Transforming Discovery into Opportunity


Karimah Es Sabar, President and CEO

A highly-recognized Canadian life sciences leader with broad global experience, Karimah Es Sabar has had a successful career spanning start-up companies, multi-national pharmaceutical/biotechnology companies, and not-for-profit organizations.

Ms. Es Sabar joined The Centre for Drug Research and Development, Canada’s national drug development and commercialization centre, in 2009 as Senior Vice-President, Business and Strategic Affairs, leading its business functions, and successfully building an array of national and international alliances and strategic industry partnerships. In 2011, she then took on the role of President and CEO responsible for developing and executing on the overall strategic direction of the organization. Since Ms. Es Sabar joined CDRD, she has enabled new public and private sector support in excess of $90M, grown the organization with expanded national and international reach to include partnerships right across Canada, and in eight countries on five continents – firmly establishing its reputation as one of the world’s leading pre-clinical translational research centres. In this vein, Ms. Es Sabar was also appointed Founding Chair of the Global Alliance of Leading Drug Discovery and Development Centres in 2013, an association of international peer organizations dedicated to translating health research into new medicines, the formation of which she spearheaded.

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 of two start-up companies including SAL Healthcare Limited, a leading 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 also continues to lend her leadership expertise to a number of organizations throughout the local, national, and global community, including:

Current roles:

  • Chair of the Board of Trustees, Providence Healthcare Research Institute
  • Council Member, National Research Council (NRC) and National Advisory Board member, Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP)
  • Director, Knowledge First Foundation
  • Board Member, Canadian Glycomics Network (GlycoNet)
  • Board Member, Vancouver Prostate Centre (a Vancouver General Hospital & University of British Columbia Centre of Excellence); and the Prostate Centre’s Translational Research Initiative for Accelerated Discovery and Development (PC-TRIADD)
  • Advisory Board Member, BC Centre for Improved Cardiovascular Health.

Past appointments include advisory roles with such organizations as:

  • MOSAIC (Past-President), 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
  • The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
  • The British Columbia Institute of Technology / University of British Columbia Biotechnology Degree Program
  • The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE)
  • India Market Advisory Committee of the British Columbia Asia-Pacific Trade Council
  • LifeSciences British Columbia
  • The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR)
  • The Aga Khan National Economic Planning Board of Canada and Aga Khan National Health Boards in Canada and Kenya.

Awards and Recognition:

  • Influential Women in Business Award by Business in Vancouver (2016)
  • Noted in “The 50 Most Influential Women in B.C.” (2015) by BC Business Magazine
  • Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Salford (2014)
  • The Women’s Executive Network’s (WXN) “Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award” (2013)
  • The YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Industry, Science and Technology (2010)
  • “The Vancouver Power 50” listing of the most influential people in BC by Vancouver Magazine
  • Noted amongst “BC’s Top 100 Women of Influence” by the Vancouver Sun.
  • Canada’s Gold Award for Business Excellence (CABE) (while at Sanofi Pasteur)

Ms. Es Sabar holds an Executive Certificate in Management and Leadership from the MIT Sloan School of Management, a MSc degree in Neurochemistry from the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, England, and a BSc Joint Honours degree in Biochemistry/Chemistry from the University of Salford, England.

Kelly McNagny, Co-Scientific Director

Dr. Kelly McNagny is a Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics, and Co-Director of the Biomedical Research Centre at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

He obtained his PhD in Cellular Immunology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1990. There he worked with Dr. Max D. Cooper (Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Academy of Sciences) and his research focused on cell surface proteins expressed by preB cells that regulate B cell maturation and homing. His post-doctoral studies took him to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany where he joined Dr. Thomas Graf’s lab from 1991 to 1996. There his work focused on transcriptional control of hematopoietic stem cell maturation and cell fate. He performed some of the first studies to identify transcription factors that regulate the gene expression and differentiation of eosinophils, which are known to play a major role in allergic and asthmatic responses. In addition, he identified a number of novel hematopoietic stem cell surface proteins and began analyzing their function.  He continued his studies at the EMBL as a semi-independent, visiting scientist from 1996 to 1998 prior to starting his own laboratory at UBC’s Biomedical Research Centre.

Dr. McNagny has received a number of awards including a Canadian Institutes of Health Research scholarship, a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Senior scholarship, and the 2002 Showell-Pfizer Junior Faculty Award from the American Association for Immunology. He is also an active member of the Canadian AllerGen and Stem Cell Network Centres of Excellence.

Michael Rudnicki, Co-Scientific Director

Dr. Michael Rudnicki is a Senior Scientist and the Director of the Regenerative Medicine Program and the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research at the Ottawa Health Research Institute. He is a Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Ottawa. Dr. Rudnicki is the Scientific Director of the Canadian Stem Cell Network and the International Regulome Consortium.

Dr. Rudnicki received his Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa in 1988 with Dr. Michael McBurney where he examined the control of gene expression during embryonal carcinoma cell differentiation. Dr. Rudnicki trained at the post-doctoral level at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Whitehead Institute with Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch. His post-doctoral studies involved the genetic dissection of the function of the MyoD-family of transcription factors by gene targeting. Dr. Rudnicki was appointed Assistant Professor at McMaster University in 1992. In 2000, he moved to Ottawa to join the Ottawa Health Research Institute.

Dr. Rudnicki is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, he holds the Canada Research Chair in Molecular Genetics, and is an International Research Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is an Associate Editor of Journal of Cell Biology and Cell Stem Cell, and has organized international research conferences as one of the founding directors of the Society for Muscle Biology. He holds operating grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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. (TSX:CHR) 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.

Jason Crawford, Vice President, Scientific Operations

As the Vice President of Scientific Operations at The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), Canada’s fully-integrated national drug development and commercialization centre, Dr. Crawford plays a key role in the evaluation of potential drug development projects to be incubated within CDRD, and holds responsibility for the successful execution of all subsequent project development plans, and thus the overall management of CDRD’s scientific resources. Prior to assuming this role, he was Head of Medicinal Chemistry at CDRD, having joined the organization in 2008.

Previously, from 1999-2007, he held a series of increasingly-senior positions at AnorMED Inc. – initially a Medicinal Chemist, and eventually the Manager of the Development Chemistry Group, leading the synthetic development of all lead and candidate compounds intended for use in pre-clinical and clinical trials.  Notably, for plerixafor, which now generates over $150 million annually in global sales as Mozobil, he oversaw the technical transfer of the development process to a contract research organization, the subsequent clinical manufacture, and the 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. In addition to his experience at AnorMED, Dr. Crawford also developed novel antibacterial agents in his role of Senior Scientist, Medicinal Chemistry at Microcide Pharmaceuticals Inc. based in Mountain View, California.

Dr. Crawford received his B.Sc. in chemistry/biochemistry in 1991, and a PhD in organic chemistry in 1996 from the University of Victoria (Canada). He then conducted post-doctoral research in organic synthesis at the Ohio State University from 1996-1997.

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 10 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.

Jon Jafari, Senior Director, Business Development

Prior to joining CDRD, Mr. Jafari spent seven years in progressive business development and strategic marketing roles at QLT Inc. with responsibilities for all new product planning and market research activities and was most recently, responsible for Retina therapeutic area licensing activities. He was also involved in the divestiture of Aczone to Allergan as well as the purchase of Foresight Laboratories. Prior to QLT, Mr. Jafari worked for Eli Lilly in the Business Development Market Assessment group and provided market evaluations for licensing and M&A opportunities. He evaluated over 60 different projects and was the commercial lead in the licensing of a novel EG5 Kinesin Spindle inhibitor from Kyowa Hakko and the acquisition of AME which was a novel antibody development company. Mr. Jafari also had research roles at Indiana University in molecular evolution and in tumor targeting at Genetic Therapy Inc., which was a gene therapy company that was acquired by Sandoz, now Novartis.

Mr. Jafari received his BS Biology and MBA from Indiana University and his MS Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University. He has also been an invited speaker at various market research conferences and presented “Forecasting Orphan Drugs” at the 2012 PBIRG conference and the 2011 Canadian Pharma Market Research Conference.

Dave Rogers, Senior Director, Intellectual Property

Dr. Dave Rogers joined CDRD as its Intellectual Property Director in January 2011.  He has been involved in biotech patent law, particularly US patent law, since completion of his graduate research work in 1999.  In 2000, he joined the San Francisco law firm of Flehr, Hohbach, Test, Albritton & Herbert LLP, which was later acquired by Dorsey and Whitney LLP.  While working in San Francisco for Dorsey, he qualified as a patent agent before the US Patent and Trademark Office. In 2005, Dr. Rogers relocated to Dorsey’s Vancouver office, continuing to work closely with the San Francisco and Palo Alto offices to advise US and Canadian biotech clients on patent matters.

He has a background in biochemistry, chemistry, immunology, and neurobiology, and his IP experience includes patent drafting, patent prosecution, portfolio evaluation and development, patent analysis and opinion work (freedom to operate, invalidity, and non-infringement) and IP due diligence for licensing and financing. Dr. Rogers received a PhD from the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University in 1999, and a JD from the University of British Columbia in 2013.

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