Steadfast in Our Mission
Co-Founder & President
Omar Kurdi is Co-Founder and President of Cellares. He has more than 18 years of biotechnology experience and has demonstrated his entrepreneurial ability by building and scaling successful organizations – from growing exceptional teams, to creating effective stakeholder relationships, and delivering on bottom-line growth. He leverages his engineering background and technical aptitude to drive operational excellence and has led operational teams that manufactured reagents, medical devices and capital equipment for the life sciences industry. Omar has held executive and leadership roles at a wide array of biotech companies. At Finesse Solutions, he led teams that manufactured bioprocessing equipment and helped grow the company from 10 to nearly 100 employees in a short span. At Synthego, which manufactures CRISPR/Cas9 kits and edits many types of cell lines, he oversaw the build-out of several facilities and helped grow the company from 10 to approximately 150 people. At Thermo Fisher Scientific, he led a large team that manufactured different types of LCMS systems, both research use only (RUO) and class 1 medical devices. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from San Jose State University.
Co-Founder & CEO
Fabian Gerlinghaus is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cellares. He is driven by a strong sense of purpose and is passionate about building the future of cell therapy manufacturing. With 10+ years of experience as an innovator and a leader, Fabian has established a track record of assembling top-performing teams to successfully drive novel bioprocessing technologies from ideation to commercial readiness. Prior to co-founding Cellares, Fabian served as Chief Innovation Officer at Synthego, where he co-invented the company’s proprietary RNA synthesizer technology and helped grow the company from five to more than 230 employees. He successfully led the interdisciplinary team that took synthesizer technology from whiteboard sketch to production-ready instruments within two years, enabling the company to be the first to market with its CRISPR/Cas9 product portfolio. He earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Technical University of Munich, and an honours degree in technology management from the Center for Digital Technology and Management, Munich.
Director of Information Technology
Kiran Thakkar is the Director of Information Technology at Cellares. He has more than 15 years of experience in leading technical teams with an extensive range of expertise including IT operations, application development, infrastructure, network operations, IT security, ERP systems, project management and strategic planning. Prior to joining Cellares, he held the position of Director of Information Technology at Berkeley Lights. He earned an MBA in Finance and MIS from Ohio University.
VP of Business Development
Mark Flower is Vice President of Business Development at Cellares. He has more than 16 years of experience in immuno-oncology, cell-based gene and immunotherapy, cell therapy manufacturing, cell collection and bioprocessing. Prior to joining Cellares, he served as Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Relationships with Be The Match BioTherapies, a subsidiary of the National Marrow Donor Program. Previous roles include Executive Director of Sales and Marketing at Hitachi Chemical Advanced Therapeutics Solutions, a leading cell therapy contract and development manufacturing organization (CDMO). Earlier in his career, he was Senior Manager, Global Strategic Marketing, in the Therapeutic Systems business unit at Terumo BCT. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biological science from the University of California, San Diego.
VP of Quality
Einav Kraft has over sixteen years of leadership experience in Quality and Compliance in the Pharmaceutical, Biotech, and Medical Devices industries which includes establishing, implementing, and ramping phase-appropriate quality systems from the ground up in pre-clinical, clinical, and GMP commercial environments. She also has a proven track record in developing and implementing a quality vision and culture across multiple organizations. Additionally, she has successfully hosted multiple health authority inspections and Pre-Approval Inspections, with the FDA and EMA, among others. Most recently, Einav served as Site Head of Quality for the CDMO, Miltenyi Biotec Inc., in San Jose, California. Previously, Einav was the Head of Quality Assurance at Taro Pharmaceuticals in Israel and led Compliance for Novartis’ San Carlos, California site. Einav earned a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology and a Masters in Quality Engineering, both from the Technion, The Israel Institute of Technology.
Don Yuen, PhD
Director of Analytical Development
Don Yuen is Director of Analytical Development at Cellares. He has more than 10 years of experience in assay development, working on molecular control of lymphangiogenesis and CAR-T therapies. At Pfizer/Allogene, he was the group leader, overseeing the development of CAR-T product phenotyping assays. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. in biochemistry with honors from The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Following his doctoral degree work there, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Cleveland Clinic.
VP of Development
Mike DeRenzi is VP of Development at Cellares. He has more than 15 years of experience working in product development and servicing diverse market segments including the medical and life science fields. Prior to joining Cellares, he served as Director of Engineering at Purigen Biosystems. Previous roles include Project Director at Acorn Product Development and stints in life science and green technology start-ups. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, San Diego.
Director of People Operations
Becca Hennessy is the Director of People Operations at Cellares. She brings expertise in Human Resources, Talent Acquisition, and HR Operations. Becca’s background includes selecting and implementing HR software and workflows to build efficient people ops strategies and processes from the ground up. Prior to joining Cellares, she was a consultant focused on identifying operational gaps, providing solutions, and acquiring top talent for scaling startups. She also served as the Director of Recruiting at Ladder Insurance and worked in Campus Recruiting at KPMG LLP. She graduated from Idaho State University and holds a SHRM-SCP certification.
Daniele Malleo, PhD
VP of Research
Daniele Malleo is VP of Research at Cellares. He has more than 12 years of experience inventing, developing and commercializing complex analytical and biomedical instruments for clinical and research markets. Prior to joining Cellares, he held the positions of Senior Manager of Systems Engineering at BD Biosciences, R&D Manager and Principal Systems Engineer at Abbott Laboratories, and Technology Lead at Berkeley Lights. He earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Southampton.
Director of Product Management
Marc Beban is Director of Product Management at Cellares. He has over 20 years experience helping life science technology companies define, develop, launch, and market differentiated products and services. He has managed products and led teams in a diverse range of life science technologies including multiplexed imaging for immuno-oncology applications, sample preparation for genomic and proteomic analysis, liquid handling and lab automation for high throughput screening, and cheminformatics. Prior to joining Cellares Marc worked at IONpath, Agilent Technologies, Velocity11, and MDL Information Systems. As an independent consultant he devised a portfolio strategy for the lab automation business unit of Perkin Elmer. Outside of the life sciences, he founded and managed a 501(c)(3) non profit corporation dedicated to inspiring young adults to pursue their passion for creative writing. He received his undergraduate degree in Genetics from the University of California, Berkeley, and his doctorate in Biochemistry from the Johns Hopkins University.
VP of Technology
Wilson is the VP of Technology at Cellares. He has over 25 years of engineering experience in creating innovative, cutting-edge analytical systems for bioresearch and medical device industries. His portfolio includes leading roles in systems design and mechanical engineering at several Bay Area companies such as Molecular Devices, Fluxion Biosciences, and Cutera. He excels in merging the fields of fluidics, optics, electronics, and precision injection-molding to create innovative systems for clinical diagnostics, drug discovery, and medical devices. His talents extend beyond just development of robust platforms as Wilson has successfully launched and commercialized 5 products over the past 10 years. Wilson’s passion is creating elegant solutions that meet challenging design criteria from customer’s needs, R&D, Sales and Marketing, and Manufacturing. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.
VP of Operations
John Tomtishen is Vice President of Operations at Cellares. He has more than 10 years of experience in cell and gene therapies, biologics, and vaccines, with diverse roles in Business Operations, CMC/Technical Operations, Supply Chain, Engineering/Facilities, and Operational Excellence. Prior to joining Cellares, John served as the Site Managing Director of Legend Biotech’s corporate headquarters, where he was responsible for Legend’s U.S. Manufacturing and Technical Operations teams and the development of robust global CMC strategies for Legend’s cell and gene therapy product portfolio. He also supported the clinical development and BLA filing of Ciltacabtagene autoleucel (Cilta-cel) in collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
Prior to joining Legend, John worked for Novartis Pharmaceuticals within Cell and Gene Technical Development & Manufacturing where he drove and oversaw CMC activities for cell and gene therapy products from late-stage clinical development through commercial lifecycle management. John also had an integral role in the filing and approval of the first CAR-T BLA (Kymriah™-tisagenlecleucel). Previous experience included roles at Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories, and Fox Chase Cancer Center. John earned a Bachelor of Science degree with Honors in Cell Biology/Biochemistry from Bucknell University.
Sr Director of Global Marketing
Joy Duemke is Senior Director of Global Marketing at Cellares. She has more than 15 years of experience in marketing technologies, services, software, and products. Prior to joining Cellares, she led clinical upstream marketing in immunotherapies for the therapeutics division, and downstream marketing for all divisions, including cell therapy technologies and apheresis collections. Earlier experience includes leading Medical Affairs, Clinical Marketing, and Marketing Communications. Joy was also recognized in “Women to Watch” by Medical Marketing & Media for her leadership in marketing strategy for autoimmune diseases. She earned a Bachelor of Business degree from the University of Colorado and a Master of Business degree from Colorado State University.
Director of GMP Facilities
Tim Lai is Director of Operations, GMP Facilities at Cellares. He has more than 12 years of experience in GMP facilities asset life cycle management in the biopharmaceutical industry. Prior to joining Cellares, he held various roles in engineering, maintenance, utilities, and facilities operations at Genentech and Boehringer Ingelheim. He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of California, San Diego, and a doctor’s degree in business administration from Northcentral University.
Jeremy Kolenbrander, P.E.
Director of Systems Engineering
Jeremy Kolenbrander is the Director of Systems Engineering. Most recently the Senior Manager for Product Development for TerumoBCT, Kolenbrander has more than 30 years of experience leading complex, multi-functional teams from feasibility to development to clinical trials to product launch to ongoing quality improvements. He was the team lead for development of the Spectra Optia apheresis device and has lived and worked in many countries worldwide from Asia to Europe to Australia. He is also passionate about team building, talent development, and increasing access to therapies worldwide. Jeremy holds an MS in Civil Engineering (cellular separations) from Stanford University and a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Colorado.
VP of Finance
Gary Lo is the Vice President of Finance at Cellares. He has extensive experience in finance and IT. Prior to joining, Gary was the Vice President of Finance at Legrand Building Control Systems managing global finance functions including cash management, accounts payable/receivable, credit and collections, cost accounting, and general accounting. Previously, he was the Vice President of Business Development and IT at Sparta Systems spearheading Sparta’s M&A strategy, execution, and integration. He also served as CFO for 1WorldSync, a cloud-based product database company with over 15,000 customers across 50 countries.
Gary worked for 10 years at Johnson & Johnson as a Finance Director supporting numerous product lines and geographies. He has held management positions at Siebel Systems, Boston Scientific Corporation, and PWC as well. Gary earned an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and graduated magna cum laude with a BS from Boston College. He is a Certified Public Accountant.
VP of Software
Nilesh Sinha joins Cellares as VP of Software. Nilesh brings more than 19 years of experience in developing and delivering mission-critical software in the fields of Radiation Oncology and Aerospace. Prior to joining Cellares, he was the Head of Software Development for Varian Proton Solutions, overseeing the entire software development lifecycle of multi-generation cancer treatment products from inception to customer acceptance. Nilesh holds a Bachelors of Computer Engineering from India and an MBA from UCLA.
Director of Business Development
Christian Rouldan is Director of Business Development at Cellares. He brings significant cell and gene therapy expertise in manufacturing, business development, client acquisition, client relationship management, and contract negotiation. Early in his career, Christian served as a research associate at Boston University. He was also a manufacturing operator at Minaris Regenerative Medicine, a leading global CDMO, establishing comprehensive technical expertise in cell therapy process development and manufacturing. Over his time at Minaris, he also led business development for North America and managed strategic relationships. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Boston University and a master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences from Tufts University School of Medicine.
Isabel Tian, PhD
Associate Director of Process Development
Isabel Tian is the Associate Director of Process Development at Cellares. She brings expertise in a wide range of automated cell therapy instruments for target cell selection, sorting, electroporation and expansion. Prior to joining Cellares, she led the process development, optimization and technology transfer efforts of both autologous and allogeneic immune cel therapies at the CDMO site of Miltenyi Biotec, Inc. She received her undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from New York University, and her doctorate in Nanoscale Engineering from SUNY Polytechnic Institute.
Director of Field Service Engineering
Joe Passanisi is the Director of Field Service Engineering at Cellares. He has more than 20 years of experience in the life science industry with a proven track record of building highly motivated and talented engineering and service teams responsible for installing Process Control Systems for life science facilities around the globe. Prior to joining Cellares, Joe served as Director of Field Service at Finesse Solutions, where he was responsible for building a global service team installing and supporting cGMP and Development bioreactor systems at client facilities worldwide. Most recently Joe was the I&C Manager of the Instrument and Controls team at NECI. Joe began his life science career as an Automation Engineer at Lonza Biologics supporting day-to-day manufacturing operations, new suite construction, new facility construction, start-up, and validation activities.
Senior Director of Compliance & Quality Systems
Jarett Scalzo is the Senior Director of Compliance & Quality Systems at Cellares. He has over 15 years of experience in biopharmaceuticals as well as the cell and gene therapy markets with diverse roles in Quality Control, Quality Assurance, and Regulatory and Compliance. For the past 4 years, Jarett has owned and operated Compliance & Control Consulting, a consulting company specializing in the development, buildout, implementation, and maintenance of Quality Management Systems and Contamination Control Programs. He has worked with industry-leading organizations to ensure Quality Compliance programs are robust, appropriate, and commensurate with the level of the organization.
Prior to Compliance & Control Consulting, Jarett worked for Kite Pharma in the Quality Control Microbiology department where he drove and oversaw many of the contamination control validation activities for the commercial manufacturing team ultimately leading to a successful BLA approval for Kite’s CAR-T Drug Product, Yescarta®. Other previous experience included roles at Astellas Pharma and Biotest. Jarett earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Florida Atlantic University and a Master in Business Administration with emphasis on Pharmaceutical Marketing from Saint Joseph’s University. He is a Certified Quality Auditor (CQA) from the American Society for Quality, has been a speaker at the PDA Conference on Pharmaceutical Microbiology, and has hosted various webinars on contamination control and compliance.
Director of System Integration, Verification and Validation
Tania Chakrabarty is the Director of System Integration, Verification and Validation at Cellares. She is an accomplished technology leader who has developed and launched multiple IVD and RUO assays, as well as automated platforms for the clinical and research markets over the last 15 years. Deeply passionate about advancing personalized medicine and therapeutics, she has contributed to new ideas, accelerated business growth, built multidisciplinary teams, and fostered strong partnerships. Tania has also led multidisciplinary teams both in the U.S. and abroad and authored multiple patents. She earned her Ph.D. in Biophysics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and carried out her postdoctoral research at The University of Chicago as an NIH-NRSA fellow. She enjoys working at the interface of technology and biology.
Carl June, MD
Board of Advisors
Renowned oncology and immunotherapy pioneer, Carl June, M.D., is recognized in the oncology field for his groundbreaking work in the development and commercialization of gene therapy and T-cell therapies, including collaboration with Novartis AG on the first FDA approved CAR-T therapy Kymriah.
Dr. June has published more than 500 manuscripts on immunotherapy. He currently serves as the Richard W. Vague Professor in immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and as the Director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at the Perelman School of Medicine, as well as the Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the University of Pennsylvania.
He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including his election into the National Academies of Medicine and Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2018, Dr. June was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for his work in the oncology field.
Dr. June graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and earned his medical degree from the Baylor College of Medicine. He also completed training in immunology and malaria at the World Health Organization and completed his postdoctoral training in transplantation biology with the late Nobel Prize winner Dr. E. Donnall Thomas at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Board of Advisors
Tim Moore has more than three decades of leadership experience in biopharmaceutical manufacturing and operations. Mr. Moore is currently the President and Chief Operating Officer at PACT Pharma. Prior to joining PACT, he served as Executive Vice President, Technical Operations at Kite, a Gilead Company, since March of 2016. During this time Mr. Moore was responsible for overseeing the process development, manufacturing, quality and supply chain for the launch of Yescarta®, one of the first CAR-T therapies to be developed, manufactured and commercialized, as well as advancement of the Kite pipeline. In addition, Mr. Moore globally expanded the biopharmaceutical operations to serve and support the US, EU, as well as key partners in Asia.
Prior to Kite, Mr. Moore served as the Senior Vice President, Head of Global Technical Operations – Biologics of Genentech, Inc. and as a member of the Genentech Executive Committee since 2010. In this role, Mr. Moore oversaw global leadership for more than 7,500 professionals across 10 internal sites and over 37 contract manufacturing organizations, as well as global manufacturing and end-to-end quality supply performance of more than 20 biological product families. Prior to that, Mr. Moore was Genentech’s Senior Vice President, Global Supply Chain and Global Engineering from 2007 to 2010. Previously, Mr. Moore served as Vice President, Operations at ZLB Behring (formerly Aventis Behring).
He is currently a member of ISPE, PDA and has been a part of the Executive Committee of BioPhorum and serves as a Board member for Cerus. Mr. Moore received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Tulsa University and a master’s degree in Engineering Management from Northwestern University.
Megan (Suhoski) Davis, PhD
Board of Advisors
Megan (Suhoski) Davis, PhD is the Director of the Product Development Laboratory within the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Dr. Davis received her Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Pennsylvania, developing an artificial antigen presenting cell system used to generate cell-based therapies, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University assessing immunotherapeutic vaccination strategies.
Dr. Davis returned to the University of Pennsylvania to lead the scientific research operations at the Clinical Cell and Vaccine Production Facility and helped facilitate the successful transfer of the CAR T cell manufacturing process to Novartis, which led to the FDA approval of Kymriah®. With over 15 years of experience in cell and gene therapy, Dr. Davis currently leads a team of expert scientists who develop large scale processes and novel cell therapy products for IND-enabling packages, as well as evaluate new and emerging technologies for utility in advancing manufacturing and testing platforms to revolutionize the field of cellular therapy.
Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD
Board of Advisors
Ezekiel J. Emanuel is the Vice Provost for Global Initiatives, the Diane v.S. Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor, and Co-Director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. From January 2009 to January 2011, Dr. Emanuel served as a Special Advisor on Health Policy to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and National Economic Council. Prior to that he was the founding chair of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health from 1997 to August of 2011. Dr. Emanuel received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and his Ph.D. in political philosophy from Harvard University. Dr. Emanuel served on President Clinton’s Health Care Task Force, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC), and on the bioethics panel of the Pan- American Healthcare Organization. He has published over 300 articles mainly on health care reform, research ethics, and end of life care in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet, JAMA, and many other medical journals. He has also authored or edited 15 books. His new book entitled Which Country Has the World’s Best Health Care? was published in June 2020. Dr. Emanuel is the most widely cited bioethicist in history.
Rod Rietze, PhD
Board of Advisors
Dr. Rod Rietze is co-founder and CEO of iVexSol (intelligent Vector Solutions), Inc., a burgeoning viral vector manufacturer founded on a transformative technology that enables the production of stable lentiviral vectors at any scale. Prior to iVexSol, Rod was the Director of Strategic Development and Innovation at Novartis Cell and Gene Therapy (Cambridge, MA), where he supported the clinical development of a number of next-generation cell and gene therapies, including Kymriah™, the first FDA-approved CAR-T cell-based gene therapy.
Before joining Novartis, Rod led research and development teams of both small molecule and cell-based therapeutics at Pfizer Regenerative Medicine (Cambridge, UK) and TxCell SA (Sophia Antipolis, France). During his tenure in academia, Rod co-founded the 400-member Queensland Brain Institute (Brisbane, Australia), where his lab focused on harnessing the regenerative capacity of resident neural stem cells as a means to treat age-related cognitive decline. His work was featured on the front covers of Nature and Science, and received numerous awards including Science Magazine’s “Breakthrough of the Year”.
With over two decades of technical, operational, and strategic leadership experience in the development of novel therapeutics, Rod remains passionate about discovering and delivering innovative technologies and medicines to transform the treatment of disease. He holds a BSc and MSc from the University of Calgary, Canada, and a Ph.D. from The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (University of Melbourne, Australia).
Mark McClellan, MD, PhD
Board of Advisors
Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, is the Robert J. Margolis Professor of Business, Medicine, and Policy, and founding Director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University.
A doctor and an economist, Dr. McClellan has addressed a wide range of strategies and policy reforms to improve health care, including payment reform to promote better outcomes and lower costs, methods for development and use of real-world evidence, and strategies for more effective biomedical innovation.
His current work on responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency spans virus containment and testing strategies; reforming health care toward more resilient models of delivering better, more equitable care; accelerating the development of therapeutics and vaccines and building a more robust global response to the pandemic.
Before coming to Duke, he served as a Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he was Director of the Health Care Innovation and Value Initiatives and led the Richard Merkin Initiative on Payment Reform and Clinical Leadership.
Dr. McClellan has a highly distinguished record in public service and academic research. He is a former administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where he developed and implemented major reforms in health policy. These include the Medicare prescription drug benefit, Medicare and Medicaid payment reforms, the FDA’s Critical Path Initiative, and public-private initiatives to develop better information on the quality and cost of care. He has also previously served as a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and senior director for health care policy at the White House, and as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the Department of the Treasury.
Dr. McClellan is the founding chair and a Senior Advisor of the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the FDA, serves on the ICER Advisory Board, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). He chairs the NAM’s Leadership Council for Value and Science-Driven Health Care, co-chairs the Guiding Committee of the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network, and is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is also a Senior Advisor on the faculty of the University of Texas Dell Medical School and is an independent director on the boards of Johnson & Johnson, Cigna, Alignment Healthcare, and PrognomIQ. He was previously an associate professor of economics and medicine with tenure at Stanford University and has twice received the Kenneth Arrow Award for Outstanding Research in Health Economics.
Cellares is working to make cell therapy widely available and affordable by providing preclinical and clinical scientists as well as commercial cell therapy manufacturers with a flexible and scalable manufacturing solution and fully-integrated software.