Management Team

Frank Tufaro, PhD

Chief Executive Officer

Frank Tufaro has extensive experience with the founding, financing, and operation of biotechnology firms. Prior to DNAtrix, Frank was part of the founding team of NeuroVir, a Vancouver-based biotech company with a mission to develop herpes-simplex virus oncolytic vectors for treating cancer. Frank was instrumental in raising venture financing that established NeuroVir as the major player in the field of viral oncology and led to its acquisition by MediGene. Frank also co-founded Nurel Therapeutics, a gene therapy company acquired by Diamyd Medical AB, and Allera Health Products. Previously, Frank was a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of British Columbia where his research focused on virus-host interactions. Notably, this research led to the discovery of the enzymatic functions of the human EXT 1 and EXT 2 gene products as heparan sulfate polymerases, which when mutated, cause bone tumors in children. Frank’s lab also worked on herpes simplex virus and gene therapy for cancer. Frank received a BS in Cell and Molecular Biology and a PhD in Developmental Biology from McGill University, and was a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Steve McKnight, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and the Carnegie Institution of Science.

Joanna Peterkin, MD, MS

Chief Medical Officer & senior vice president, clinical research

Joanna Peterkin has clinical development experience that covers biologics, including gene and oncolytic virus therapy, drugs, vaccines and natural health products for a variety of therapeutic areas including oncology, infectious diseases, and neurodegenerative conditions. She has worked on programs with herpes, lenti, reo, adeno and AA viruses and holds advanced degrees in medicine, science, and nutrition. Prior to joining DNAtrix, Joanna designed and directed phase I-IV clinical trials and has overseen regulatory activities that led to commercial approvals. Many companies that have sponsored national and international clinical trials have benefited from her expertise, and strong operational and organizational skills, including pharmacovigilance. During her tenure at The University of California, San Diego, she served as a clinical investigator prior to entering the biopharmaceutical industry. Joanna has held the titles of Medical Director, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Executive Director of Clinical and Regulatory Affairs, and Chief Medical Officer for various start-up and established companies, and she also founded a company that provides drug development services.

Brian Mooney, MBA

Chief Financial Officer

Brian Mooney has over 20 years of senior management experience in software, services, and financial industries both as a Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer. Brian brings broad experience in venture capital, deal structuring, and mergers & acquisitions, having been a Managing Partner of a venture lending fund and a boutique merchant bank. He has successfully structured and closed transactions with total value of more than $250 million, served on multiple boards of directors, and assumed the role of acting CFO on several occasions. Brian has also managed a wholly owned subsidiary of a publicly traded company and been in charge of  subsidiary reporting. Brian received a BA in Finance from Trinity College Dublin and an MBA from Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.

Imran Alibhai, PhD

senior vice president, Business development

Imran Alibhai has extensive investment and advisory experience in the healthcare public and private equity markets. He also serves as the Managing Director of DNAtrix’s Houston office. Prior to DNAtrix, he was an investment banker in Peter J. Solomon Company’s Healthcare Advisory Group, focused on M&A transactions in science-based markets including biopharmaceuticals, medical devices/diagnostics and life science tools.  Previously, he was the Senior Director at Alexandria Venture Investments responsible for investments in emerging companies and funds in the healthcare sector. He also directed investments for PIPE’s and long/short positions in MPM Capital’s BioEquities hedge fund. Imran began his career in early stage venture capital at the Accelerator Corp., where he was involved in every facet of company/project formation and management. Imran received a PhD in Molecular Neuroscience from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and a BS in Biology from Duke University.

Erin Mitchell, PhD

Senior Vice President, Manufacturing

Erin Mitchell has extensive experience in process development and manufacturing. As Director of Manufacturing and Process Development at MediGene, Erin assembled and directed a team of scientists and technicians that developed a scalable manufacturing process for herpes virus. Previously, she was a key part of the team that developed the process and oversaw the successful production of the material used for the Phase 1 clinical trial of NeuroVir’s herpes virus product. Erin received a BS in Biochemistry from McMaster University, an MSc in Biochemistry from The University of Toronto, and a PhD in Immunology from Cambridge University.

Imre Kovesdi, PhD

Senior vice president, research

Imre Kovesdi is an accomplished scientist as well as biotechnology entrepreneur. Prior to DNAtrix, Imre served as the Chief Executive Officer of Vectorlogics, a privately-held biotechnology company developing virus-based cancer therapies. Previously, he served as Chief Scientific Officer with GenVec (NASDAQ:GNVC). He joined GenVec as one of its first employees and held several senior positions directing research, development and manufacturing before being appointed as CSO. Imre was also a major contributor to GenVec’s intellectual property portfolio. Before joining GenVec, he led projects in the development of gene expression systems and therapeutic gene design at the Medical Research Division of the New York-based American Cyanamid Company. Imre was a postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University, and received a PhD in molecular biology from Simon Fraser University and a BAS in electrical engineering from University of British Columbia. He is the holder of over 100 US and foreign patents and has authored over 130 scientific articles in the areas of virology, gene delivery and molecular biology. Imre has also served on the boards of a number of biotechnology and information technology companies.

Joan Robbins, PhD

vice president, Translational research

Joan Robbins has comprehensive experience in the development of gene therapy. Prior to joining DNAtrix, Joan served as Senior Vice President of Biosafety & Gene Therapy at Western Institutional Review Board (WIRB) - Copernicus Group, the world’s largest provider of regulatory and ethical review for human research. Prior to that she was Vice President of Translational Research at Tocagen, advancing the first replicating retroviral vector from the bench to a pivotal study in primary brain cancer. She also served as CSO of ADVENTRX Pharmaceuticals, developing a portfolio of drugs for cancer and infectious disease, and was VP of Product Development at Immusol, developing gene therapies and biologics for multiple indications. Additionally, Joan is the co- founder of two virus and biologic specialty manufacturing companies. Joan trained at the NIH/NCI, the Garvan Institute and Center for Immunology (Sydney, Australia), and the University of California, San Diego. She received a BS in Genetics from the University of California, Davis, and a PhD in Genetics from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Brett Ewald, PhD

Vice President, Development

Brett Ewald has broad oncology experience in the development of investigational agents for the treatment of solid tumors and hematological malignancies. He joined DNAtrix from Novartis Oncology, where he focused on progressing early stage biologics and small molecules from first-in-human clinical trials into late stage development. Brett completed postdoctoral and graduate training at MD Anderson Cancer Center in the department of Experimental Therapeutics where he researched novel ways to combine synergistic drugs for leukemia. He received a PhD in Pharmacology from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and a BS and BA in Biology and Economics, respectively, from Villanova University.

Karen Gammon, MS, RN

vice president, Clinical research

Karen Gammon has diverse pharmaceutical and biotech development experience spanning multiple indications that began at Burroughs Wellcome, Co. She has had integral roles in clinical research involving viruses on both sides of the illness-treatment continuum assisting with the development of novel anti-virus treatments and developing viruses as oncolytics including gene therapy research. She maintains an emphasis on GCP compliance and auditing and focuses on promoting community within the full development team, including collaborators and investigative sites. Karen began her career at Johns Hopkins Hospital where she was a clinician and editorial board member for several nursing journals. She is also the founder and president of Clinical Compliance, LLC. Karen received a BSN from George Mason University and an MS in Nursing from University of Maryland, Baltimore.