and Cell Therapy Working Group. Josie is a trustee of Metabolic Support UK. Josie has 10 years of experience working in rare diseases with a particular focus on HTA, market access and policy and public affairs. Josie set up and ran the NICE Highly Specialised Technologies programme as well as the predecessor programme, the Advisory Board for National Specialised Services (AGNSS).

David Gillen

Vice President, International Medical Affairs, Vertex

David is the Vice President of International Medical Affairs at Vertex and has been in this role since March 2016. David qualified in Medicine, Physiology and Clinical Pharmacology from St. Mary’s Hospital (Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine) in 1992. He retained this interest in Pharmaceutical Medicine during his postgraduate training in Cardiology and General Medicine and joined Pfizer Global Research and Development in Sandwich in 1998. At Pfizer, David worked in Clinical Development and in Medical Affairs in the UK and also spent time working at a Global level in New York for 4 years. He rejoined Pfizer UK in April 2007 as UK Medical Director. Prior to leaving Pfizer, David was Vice President for Medical Affairs in Pfizer’s Primary Care Business Unit covering Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where he established a Regional Medical Affairs group covering Pfizer’s primary care portfolio of medicines.


After leaving Pfizer David held the role of Head of International Medical Affairs for Gilead Sciences. In this role he managed and led a group of Medical Directors across Europe and Asia – Pacific. In 2011 he then moved to work at Celgene where he was Head of Drug Safety and Risk Management for EMEA / APAC for Celgene Ltd. In addition David acted as the QPPV for Celgene’s Pharmacovigilance System in Europe.


Outside Industry David has been active in the UK Clinical Research community for some time. He has represented Industry on the 2009 Academy of Medical Sciences Rawlin’s review looking into UK Clinical Research competitiveness and Governance. Beyond Clinical Research, David has served on the Innovation sub- committee of the ABPI (Initiating the ABPI Real – World data project), represents Industry on the NICE Appeal Panel was a member of the 2009 RCP working party looking at the relationship between Industry, Academic Medicine and the NHS

Jim Green

Chairman of Board of Trustees of INPDR (International Niemann-Pick Disease Registry).

Jim had two sons diagnosed with Niemann-Pick type C disease in the early 1990’s.

Jim is a retired head teacher who, in 1991, founded the Niemann-Pick Disease Group (UK). He was Chairman of that organisation until 2012. Jim was also an original member of the NNPDF (National Niemann-Pick Disease Foundation) board when it was formed in the USA in 1992. He continued to serve on that board until 2004. In the twenty-eight years since 1991 Jim has witnessed many advances in research and understanding of NP issues. He has met many patients, researchers, clinicians and other people involved with these diseases. In 1991 there were no support foundations and little or no information. Jim has seen the growth of parent involvement and associations’ influence and has been witness to the huge difference people can make when they work together. In October 2009 this took another step forward with a collaborative venture between the NNPDF and the NPUK when they brought together Niemann Pick Foundations from around the world to network and share information. This resulted in the formation of the “International Niemann-Pick Disease Alliance” – the INPDA. Twenty organisations are now members. Jim was President of the INPDA until June 2019. The project to build an international NP disease registry (INPDR) was started in 2013 and the first development phase was completed in September 2016.  It has steadily developed and grown since then and is now attracting much interest in the rare disease community.

Femida Gwadry-Sridhar

CEO & Founder Pulse Infoframe Inc.

Dr. Femida Gwadry‐Sridhar is the Founder and CEO of Pulse Infoframe Inc. She has her PhD in Research Methodology, Health Economics, McMaster University. She is a pharmacist, epidemiologist and methodologist with over 25 years of experience in clinical trials, disease registries, knowledge translation, health analytics and clinical disease outcomes. She founded the first knowledge translation health informatics lab in North America in 2006, creating a collaborative ecosystem for interdisciplinary research. In 2008 this facility, I‐THINK research, developed a physical and virtual platform to support multidisciplinary research. The platform has evolved to enable the integration of clinical, imaging and histopathology data.


Pulse Infoframe has developed healthieTM, a revolutionary evidence-based platform transforming rare disease and cancer clinical research and treatment. Pulse’s SaaS data platform is becoming the de facto standard for real work evidence, meeting an urgent regulatory requirement. Pulse builds multi-stakeholder collaborative networks of pharmaceutical companies, researchers and patients and enables stakeholder access to clinical trials, input on trial design, new treatment development, and accelerated research. Pulse captures, organizes, analyzes, curates and shares existing and unique data using its industry leading and scalable data-sharing platform powered by AI and machine learning.


Under Dr. Gwadry-Sridhar’s guidance Pulse has developed a global presence.  Pulse has collaborated with international funding agencies advancing the requirements for rare disease registries. Collecting relevant and actionable data in rare disease is essential.  Pulse has addressed relevant questions about data sharing, governance, ontologies and patient reported outcomes- all key to understanding and enabling the development of real-world evidence. DrGwadry-Sridhar is a life-long collaborator and has done so across different disciplines and cultures. This experience has resulted in a comprehensive understanding of the value of collaboration to fast-forward progress and improve lives everywhere.

Joanne M. Hackett

Chief Commercial Officer, Genomics England

Joanne M. Hackett is the Chief Commercial Officer at Genomics England, where she is responsible for their industry engagement strategy by developing, managing and accelerating relationships with commercial organisations − creating opportunities for collaboration both nationally and globally.

Professor Hackett is a clinical academic, an investor, and a strategic, creative visionair with global experience spanning successful start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Aside from her curious passion for life and positivity, Joanne is known for building innovation, driving personalised medicine and leading through fast paced, complex changing ecosystems and integrations. Joanne’s goal is to contribute in bringing the world novel, cost effective and simple health care solutions, and she is particularly keen on building the case for prevention, open science and citizen genomics. She has extensive global experience across academic, business and clinical institutions, and enjoys sharing her experiences with the Boards she sits on as well as companies she provides strategic advice to.

Joanne has been publicly recognised for her relentless pursuit of revolutionising healthcare and has been named the Accenture Life Science Leader of the year 2019, Freshfields Top 100 Most Influential Women 2019, One HealthTech 2018 Top 70 Women in the NHS, Pharmaceutical Market Europe’s  2018 30 women leaders in UK healthcare and BioBeat 2017 Top 50 Women in Biotech Award. Joanne believes in human courage and perseverance against the odds, and demonstrates that positive change, whether in a company or in one’s personal life, can be carved out from even the greatest of trials. As a believer of ‘health = wealth’, Joanne is an internationally known yoga instructor.

Dr Anthony Hall

Co-Founder and Trustee, Findacure, Chief Medical Officer, Healx

Dr Anthony Hall (Tony) graduated from King’s College London with first class honours in physiology and pharmacology before going on to qualify as a doctor in 1991 from the Royal Free. Tony has spent many years working on the development of drugs for rare diseases; during the past 5 years he has worked at Prosensa / Biomarin on the development of antisense oligonucleotides for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and at Mereo BioPharma on the development of a monoclonal antibody for the treatment of osteogenesis imperfecta.

Together with Findacure’s co-founder, he published a book entitled “The Patient Group Handbook: A Practical Guide for Research and Drug Development”. Tony is a Trustee of Findacure and sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of the rare diseases charity Duchenne UK.

Ricardo Hermosilla

Rare Disease Consultant, formerly, Translational Medicine Leader, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd

Ricardo Hermosilla studied Veterinary Medicine at the Universidad de Chile, he did his diploma thesis in Pharmacology. He worked then for two years at the same faculty, in General Pharmacology & Clinical Pharmacology. Ricardo left Chile to obtain his PhD in Molecular Pharmacology, followed by a postdoc in Berlin Germany and was appointed Junior-Professor at the Charité in 2002. In 2008 he moved to industry to work in different roles as Head of Study Directors, COO, Head of Operations, Senior Pharmacologist, Clinical Scientist, Medical Director and Project Team Leader in a CRO, Biotechs and large Pharma conducting and leading clinical trials in rare disease, ophthalmology, cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. He is currently working as a Drug Development Consultant for Biotech Companies in the field of Rare Diseases.

Benjamin James

Trustee, DMD Pathfinders

Benjamin is a recent MSc Science communication graduate from the University of Sheffield who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Benjamin also has a neuroscience (BSc) degree from the University of Nottingham. He is a trustee for DMD pathfinders and has worked with a number of charities supporting those with DMD including Action Duchenne, Duchenne UK, DMD Pathfinders and Muscular dystrophy UK. Benjamin has spoken at a number of conferences and has been involved with a number of meetings and projects with the aim to improve the lives of those affected by DMD.

Eugean Jiwanmall

Sr Research Analyst, Independence Blue Cross

Eugean Jiwanmall’s past professional experiences include basic science and clinical research. In his current role as a Senior Research Analyst for Medical Policy & Technology Evaluation at Independence Blue Cross’ Medical & Claim Payment Policy Department within Facilitated Health Networks and Medical Affairs, he has served as the subject-matter-expert, writer, reviewer, communicator, presenter, consultant, adviser/facilitator, and decision-maker for hundreds of medical policy topics and technology assessments within dozens of clinical disciplines and multiple business areas.  Eugean has participated in numerous roles in a number of conferences and summits etc. upon invitation.

Eugean is finishing graduate work in bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with honors from Drexel University (minor was in business administration), a master’s degree of public health in evaluative clinical sciences from Dartmouth Medical School, and an MBA in healthcare management and economics with honors from Drexel University.

Robert Johnstone

Patient Advocate - International Foundation for Integrated Care (IFIC), European Forum for Good Clinical Practice (EFGCP) & Health Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP)

Chair: Access Matters, Midstream, Board Member: European Forum for Good Clinical Practice (EFGCP), Health Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP), International Foundation for Integrated Care (IFIC). Having had Rheumatoid Arthritis for nearly 60 years from the age of three, I have a wealth of experience as a user of health services. Since 1990 I have voluntarily represented people with disabilities & chronic conditions locally, nationally & internationally “The people have the right & duty to participate individually & collectively in the planning & implementation of their healthcare” Alma Ata Declaration – Principle IV, 1978 World Health Organisation.

Thomas Kühler

Head Regulatory Science & Policy, EU/AMEE, Sanofi

Thomas Kühler is a PhD chemist by training with a post-doctoral degree obtained with late Nobel Prize Laureate Donald J. Cram. In recognition of his contributions to the field of Medicinal Chemistry and longstanding experience in drug discovery he was appointed Associate Professor in Medicinal Chemistry at Uppsala University in Sweden.
Thomas has garnered his work experience from Hässle AB in Sweden (now AstraZeneca), the Medical Products Agency (the Swedish drug regulator), Novo Nordisk A/S in Denmark, and most recently Sanofi in France.
Thomas has served on the Board of the Drug Information Association in the US. He also was a member and chair of the Board of The Organisation for Professionals in Regulatory Affairs in the UK. He is currently serving on the Board of the MedTech & Pharma Platform headquartered in Switzerland.

Kerry Leeson-Beevers

National Development Manager & Project Lead, Alström Syndrome

I joined Alström Syndrome UK (ASUK) in 2004 when my son was diagnosed with the condition. ASUK is a patient organisation supporting families who have a diagnosis of this ultra-rare and complex genetic condition. I am the National Development Manager, responsible for overseeing the Family Support Service and I work closely with our medical teams in Birmingham as we work in partnership to deliver NHS highly specialised multi-disciplinary clinics. I also manage ASUK’s contracts with pharmaceutical companies to support clinical trials.


I am the Project Lead for ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ and I work with patient organisations and support groups throughout the UK to develop supportive and inclusive services for individuals and families affected by genetic disorders.


I have been involved in various UK, EU and global projects focussing on patient engagement in clinical trial designs and drug development. I am a member of the CIOMS XI working group developing guidelines on patient involvement in the development and safe use of medicines and I am a member of the Patient Safety Communication Advisory Panel for Bayer.


I am a patient representative on the UK Rare Disease Policy Board, overseeing the implementation of the UK Strategy for Rare Diseases and I am Co-Chair of the Patient and Public Involvement Advisory Group for the CONCORD Study looking at the coordination of care for rare disease patients, funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

Edmund Lim

Founder and President, WeCareJourney.org

When Edmund’s younger son Branden was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1c, he was told to prepare for the worst. Despite facing many obstacles, there was no giving up. Branden’s future remains uncertain, but his sunny personality inspires Edmund to help improve the well-being of the SMA and rare disease communities.


Together with his wife Sook Yee, they founded and run a Malaysian non-profit organisation (www.WeCareJourney.org) that is dedicated to giving families with SMA and rare diseases the opportunities to live active, engaged and hopeful lives.


Edmund works on bringing government, medical professionals, industry partners, patient groups, and the public, to work together in collective responsibility.

Prior to WeCareJourney, Edmund held senior leadership positions in top multinational companies. He holds degrees in both Law and Finance & Accounting, and is a CPA, CFP and a licenced independent financial advisor.

Dr Eileen McNeill

Programme Manager – Disease Foundations, Oxford University, Structural Genomics Consortium

Eileen McNeill is currently maintaining and expanding the portfolio of disease foundation supported research at a public-private partnership – the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) – based at the University of Oxford. As the Programme Manager for the SGC Disease Foundations Network she is looking for opportunities to partner the SGC’s pioneering Open Science approach with organisations in new disease areas, particularly in rare diseases.  She is also creating new channels for patient and patient group involvement in basic science at the earliest stages of drug discovery.

Eileen is an immunologist (PhD) and pharmacologist (MPharmacol) with extensive experience of working in cardiovascular disease, inflammatory disease, infection and cancer. After PhD training with Cancer Research UK at the CRUK London Research Institute, she moved to Oxford University. At Oxford University, she was responsible for experimental work, project strategy and design, project management, scientific writing and funding bids for long running collaborative projects funded by the British Heart Foundation and Wellcome Trust.

Karen Matthews

Business Development Manager, NIHR

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network works in partnership with the National Health Service (NHS) to deliver high quality research. We support all phases of clinical research studies and trials across all disease areas.

Dr Karen Matthews facilitates discussions between non-commercial funders of research, such as charities, and the Clinical Research Network. She provides advice to both charities and companies on how they are able to collaborate with the Clinical Research Network. Karen also provides guidance on how to access and optimise our Study Support Service to ensure that clinical studies are set up efficiently and deliver to their recruitment targets.

Karen has been with the Clinical Research Network since December 2007. She was previously the operational lead for the Coordinated System for gaining NHS Permission (CSP). The system, which has now been superseded, was instrumental in demonstrating that the UK could set up clinical trials rapidly in a coordinated manner.

Karen has previously worked as a research scientist within the oncology team in Glaxo Wellcomne (1995-6). She gained a PhD in developmental genetics (2000) and conducted post-doctoral research within the Institute of Child Health, London. She subsequently went into research administration and has held posts with Cancer Research UK and Barts and The London NHS Trust.

Paolo Morgese

EU Director Market Access, Alliance for Regenerative Medicines

Paolo is a healthcare investment and market access professional with more than 15 years of experience in both assessing and supporting access to innovative healthcare technologies. Paolo is currently VP Market Access at Alira Health an healthcare advisory company and EU Director Market Access and Member Relations at the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM). Between 2012 and 2017 he worked at Deerfield Management, a healthcare investment company, where he was Director of EU Research and Market Access. Prior to that, he worked at Merck Serono for five years, Kyphon, which became Medtronic, and also spent several years with the Italian HTA Agency Agenas. Paolo’s interests and expertise are centered around healthcare technology value assessment and maximization, with a particular interest in the early stages of product development.

Samantha Oliver

Joint Managing Director, OPEN VIE

Samantha Oliver is Joint Managing Director at OPEN VIE. Sam has published widely in the RWE area and has presented on novel methodologies at a number of conferences. This extensive experience allows her to work closely with our clients to develop bespoke solutions to meet their needs.Sam has a degree in Pharmacology from Manchester University and more than 20 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry, gathered in various roles within pharmaceutical, biotech and clinical research organisations. She has a wealth of experience in the Late Phase drug development area, in market preparation and penetration and in effectively using Real World Evidence as a life-cycle management tool.

Dr. Linda Popplewell

Department of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London

Expertise lies in the development of pre-clinical gene therapies for neuromuscular diseases, in particular muscular dystrophies based on gene addition, endonuclease-mediated gene editing, antisense oligonucleotide (AO)-induced exon skipping and gene silencing. Having performed well in clinical trial, FDA approval is currently being sought for a patented AO developed in the Popplewell lab for a particular subset of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients. Dr Popplewell is PI of an upcoming clinical trial of an optimised microdystrophin AAV, which would have universal DMD patient applicability. She is an elected board member of the BSGCT, sits on the Management Committee of an eCOST Action and is an invited member of the MDEX Consortium.

Christopher Rudolf

Founder & CEO, Volv Global

Christopher has over 20 years of experience as a technology entrepreneur and business advisor, having worked for many Blue-Chip organisations helping solve their critical global scale data problems.

Highlights of his career:

  • A client was awarded Innovative Business of the Year based on his innovative technology to manage a very large multi-lingual outsource for British Airways.
  • Christopher developed what became best-in-class global forecasting models for Nokia for several years running. It was quoted as being “second to none” according to the Financial Times Lex column at the time.
  • He developed a new target operating model for a large Uk Pharma helping to decrease overall inventory by $750m.   
  • He set up drug pipeline budget management capability for a large European Vaccines company with a budget of over €500m.
  • Master data and data governance monitoring and management system was specified designed and implemented by him for a large pharmaceutical client.
  • As Head of EMEA Life Sciences for CSC he was awarded CSC Ingenious Mind with Dr Robert Wah.

Christopher has also been a strategic advisor for the W3C and works with start-ups on innovation in the human-centric web. He has an agile innovative mind-et derived from a wealth of problem solving for customers and ability to adapt to the needs of the customer. Data science, AI and data are the lifeblood of Volv and Christopher is excited to be bringing their cutting-edge offerings to market. Volv’s mission is to speed science, reduce the cost of healthcare and so enhance the economic output and well-being for all.

Dr. Nicolas Sireau

CEO and Chair of Trustees, AKU Society

Dr Nicolas Sireau is the CEO and Chair of Trustees at the AKU Society, a patient group that helps people with AKU (short for alkaptonuria), a rare genetic disease affecting both his children. He is also co-founder and Chair of Findacure, an organisation that helps rare disease patient groups. Previously, Nick was the CEO of SolarAid, an NGO working in Africa. He is a fellow of the Ashoka Fellowship of Social Entrepreneurs and has a PhD in the social psychology of social movements. He is the editor of ‘Rare Diseases: Challenges and Opportunities for Social Entrepreneurs’ (Greenleaf 2013) and of the ‘Patient Group Handbook: A Practical Guide for Research and Drug Development’ (Findacure 2016).

Dr. Cesare Spadoni

Founder & COO, Oncoheroes Biosciences

Cesare is Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Oncoheroes Biosciences Inc. and he has more than 20 years of experience in the drug development field, in both scientific and commercial roles. Previously, he held senior positions at AMRI, Aptuit Laurus, ThalesNano and Auxiliis BV. Cesare started his career as research scientist in a pharmaceutical company (Eisai, London) and in academia (Institute of Enzymology, Budapest).


Following the death of his first daughter Laura to cancer, Cesare set up aPODD Foundation, a London-based charity focused on accelerating paediatric oncology drug development. As aPODD’s chairman and trustee he is actively involved on a pro-bono basis in drug repurposing projects, advocacy efforts and research collaborations with other childhood cancer charities.


Cesare holds an MSc in Applied Molecular Biology and a PhD in Neurosciences from UCL, University of London, as well as an MBA from the Central European University, Budapest.

Helen Springford

Chief Operating Officer, Illingworth Research Group

Helen Springford has over 28 years’ experience in the Clinical Trials arena. Having worked as a nurse in cardiac transplantation in the UK and Australia, Helen moved into clinical research in 1992, initially as a research nurse. Since then, she has managed an SMO and held various positions in both CROs and big pharma within several functional areas including Clinical Operations, Project Management, Business Development and Proposals. Helen was appointed Vice President, Strategic Development at Illingworth Research in August 2016 and was promoted to Chief Operating Officer in April 2019. Helen has always promoted the patient as an active participant in their care and has brought this to the current role where patient focused solutions such as mobile research nursing allows people, irrespective of their geography or state of health to participate in clinical trials. Patient empowerment, whether adult or child is an important part of Helen’s work and has been something of personal interest throughout her career.

Bob Stevens

Group CEO, MPS Society

Bob Stevens is the Group CEO of MPS Society & MPS Commercial, he is also Co-Chair of the International MPS Network and Vice-Chair of the LSD Collaborative. Bob’s previous roles include being the Managing Director of a charity supporting people of all ages with learning disabilities and complex needs and indeed he was a Trustee for the MPS Society for over 10 years.

Prior to being involved within the not for profit sector Bob had a successful career in the commercial sector within construction. Bob spent over 10 years operating at Board level alongside his private property development portfolio.

Bob has two sons with MPSII (Hunter’s Syndrome) which is one of the rare genetic diseases that is supported by the MPS Society, he says of his role that it is not a job but ‘a way of life’.

Dr. Fatima Sulaiman

Head of Research and Services, Scleroderma & Raynaud's UK

Fatima Ann Sulaiman is the Head of Research and Services at Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK (SRUK). SRUK is a patient focused organisation which funds research into scleroderma, a rare orphan auto immune condition. She is leading on the development and implementation of an innovative research strategy which focuses on working collaboratively across industry in order to deliver benefits to patients sooner. Key areas of focus include precision medicine and advancing orphan drug development which represent large unmet needs for rare disease patients.

Previously, she was a senior manager at Cancer Research UK, one of the largest funders of scientific research in the UK. Prior to this, she completed a PhD from the National Institute for Medical Research (now part of the Francis Crick Institute).

Rafał Świerzewski

President of Board, Fundation for Patients with Rare Diseases COCARDA

Rafal Swierzewski has been involved in patient advocacy for ten years as both a scientist and rare cancer survivor. He earned his PhD in 2006 in chemistry by examining physical and chemical properties of model macromolecules (incl. new chemotherapy compounds) in cellular environment. From 2013 to 2016 he served as Board Member of the European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC). Currently, he continue his activity, representing ECPC in Patients’ and Consumers’ Working Party within the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Through the EMA, he is involved in various projects, such as Adaptive Pathways, IMI-ADVANCE (Scientific Advisory Board member) and IMI-WEBRADR. Rafal also represents patients’ interests in the Stakeholders Group for European Union’s clinical trial portal and database, created by EMA to construct new system for implementing European regulations on clinical trials and clinical data. Rafal is also a member of Technical Anonymization Group (TAG) of the EMA, which continue the work undertaken during the development and finalisation of the external guidance on the anonymization of clinical reports for publication. From March 2018 he is President of the Board of Foundation for Patients with Rare Diseases “COCARDA”, an innovative patients’ driven research organization established in Poland.

Vu L. Truong

Ph.D. CEO & CSO, Aridis Pharmaceuticals

Dr. Truong is a founder of Aridis and elected to the CEO position in 2014 after having served as the company’s Chief Scientific Officer for the past 9 years. He has over 20 years of experience in biopharmaceutical drug development, and a life-long interest and research experience in infectious diseases, focusing on the development of innovative human monoclonal antibodies and vaccines designed to address life threatening infections. His product development experience includes FluMist™, Synagis™ mAb, and a number of other monoclonal antibody-based therapeutics. Dr. Truong is the principal architect of the Aridis technologies, which includes a range of anti-infective products, APEXTM human mAb discovery and production platform technology, and pharmaceutical processing technologies. He received his Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Sheela Upadhyaya

Associate Director - Highly Specialised Technologies, NICE

Sheela Upadhyaya is currently the Associate Director of the Highly Specialised Technology program at NICE and is responsible for running the program to evaluate medicines and technologies for rare and ultra-rare conditions for commissioning in the NHS.

She has extensive experience in understanding the issues that face companies and other stakeholders when trying to secure access for medicines for the orphan and ultra-orphan conditions. These include developing innovative access arrangements in liaison with industry, clinicians, patients and the NHS.

Sheela has co-authored several papers that discuss HTA methods for assessing value of orphan medicines and presented at many conference issue panels on the subject.
Prior to joining NICE, she commissioned rare and ultra-orphan disease services in the NHS delivering improvements through collaborating with industry, clinicians and patient groups. During that time, she successfully decommissioned failing services and seamlessly transferred the care of patients to better quality services.

Sheela has a passion for partnership working and believes that collaboration across the sector is the key to delivering high quality outcomes for all.

Dr David A Walker

B Med Sci FRCP FRCPCH, Professor of Paediatric Oncology, Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre

David was born in Scotland and qualified in Medicine from University of Nottingham in 1977 subsequently training in adult and paediatric medicine in UK (Cambridge, St Mary’s Paddington, Leicester, Sheffield, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne Australia), being appointed as a Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Haematology and Oncology in Nottingham in 1990 and appointed as Professor in 2005.

He led the children’s brain tumour trials’ committees in UK (CCLG 92-97) and Europe (SIOPe 97-2001) and co-chaired the International Consortium of Childhood Low Grade Glioma 1997 – 2014. He co-chaired the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), Society of British Neurological Surgeons (SBNS)and Royal College of Nursing (RCN) working party to establish a network of children’s brain tumour treatment centres across the UK reporting in 1997. He helped to develop the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Nottingham http://www.cbtrc.org/. It celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017. He helped initiate the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) adolescent units in East Midlands Children and Young People’s Cancer Service (EMCYPICS) and was a TCT Visiting Professor to Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia in 2007.