Leah Cowen

Leah Cowen

Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives, University of Toronto 
Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics & Infectious Disease
Co-Director of the CIFAR Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities program Former Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto

Professor Leah Cowen is the Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics & Infectious Disease, co-Director of the CIFAR Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities program, and former Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto. Until December 2021 she served as the University of Toronto’s first Associate Vice-President, Research. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of British Columbia, a PhD from the University of Toronto, and pursued postdoctoral studies at the Whitehead Institute. Her laboratory takes an interdisciplinary approach to understand what allows some microbes to exploit the host and cause disease, and to develop new strategies to treat life-threatening infectious disease.

Professor Cowen has an outstanding track record of excellence in research, scholarship, and education. She has been recognized with a myriad of awards, including a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award, Grand Challenges Canada Star in Global Health Award, Merck Irving S. Sigal Memorial Award, E.W.R. Steacie Award, and Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics & Infectious Disease (Tier I and Tier II). She has been elected as Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is advancing knowledge translation as co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Bright Angel Therapeutics, a company that leverages state-of-the-art technologies for the development of novel antifungal therapeutics.

Catarina Flyborg

Catarina Flyborg

Vice President Cell and Gene Therapy

Catarina Flyborg is driven by the promise of cell and gene therapies to transform global healthcare, change the way diseases are treated and significantly improve patient outcomes.

An accomplished engineer and scientist, Catarina has held various management positions in sales, marketing, communications and product development, giving her a 360-degree view of the biotechnology industry over her 25-year career.

As the cell and gene therapy industry continues to experience double digit, year-over-year growth, her experience and knowledge are critical to ensuring the long-term success of the business. In her current role, Catarina oversees the Cell & Gene Therapy business area including the Research & Development, Commercial, Marketing, Product Management and Enterprise Solutions teams that are developing the complete solutions that are enabling research organizations, academic medical centres and biotechnology companies of all sizes to develop and manufacture life-changing cell and gene therapies.

Since joining Cytiva, formerly known as GE Healthcare Life Sciences, in 2004, Catarina has led the Communications team, the Enterprise Solutions Group, Bioprocess Downstream Products and Cell & Gene Therapy Commercial and Marketing teams, before being appointed to her current role as VP Cell & Gene Therapy in 2018.

Catarina was instrumental in building out the bioprocess product portfolio and oversaw the successful acquisition and integration of Xcellerex in the US (2012) and she has played pivotal roles in setting up manufacturing facilities in emerging markets.

She earned her MSc in Biochemical Engineering from the Royal Institute of Stockholm and then began her career in the biotech industry working at Pharmacia Biotech in the product marketing group. She credits this experience with igniting her passion to further the convergence of science and technology and its impact on healthcare.

Edward (Ted) Sargent

Photo of Ted Sargent

Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives
University of Toronto

University Professor Edward (Ted) Sargent received a BScEng (Engineering Physics) from Queen’s University and a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering (Photonics) from the University of Toronto. He joined the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto in 1998, was promoted to Associate Professor in 2002 and to Full Professor in 2005. He served as Associate Chair, Research, for Electrical and Computer Engineering, from 2009 to 2012. He then served as Vice-Dean, Research for the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering until 2016. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology. In 2015 he was appointed as University Professor, the University of Toronto’s most distinguished rank. Among his many honours, he received this year’s Killam Prize for Engineering.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Canadian Academy of Engineering. The impact of his work has been felt in industry through his formation of a number of start-up companies. He is founder and Chief Technology Officer of InVisage Technologies and co-founder of QD Solar and Xagenic.

Professor Sargent’s research interests cover many areas of nanotechnology and its application to communications and computing, medicine, and tapping new energy sources. His research has been cited more than 49,000 times (Scopus) and has been disseminated in Nature, Science, and other leading journals. Through his work as a scholar, Vice-Dean, Research and Vice-President, International, Professor Sargent has accumulated extensive experience in developing and enhancing global research networks involving both academic and industrial partners.

Peter Zandstra

Peter Zandstra

Chief Scientific Officer, CCRM
University of British Columbia

Peter Zandstra graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering degree from McGill University in the Department of Chemical Engineering, obtained his Ph.D. degree from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology and continued his research training as a Post Doctoral Fellow in the field of Bioengineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Peter is the Chief Scientific Officer for CCRM, the Founding Director of the School of Biomedical Engineering at UBC, and the Director of the Michael Smith Laboratories at UBC. Peter holds an academic appointment as a Professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering. Peter is the Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Bioengineering and is a recipient of a number of awards and fellowships including the Premiers Research Excellence Award (2002), the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship (2006), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2007), Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 (2008), the University of Toronto’s McLean Award (2009) and the Till and McCulloch Award (2013). Peter is also a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Royal Society of Canada.

Peter’s research focuses on understanding how complex communication networks between stem cells and their progeny influence self-renewal and differentiation, and how this information can be applied to the design of novel culture technologies capable of controlling cell fate.

Michael May

Michael May

President & Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Michael May completed his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Toronto in 1998 as an NSERC Scholar and was awarded the Martin Walmsley Fellowship for Technological Entrepreneurship.

He is President and Chief Executive Officer of CCRM. Prior to CCRM, Michael was the President and co-founder of Rimon Therapeutics Ltd., a Toronto-based tissue engineering company developing novel medical polymers that possess drug-like activity.

Michael sits on a number of boards and advisory committees including: the ARM Foundation for Cell & Gene Medicine; AgeX Corporation; panCELLa Inc.; CCRM Enterprises; the International Advisory Board of the Swedish Centre for Advanced Medical Products (CAMP); the Poietis SAB; the Entrepreneurship Leadership Council at the University of Toronto; the Cell and Gene Therapy Insights, Editorial Advisory Board; the Commercialization Committee of the International Society for Cell and Gene Therapy; He is the Chairman of ExCellThera Ltd.

Reni Benjamin

Managing Director and Senior Biotechnology Analyst
JMP Securities

Dr. Reni Benjamin is a Managing Director and Senior Biotechnology Analyst at JMP Securities. His coverage consists of small/mid-cap biotechnology companies in the oncology sector. Dr. Benjamin has previously been ranked for recommendation performance and earnings accuracy by StarMine, cited in the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Financial Times, and Smart Money, and has made appearances on Bloomberg television/radio and CNBC. He has authored a chapter in a book entitled “The Delivery of Regenerative Medicine and Their Impact on Healthcare”, was a member of the UAB School of Health Professions Deans Advisory Board, and presently serves on the Board of Directors of the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) and on the Advisory Board for Phacilitate Cell & Gene Therapy.

Prior to joining JMP Securities, Dr. Benjamin was a Managing Director and Senior Biotechnology Analyst at Raymond James, H.C. Wainwright, Burrill Securities and Rodman & Renshaw. He earned his doctorate in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and his expertise includes biochemistry, functional genomics, gene therapy and molecular biology. Dr. Benjamin received his Ph.D. from the University of Alabama at Birmingha

Claudia Zylberberg

Founder & CEO
Akron Biotechnology

Claudia Zylberberg, Ph.D., is a leader in regenerative medicine. She is the founder and CEO of Akron Biotechnology, a leading developer and manufacturer of cGMP-grade ancillary materials and a purveyor of specialized services to cell and gene therapy developers, contract development and manufacturing organizations, and tissue engineering companies, among others. Under Dr. Zylberberg’s leadership, Akron has received grants from the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as two Manufacturing USA Institutes, the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) and the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI). She also co-founded AssureImmune, an adult stem cell bank. Dr. Zylberberg has developed various patented and patent-pending technologies, including cryopreservation media, oligonucleotides, and recombinant protein formulations, and has coauthored numerous academic articles in high-impact publications.

Dr. Zylberberg has engaged in several multi-stakeholder initiatives to formalize and strengthen the regenerative medicine industry. She co-founded the Standards Coordinating Body (SCB) and has supported the development of critical standards promoted by International Organization for Standardization (ISO). She holds advisory positions at the International Society for Cellular Therapy (ISCT), the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) Foundation, the Florida Organization for Regenerative Medicine (FORM), and the National Academy of Science’s (NAS) Regenerative Medicine Forum, among others.

Joan Sheehan

Vice President, Sales
STEMCELL Technologies


Joan Sheehan joined STEMCELL in 1993 and since then has built and managed a number of different functions across the company including Product and Scientific Support, Education, Customer Service, Distribution, Marketing and Sales. Joan has been instrumental in growing revenue from $1 million to $300 million over the past 26 years and has been responsible for setting up all of STEMCELL Technologies’ international offices. She currently manages a global team of over 300 highly trained scientific staff which includes the global Sales, Product & Scientific Support and Education teams.

Michael Nobrega


Chair, Board of Directors
Ontario Centres of Excellence, Canada

Michael Nobrega has been Chair of the Board of Directors of Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) since 2012, previously serving as a member since 2007. He is former President and CEO of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), one of Canada’s largest pension plans with more than $95 billion in assets. In mid-2014, Mr. Nobrega was appointed to chair of the Expert Panel on the restructuring and refinancing of the 750,000 square feet of the MaRS West Tower in the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. He was also appointed by the provincial government as chair of the Expert Panel on the refurbishment of the 1.2 Million square feet MacDonald block in downtown Toronto. A veteran financial and investment executive with more than 30 years’ experience, he previously served as President and CEO of OMERS’ wholly owned subsidiary, Borealis Infrastructure Management Inc., an investment entity that originated and structured infrastructure investments for the OMERS pension fund. Prior to Borealis, Mr. Nobrega was a tax partner at Arthur Andersen, a major international accounting firm.
Mr. Nobrega holds an Honours BA from the University of Toronto. He also holds a chartered accountancy designation from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. In 2009 Mr. Nobrega was named a Fellow of the Institute by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario.

Donna Wall

Donna Wall

Section Head, Blood and Marrow Transplant/Cellular Therapy
The Hospital for Sick Children

Dr. Wall is currently leading the Blood and Marrow Transplant/Cellular Therapy Section at SickKids/University of Toronto. She is experienced in transplantation for treatment of cancer, immune and hematologic disorders – establishing programs in St. Louis and San Antonio. Her research is focused on improving the outcomes of children undergoing transplant through a better understanding of the intersection of the immune and hematologic systems. She leads or is involved in a range of clinical trials and translational research in hematopoietic stem cell transplant and cellular and gene therapy. Dr. Wall holds the Garron Family/Hats off to Kidz Chair in childhood leukemia research.

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