Karimah Es Sabar, President and CEO
A highly-recognized Canadian life sciences leader, Karimah Es Sabar brings 30 years of dynamic global business experience to her role as President and CEO of The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She previously held the position of Senior Vice-President, Business and Strategic Affairs at CDRD, responsible for ensuring the organization’s long-term sustainability, while leading its business functions and successfully building the many national and international alliances and strategic partnerships which are now contributing significantly to advancing the goals of CDRD.
Prior to joining CDRD, Ms. Es Sabar took on the role of leading BC Biotech in 2005, re-engineering and rebranding the organization to LifeSciences BC. As President, she led the organization to its greatest levels of success as a strong business development organization for the life science industry and the scientific research community. Ms. Es Sabar has also held senior management positions with international multinational companies, most notably as Director International Division, and later Director Marketing and Business Development at Connaught Laboratories Limited [Sanofi Pasteur] based in Toronto. Ms. Es Sabar also served as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for a Vancouver medical devices company, Medsurge Medical Inc., and was the founder and Managing Director of SAL Healthcare Limited, a leading healthcare organization in Kenya specializing in pharmaceutical marketing, distribution and healthcare consulting services. The company set new standards in the marketing and distribution of biopharmaceutical products in the region.
Ms. Es Sabar currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Providence Healthcare Research Institute, and also sits on the Boards of a number of organizations including the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR); the Prostate Centre Advisory Board, Vancouver General Hospital; the Prostate Centre’s Translational Research Initiative for Accelerated Discovery and Development (PC-TRIADD); NRC – IRAP Advisory Board; and also Chairs MOSAIC, a multilingual non-profit organization dedicated to addressing issues that affect immigrants and refugees in the course of their settlement and integration into Canadian society. She has also lent her leadership expertise by participating in a number of advisory committees for organizations such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC); MITACS; the British Columbia Institute of Technology / University of British Columbia Biotechnology Degree Program; The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE); India Market Advisory Committee, and the British Columbia Asia-Pacific Trade Council. She is also a former board member of LifeSciences British Columbia, the Aga Khan National Economic Planning Board of Canada and Aga Khan National Health Boards in Canada and Kenya.
In 2007, Ms. Es Sabar received Canada’s Gold Award for Business Excellence (CABE) while at Sanofi Pasteur, was the recipient of the YWCA Women of Distinction Award in 2010 for Industry, Science and Technology, was included amongst “The Vancouver Power 50” listing of the most influential people in BC by Vancouver Magazine, and in “BC’s Top 100 Women of Influence” by the Vancouver Sun.
Ms. Es Sabar holds a BSc. Joint Honours degree in Biochemistry/Chemistry from the University of Salford, England, and a MSc. degree in Neurochemistry from the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, England.
Dr. T. Michael Underhill, Interim Scientific Director
In addition to acting as CDRD’s interim Scientific Director, Dr. T. Michael Underhill is the CDRD Division Chair for Target Validation and a Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, in the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences at The University of British Columbia (UBC). He is a member of the Stem Cell Network (a Network of Centre of Excellence) and was a member of the recently finished Canadian Arthritis Network. At present, he also receives research grant funding from The Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) independently as well as in conjunction with the CIHR Bone Health Team. He is also a member of a Terry Fox Team grant that involves investigating the molecular and cellular basis of rare tumors. He has served on several CIHR grant review panels over the last decade and is currently a regular member of a NIH study section. He has been an Inventor on more than 8 patents, a co-founder of two biotechnology start-ups and has successfully licensed out technologies from his laboratory to the pharmaceutical industry. Michael held Investigator salary awards from the CIHR (2001-06) and The Arthritis Society (2006-11). His research is focused on understanding the function of mesenchymal cells in development, tissue regeneration or repair, and disease.
Dr. Gregorio Aversa, Senior Vice President, Drug Development
As Senior Vice President of Drug Development, Dr. Aversa is responsible for strategic oversight of CDRD’s drug development platform, development of our project portfolio, development strategy and priorities, and overseeing strategic alliances with industry. Prior to taking on this role, Dr. Aversa was actively involved as an independent member with CDRD, acting as Chair of the Innovation Fund Review Panels, and a member of the Project Development Committee, the CDRD‐CVI Commercial Advisory Board, and the Drug Evaluation and Selection Committee.
Dr. Aversa has extensive global pharmaceutical experience via his previous roles which include Unit Head of the Autoimmune Diseases, Biology and Cellular and Molecular Biology Units for the Novartis Research Institute in Austria, and Vice President of Research at Inflazyme Pharmaceuticals, Ltd. He also previously held positions at the DNAX / Schering-Plough Research Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology in Palo Alto, California, and was the founder of his own biopharmaceutical consulting and licensing business, Abmedix Biomedical.
As an experienced immunologist and industrial scientist, Dr. Aversa has made significant contributions to the identification of novel molecules and to the understanding of the regulatory processes leading to allergies, autoimmune diseases and transplant rejection. He has over 60 publications in international scientific journals and is an inventor on several patents. Dr. Aversa completed his Ph.D. studies in Transplantation Immunology at the University of Sydney and Stanford University and received his Ph.D. from the University of Sydney School of Medicine in Australia.
Kathryn Hayashi, Chief Financial Officer
Ms. Hayashi is a financial manager with extensive experience in both public and private companies. Prior to joining CDRD, she was VP Finance at Chromos Molecular Systems Inc., where she was instrumental in various equity financings as well as mergers and acquisitions of private companies with early-stage therapeutics candidates. Her professional experience also includes roles with Ernst & Young Chartered Accountants and the Nettwerk Music Group. A member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of British Columbia, Ms. Hayashi holds a bachelor of commerce degree from the University of British Columbia.
John Babcook, Vice President, Biologics
Mr. Babcook brings over 20 years’ experience in biomedical research and biologics development to CDRD, as well as first-hand experience in commercializing these technologies. He has made significant contributions to the international biotechnology industry. While working at Amgen, Abgenix and ImmGenics and through collaborations with AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Abbott, Abbott BioScience, Millennium, CellTech, Curagen, Corixa, Agensys, Progenics and The Scripps Research Institute, he has participated in the development of over 100 therapeutic antibody programs.
In 1988, John joined a team at the Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) at UBC where, while working in the lab of BRC director Dr. John Schrader, he led the development of a technology known as the Selected Lymphocyte Antibody Method or SLAM (Babcook et al., 1996) which is used to screen large panels of immune B-cells to identify and rescue optimal antibody candidates for use as therapeutics. Based on this technology, John Babcook co-founded ImmGenics Pharmaceuticals in 1998, which was acquired by Abgenix in 2000. John continued to lead the research team as Associate Director of Research at Abgenix’s British Columbia site. Amgen, one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies, subsequently acquired Abgenix in 2006 and integrated the Burnaby research facility into the company’s global R&D organization. John served as principal scientist at Amgen, where he led antibody-based cancer discovery and acted as the lead representative of Amgen British Columbia.
In addition, Mr. Babcook is an author of internationally recognized scientific publications, an inventor on ten patents, and has presented his work at international symposia. In 2009, Mr. Babcook won the LifeSciences British Columbia “Innovation and Achievement” Award and was profiled in the 2010 Business in Vancouver Book of Profiles BC’s Business Leaders. In 2011, Mr. Babcook received an Honorary Doctorate of Technology from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) for his contributions and achievements. Most recently, he received a cross-appointment as an Adjunct Professor within the department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University.
Dr. Jason Crawford, Senior Director, Scientific Operations
Dr. Crawford received a B.Sc. double major in chemistry/biochemistry from the University of Victoria in 1991. He then pursued graduate studies in chemistry with Claude Spino, studying the synthesis of the steroid ring skeleton, and received a Ph.D. in 1996. Following his graduation, Jason did postdoctoral research at the Ohio State University, studying the synthesis of the natural product vinigrol under the supervision of Leo A. Paquette. Dr. Crawford then worked at Microcide Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Mountain View, California) as a senior scientist, medicinal chemistry, developing novel antibacterial agents. In 1999, he returned to British Columbia to work at AnorMED Inc., initially as a medicinal chemist, and eventually as the manager of the development chemistry group, where he oversaw the synthetic development of all lead and candidate compounds intended for use in pre-clinical and clinical trials. Notably, for the Mozobil drug substance, Dr. Crawford oversaw the technical transfer of the process to a contract research organization, subsequent clinical manufacture, and eventual validation of the manufacturing process for commercial use. He also acted concurrently as an interdisciplinary project team leader for a clinical-stage anti-HIV therapeutic.
Doug Erfle, Director, Project Management
Mr. Erfle is a certified project management professional (PMP) with over 12 years of industrial drug development experience. Previously he was director of project management at MIGENIX Inc., a public biopharmaceutical company primarily involved in the development of drugs for the treatment of infectious disease. In this role Mr. Erfle was responsible for development and implementation of corporate project management processes as well as for leading multidisciplinary project teams for products at various stages of development including discovery, pre-clinical, and clinical. Mr. Erfle began his career at MIGENIX as a technician in the pre-clinical research group, eventually advancing to group leader of pharmacology. In this capacity he was responsible for development and execution of plans to evaluate the in-vivo efficacy, safety, and pharmacokinetics of novel drug candidates.
Prior to MIGENIX Mr. Erfle worked in the Biomaterials Laboratory of the Cardiovascular Devices Division at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. He has an undergraduate degree in applied chemistry from the University of Guelph and masters degree in Biochemistry from the University of Ottawa, as well as a masters certificate in project management from the Schulich School of Business at the University of Victoria.
Barry Gee, Director, Communications
A seasoned professional with a broad background, Mr. Gee has more than 15 years experience in public, media, government and stakeholder relations; communications and marketing; project management; and not-for-profit operations.
Prior to joining CDRD, he spent ten years as the Senior Director of Operations and Communications at LifeSciences BC, the not-for-profit industry association responsible for representing the province’s life sciences community, and for building the local, national and international partnerships it requires to flourish. In this role, he was responsible for overseeing the successful implementation of all of LSBC’s communications activities as well as a broad suite of programs, events, and services for member organizations.
Mr. Gee completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Creative Writing at the University of Victoria in 1993, and began his career as a Communications Officer with the Canadian Forest Research Centre in Victoria. He subsequently joined the Science Council of British Columbia (now BCIC) administering their various funding programs for researchers and technology start-ups. He is also a graduate of the Leadership Vancouver Program, and From Lab to Leadership – Developing Scientific and Corporate Leaders. He has also been a Guest Lecturer with University of British Columbia’s Career Services; Industry Mentor for the Student Biotechnology Network; and has participated on numerous advisory committees including the Executive Committee of the High Tech Communicators’ Exchange, the BIO International Steering Committee, and as a Founding Member of the Global Bioscience Partnership.
Dr. Dave Rogers, Director, Intellectual Property
Dr. Rogers joined CDRD as Director, Intellectual Property, in January 2011. He has a Ph.D. from the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University, and has practiced in the area of US patent law for over 11 years. Following his Ph.D., he joined the San Francisco law firm of Flehr Hohbach Test Albritton and Herbert, which was later acquired by Dorsey and Whitney. While working in San Francisco for Dorsey, he qualified before the US Patent and Trademark Office as a US patent agent. On relocating to Vancouver, Dr. Rogers continued working for Dorsey, advising US and Canadian biotech clients out of Dorsey’s Vancouver office. His experience includes patent drafting, patent prosecution, patent analysis and opinion work (freedom to operate, invalidity, and non-infringement) and IP due diligence for licensing and financing. In addition to his role at CDRD, he is currently completing his law degree.
Donna Wong, Director, Human Resources
Ms. Wong is a seasoned Human Resources professional with over twenty years’ of strategic, management and generalist experience in the technology, government, health care, manufacturing and consulting industries. She returns to the life sciences having worked earlier as the Director of Human Resources at Chromos Molecular where she established progressive and sustainable HR programs. A member of the Human Resources Management Association, she is an active peer mentor and is involved in local community focused programs benefitting children and families at risk.