Our Company

Our Story

CDR-Life is developing highly specific antibody therapeutics to target intracellular proteins presented on the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Our versatile MHC-targeted antibody platform increases access to a vast array of antigens that were not previously addressable, to develop a pipeline of first-in-class therapeutics across a broad range of solid tumors. With a team of proven drug development experts and backed by leading cross-Atlantic investors, we are working to redirect and activate the patient’s own immune system to eliminate their tumors.

CDR-Life has developed the unique M-gager® technology to generate MHC-specific antibody-based T cell engagers that target highly tumor-specific intracellular antigens with unparalleled specificity. Based on this technology, we are advancing a growing portfolio of novel and highly tumor-selective immunotherapies with high tumor cell killing potency, promise of longer duration of effect and lower risk of immune-related adverse effects. 

Team

CDR-Life was founded in 2017 by a seasoned team of drug developers and biotech entrepreneurs with a mission to develop a next generation of superior T cell engaging therapies against solid and liquid tumors. We have built a team of highly accomplished people with broad expertise in antibody discovery, pharmacology, clinical and drug product development, enabling us to break new ground with our growing portfolio of highly tumor-selective immunotherapies.

All

Leadership

Alessio Vantellini
Pharmacology
Alice Langer
Pharmacology
André Fonseca da Silva
Pharmacology
Andrea Bozsik-Hajós
Finance
Andreia Pereira
Discovery
Anna Howald
Pharmacology
Anna Sobieraj
Discovery
Anna-Lena Müller
Discovery
Anna-Maria Evangelopoulou
Developability
Ariadna Vilarrasa
Discovery
Athanasia Dasagyri
Pharmacology
Bettina Buddis
Clinical Manufacturing
Betty Chen
Research Operation Manager
Blaz Pavlovic
Pharmacology
Cedric Kiss
Developability
Christian Leisner
Chief Executive Officer & Director
Clare Price
Clinical Development
Cláudia Soares
Drug Substance
Corinna Winkler
Human Resources
Daniel Kuhn
Drug Substance
Daniel Lenherr-Frey
Portfolio
David Orlowski
Drug Product & Analytics
David Schurter
Discovery
David Stocker
Drug Product & Analytics
Diana Feusi
Drug Product & Analytics
Fabian Scheifele
Discovery
Gessica Priola
Drug Product & Analytics
Gonzalo Acuña
Portfolio
Hannes Merten
Developability
Inês Silva
Drug Substance
Ivana Tosevski
Safety Pharmacology
Jan Grigioni
Drug Substance
Janneth Dzvokora
Office Manager
Julia Molitor
Intellectual Property
Konstantin von Schulthess
Chief Financial Officer
Laure-Anne Bickel
Developability
Leonardo Borras
Chief Scientific Officer
Loredana Iuliano
Discovery
Luca Scheu
Developability
Magda Slodkiewicz
Lab Management
Marko Keric
Discovery
Martina Priola
Pharmacology
Melissa Vrohlings
Translational Science
Nadia Sanchez Macedo
Translational Science
Nadja Abdul Malek
Drug Substance
Nagjie Alijaj
Discovery
Nikolina Vachtsevanou
Clinical Operations
Nora Wettstein
Pharmacology
Oliver Thalmann
Drug Substance
Pascal Zeltner
Drug Substance
Philip Knobel
Pharmacology
Philipp Richle
Developability
Piotr Lesniak
Drug Substance
Romina Dörig
Developability
Rouven Bingel-Erlenmeyer
Chief Technology Officer
Rüdiger Maschke
Drug Substance
Sarah Habeler
Drug Product & Analytics
Simona Cesari
Executive Assistant
Simone Coppo
Discovery
Sophie Barsin
Portfolio
Stephanie Jungmichel
Pharmacology
Swethajit (Shet) Biswas
Chief Medical Officer
Thomas Schleier
Discovery
Ursula Straschil
Lab Management
Wolfgang Kress
Drug Product & Analytics
Zoi Barou
Pharmacology
Christian Leisner
Chief Executive Officer & Director
Christian Leisner
Chief Executive Officer & Director
Background

Christian is a seasoned drug developer. He has worked in all phases of drug development within the areas of ophthalmology, oncology, autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease. Christian has led several global programs with new biologic entities including LME636 (Novartis) from the preclinical stage up through successful Phase 2 in two different ophthalmic diseases. He has also played lead roles in the clinical development of Rydapt (Approved in rare hematological disease) and brolucizumab (positive Phase 3 in retinal disease).

Christian has served in Business Development & Licensing teams in Alcon and Novartis and was part of the senior management in ESBATech.

He obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry from ETH Zurich, Switzerland. In addition, he holds a Master of Science in Molecular Biology and in Chemistry from Roskilde University, Denmark.

Konstantin von Schulthess
Chief Financial Officer
Konstantin von Schulthess
Chief Financial Officer
Background

Konstantin von Schulthess’ experience stretches over more than 15 years in financial leadership roles. He looks back on 9 years in R&D finance – first as global controller at Hoffmann-La Roche and then as CFO at ESBATech. He is the founder and owner of Goldhalden, a consultancy focusing on leadership in finance roles.

At ESBATech, Konstantin oversaw all financial and business activities including funding, investor relations, budgeting, reporting, IT and infrastructure. Together with Dominik Escher he took part in the transaction team during the USD 589 million trade sale of the company to Alcon in 2009.

Prior to joining ESBATech Konstantin was the first global life-cycle controller at Roche. Building up this new role, he managed a total R&D and marketing budget of more than USD 400 million for Roche’s Anti-CD 20 (Rituximab / Ocrelizumab / Obinutuzumab).

Konstantin holds a law degree of the University of St.Gallen and an MBA from Babson College, Massachusetts (summa cum laude). He is a Swiss Certified Accountant. Konstantin is also a board member at Schulthess Klinik, Uznaberg AG, and Goldhalden.

Leonardo Borras
Chief Scientific Officer
Leonardo Borras
Chief Scientific Officer
Background

Leonardo is an accomplished protein engineer with a track record in preclinical development of antibodies. After joining ESBATech in 2004, he designed and optimized numerous scFvs including brolucizumab (RTH258), which recently achieved positive Phase III against wet AMD in Novartis and is now being prepared for approval and launch.

In his role as Head of Protein Engineering at ESBATech, Leonardo was responsible for leveraging the scFv platform for the generation of bispecific antibodies, directed strategies to assess manufacturing properties and risks of antibody fragments, and led multiple projects from antibody discovery to early development for Alcon and later for Novartis.

More recently Leonardo led the scaffold technologies group at Novartis Biologics Center where he continued his work in antibody based scaffolds and multispecifics for different disease areas including immuno-oncology, cardiovascular diseases, and ophthalmology.

Leonardo developed a generically applicable antibody humanization procedure that for the first time resulted in highly stable and potent antibody fragments. He is inventor on numerous patents and his scientific work has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Leonardo is heading the Research Unit in CDR-Life.

Rouven Bingel-Erlenmeyer
Chief Technology Officer
Rouven Bingel-Erlenmeyer
Chief Technology Officer
Background

Rouven is an accomplished leader in technical development and manufacturing of biologics. He was Head of Downstream Processing & Analytics in ESBATech and Novartis (>6 years) and subsequently worked as Global Drug Substance Lead in Novartis.

Rouven played leading roles in successful development of manufacturing processes for multiple therapeutic antibody formats including antibody fragments, multi-specific antibodies, and monoclonal antibodies via both microbial and mammalian processes. In addition, he was part of the team that prepared the IMPD and BLA submissions for brolucizumab (Novartis).

Rouven is heading the Technical Development Unit in CDR-Life.

Swethajit (Shet) Biswas
Chief Medical Officer
Swethajit (Shet) Biswas
Chief Medical Officer
Background

Shet joined CDR-Life in August 2022. Prior to joining CDR-Life, he was a Development Leader for MAGE-A4+ autologous cell therapies at Adaptimmune Therapeutics plc, progressing afamitresgene autoleucel through an accelerated approval submission pathway. Before that, Shet was a Clinical Director in oncology drug development at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Oncology, U.K., serving as the clinical lead for the company’s BCMA-targeting multiple myeloma program with multiple trials across all phases of development.

He previously worked as a National Health Service (NHS) Consultant with clinical expertise in teenage cancer medicine, sarcoma, lymphomas and brain tumors at two university teaching hospitals in the UK. He also held an academic position as a Clinical Senior Lecturer in medical oncology at Newcastle University’s Northern Institute for Cancer Research (NICR) from 2009 to 2013.

Shet received his medical degree from Sheffield University Medical School and his DPhil from the University of Oxford. He became an elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP), London, in 2020. 

CDR-Life is led by a seasoned management team with deep expertise in all key areas and phases of biologics development from discovery to commercialization. Our leaders are inventors, drug developers, and biotech builders with a proven track record. They founded ESBATech, a Swiss antibody-fragment based biotech acquired in 2009 by Alcon (now Novartis) and have played critical roles in the development of multiple therapeutics, including Beovu® & Rydapt®.




Board of Directors


Dr. Dominik Escher
Chairman
Dr. Dominik Escher
Chairman
Background

Dominik is a biotechnology entrepreneur. He was a founder of ESBATech and was leading the company as CEO since its inception in 1998 until 2016. He raised more than USD 90 million venture capital for ESBATech AG. In 2009, ESBATech AG was acquired for USD 589 million by Alcon.

Within Alcon Dominik continued to lead ESBATech and was Vice President of R&D Alcon and member of the group’s Global R&D Leadership Team.

In 2011, when Alcon was acquired by Novartis, ESBATech joined the Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research (NIBR). As Head of ESBATech, a Novartis company, Dominik was a member of the NIBR Global Ophthalmology Leadership Team as well as the NIBR Global Leadership Team of Biologics.

At the same time as ESBATech AG was sold to Alcon, Dominik was a founder of Delenex Therapeutics. He served on the board of this new biotech company until it was acquired by Cell Medica in 2016.

Dominik obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Zurich. He also holds a Master of Science in Molecular Biology and Immunology from the University of Zurich and a Masters Degree in Education with specialization in Management and Organization from the ETH of Zurich.

Since 2002 he was a Board Member of the Swiss Biotech Association, the biotech industry organization of Switzerland which he led as President from 2013 to 2022.

Dr. Rafaèle Tordjman
Director
Dr. Rafaèle Tordjman
Director
Background

Dr. Rafaèle Tordjman, MD PhD, has been an investor in life sciences for 20 years.

She started her career at Sofinnova Partners, a Paris-based venture capital firm, in 2001, as an analyst. She became co-leader and Managing partner with €1.5 billion in assets under management, which she held until 2017.

During her time at Sofinnova, Dr. Tordjman has invested in and served on the boards of a number of life science companies, including Ascendis [ASND], DBV Technologies [DBV], Lysogene [LYS], MedDay, Enyo Pharma, Nucana Biomed [NCNA], Flexion Therapeutics [FLXN], Obseva [OBSV] and Preglem, before the company was sold to Gedeon Richter.

Her investments have generated five approved products and c.20 drugs in late stage clinical development.

Prior to joining Sofinnova Partners, Dr. Tordjman worked as a physician and researcher in haemato-oncology. After five years working at the Paris University Hospitals as a medical doctor specialising in internal medicine and clinical hematology, she presented her doctoral thesis on Haematopoiesis and Angiogenesis, which she obtained in 2000. Dr. Tordjman then completed her post-doctoral work in immunology at INSERM, Cochin Hospital, and published in Nature Immunology among others. In 2002, she also completed a management training course at INSEAD.

In 2018, Dr. Tordjman founded Jeito Capital, an independent investment company dedicated to biopharma/biotech to establish a model of continuous financing and to invest in the next generation of leaders in medical innovation. Jeito I raised €534 million ($630 million) in September 2021, becoming the largest independent European fund in Life Sciences. She seats at the Board of InnoSkel, and Alentis Therapeutics (Chair) as representative of Jeito.

To engage more women in the life sciences industry, in 2010 Dr. Tordjman founded the association W.I.T.H. (Women Innovating Together in Healthcare) that now has a global membership of 500 women representing the full chain of medical innovation.

In September 2020, Dr. Tordjman was awarded Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest distinction, for her achievements.

In July 2021, Dr. Tordjman was appointed by Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister Delegate for Industry and Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, under the high patronage of President Emmanuel Macron to promote the French biotech ecosystem among leading international players.

Dr. Dan Marks
Director
Dr. Dan Marks
Director
Background

Dan Marks is a Principal on the Venture Team at RA Capital Management. Dan’s primary responsibility at RA Capital is to identify compelling opportunities for investments in early stage companies and to help facilitate new company creation. Dan's focus has been on oncology investments, where he has worked with numerous RA Capital portfolio companies across cell therapies, ADCs, and engineered cytokines. Dan joined RA Capital in 2017, and holds a BS in Biology from Yale University and a PhD in Cancer Biology from the Gerstner Sloan Kettering School of Biomedical Sciences.

Dr. Claudio Nessi
Director
Dr. Claudio Nessi
Director
Background

Claudio Nessi is a Managing Director of Omega Funds and Managing Partner at NeoMed. He has over 20 years experience of venture capital investing in healthcare in Europe and the US. He has academic research experience in molecular biology from the Max Planck Institute and the University of Connecticut and has authored scientific articles in the fields of genetics, microbiology and structural biology. Claudio has been an investor in and a board member of many successful emerging life sciences companies including Axovan AG (sold to Actelion), Endosense SA (sold to St. Jude), PregLem SA (sold to Gedeon Richter), Chord Therapeutics (sold to Merck Serono), and Avitide Inc (sold to Repligen). Claudio Nessi holds an MBA from Erasmus University, the Netherlands, and a Ph.D. degree in Genetics from the University of Pavia, Italy. He graduated with a Master in Biology from Lausanne University, Switzerland.

Dr. Nicole Onetto
Director
Dr. Nicole Onetto
Director
Background

Dr. Onetto is an independent consultant in oncology, drug development and translational research.

Prior, Dr. Onetto was a Deputy Director and Chief Scientific Officer at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in Toronto. Before that, she held executive positions in pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in Canada, the USA, and Europe, including the positions of Chief Medical Officer at ZymoGenetics, and Chief Medical Officer at OSI Pharmaceuticals where she led the clinical development leading to the US and European approvals of Tarceva® (erlotinib) in collaboration with Genentech and Roche. 

Dr. Onetto previously worked in senior management positions at Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), Nexstar Pharmaceuticals, and Gilead Sciences. At BMS, she was the international project leader for Taxol (paclitaxel) and contributed to several international market authorizations for Taxol in ovarian cancer and breast cancer. At Gilead, she was the Senior Vice President responsible for clinical, drug safety and regulatory operations for the entire Gilead portfolio and was also head of the oncology drug development team which was subsequently acquired by OSI Pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Onetto currently serves as a director on the boards of Basilea Pharmaceutica and Bolt Biotherapeutics. Previously she served on the boards of Sierra Oncology, ImmunoGen, YM Biosciences and NBE Therapeutics, until the acquisition by Boehringer Ingelheim. She was also director for several private companies during her tenure at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. 

Dr. Onetto holds a medical degree from the University of Paris and a Master of Pharmacology from the University of Montréal.  She is Board certified from the University of Paris in pediatrics and hematology. 

Dr. Christian Leisner
CEO & Director
Dr. Christian Leisner
CEO & Director
Background

Christian is a seasoned drug developer. He has worked in all phases of drug development within the areas of ophthalmology, oncology, autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease. Christian has led several global programs with new biologic entities including LME636 (Novartis) from the preclinical stage up through successful Phase 2 in two different ophthalmic diseases. He has also played lead roles in the clinical development of Rydapt (Approved in rare hematological disease) and brolucizumab (positive Phase 3 in retinal disease).

Christian has served in Business Development & Licensing teams in Alcon and Novartis and was part of the senior management in ESBATech.

He obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry from ETH Zurich, Switzerland. In addition, he holds a Master of Science in Molecular Biology and in Chemistry from Roskilde University, Denmark.

Scientific Advisors

World leading experts

The Scientific Advisory Board consists of experts within the fields of immune-oncology and ophthalmology and will serve as a vital strategic resource to the company to develop novel and impactful medicines.

In addition to guiding CDR-Life’s research and development activities, including clinical trial designs, the SAB will also identify new target indications and will evaluate strategic assets that leverage the management’s expertise in therapeutic antibody fragments.



Oncology Advisors


David S. Hong, MD
Professor & Deputy Chair of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center


David S. Hong, MD
Professor & Deputy Chair of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Background

Dr. David Hong is a Professor and Deputy Chair of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he has helped form one of the largest Phase I clinical trial units worldwide.

Dr. Hong is an expert in the early clinical development of innovative immunotherapies and targeted therapies and has served as the principal investigator for more than 100 trials. He has been involved in the early development of various drugs — including larotrectinib, sotorasib and levatinib — leading up to their eventual FDA approvals. As an expert in c-Met, NTRK, and KRAS, he has led several national trials, including the c-Met amplified, c-Met exon 14 deleted and NTRK arms of the NCI-MATCH trial.

Heather Shaw, FRCP
Consultant Medical Oncologist at the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, Northwood, UK and Medical Oncology Skin Cancer Service Lead at the University College London Hospital, London, UK


Heather Shaw, FRCP
Consultant Medical Oncologist at the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, Northwood, UK and Medical Oncology Skin Cancer Service Lead at the University College London Hospital, London, UK
Background

Dr. Heather Shaw is a Consultant Medical Oncologist at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Northwood, UK, and lead for the Medical Oncology Skin Cancer Service at University College London Hospital. Dr. Shaw's main interests include the development of new strategies for the treatment of melanoma and novel therapies to overcome resistance to currently available treatments in order to maximize patient benefit. She is particularly interested in the management of immunotherapy adverse events and is involved in the development of local and national guidance while leading services in both institutions for acute patient management.

Dr. Shaw is the oncology representative on the Skin Cancer Prevention Group of the British Association of Dermatologists, a member of both the national Uveal Melanoma Surveillance Guideline Committee and the Advanced Cellular Therapy Sub-Committee of British Society of Bone Marrow Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, and has provided governmental advisory input to the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer with regard to cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.

She is currently National Coordinating Investigator for several international groundbreaking melanoma studies including cellular and vaccine therapy indications which will deliver first-in-class licensed indications, and Principal Investigator for a large portfolio of melanoma, cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma early phase studies including first-in-human.

Ulrich Jaeger, MD
Professor in Hematology at Medical University of Vienna & Head of Hematology at Vienna General Hospital


Ulrich Jaeger, MD
Professor in Hematology at Medical University of Vienna & Head of Hematology at Vienna General Hospital
Background

Dr. Jaeger is Professor in Hematology at the Medical University of Vienna and Head of the Hematology and Hemostaseology Department at Vienna General Hospital (AKH Wien). During his training, he completed a three-year research stay with Prof. Stanley Korsmeyer at Washington University in St. Louis. His clinical and scientific focus is on lymphoproliferative diseases (leukemia and lymphoma). As a study director, he is responsible for the international NHL13 study of aggressive lymphoma and for acute lymphocytic leukemia of the adult age within the Study Group of Medical Tumor Therapy (AGMT). He is also lead investigator in several Austrian and international studies. His special focus is on translational research. Dr. Jäger was President of the European Hematology Association (EHA) from June 2011 to June 2013 and is currently a member of the European Biomed Alliance and the European Alliance for Personalized Medicine.

Markus Manz, MD
Professor in Hematology & Head of Center for Hematology and Oncology at University Hospital Zurich


Markus Manz, MD
Professor in Hematology & Head of Center for Hematology and Oncology at University Hospital Zurich
Background

Dr. Manz is Professor in Hematology at the University of Zurich. He is the Director of Hematology at the University Hospital of Zurich where he also serves as the Director of Center for Hemato-Oncology. In addition, he is the Head of the Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma Center at the Comprehensive Cancer Center Zurich (CCCZ).

Yoram Reiter, PhD
Professor of Immunology & head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology


Yoram Reiter, PhD
Professor of Immunology & head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
Background

Dr. Yoram Reiter is a Professor of Immunology and the head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. His research involves basic and translational research in antibody and cell engineering for the design of novel immunotherapies.

Dr. Reiter is a pioneer in the field of T cell receptor (TCR)-mimicking antibodies. His work led to the creation of Applied Immune Technologies developing next generation antibody-based immunotherapies. AIT was acquired and merged into Adicet Bio Inc (NASDAQ:ACET). He has more than 25 years of experience in molecular immunology, antibody and cell engineering related to cancer immunotherapy. His lab combines basic and translational research related to T cell biology, effector T cells functions, design of optimal CARs and well as multiple projects on antibody engineering and T cell engagers. Dr. Reiter was the dean of the faculty of Biology (twice) and is director of an institutional interdisciplinary research. He published over 120 papers, patents, review articles in the fields of molecular immunology and antibody engineering.

Gilberto de Lima Lopes, Jr., MD
Chief, Division of Medical Oncology at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami & Miller School of Medicine


Gilberto de Lima Lopes, Jr., MD
Chief, Division of Medical Oncology at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami & Miller School of Medicine
Background

Dr. Gilberto Lopes is a Professor of Clinical Medicine, Chief for the Division of Medical Oncology, Medical Director for International Programs and Associate Director for Global Oncology at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. He holds concomitant positions as Editor-in-Chief for the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s JCO Global Oncology and as a board member for the Union International for Cancer Control.

Throughout his career, Dr. Lopes has taken leading roles in the development of cancer therapeutics including chemotherapies, targeted agents and immune checkpoint inhibitors and has published more than 250 papers and book chapters in journals such as the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Cancer, Nature Reviews, Lancet, Lancet Oncology and Health Affairs.

Dr. Lopes has also led several entrepreneurial and business consulting activities in drug development and healthcare services, including serving as founding Chief Medical and Scientific Officer for the Oncoclinicas group, co-founding Biomab and serving as a Board member for Morphometrix. He is currently the leading Scientific Advisor for Lucence, a California and Singapore-based biotech company that has developed and commercialized cancer-related next-generation sequencing tests for the prevention and treatment selection including detection of circulating tumor RNA in addition to DNA.



Contact

Get in touch


CDR-Life
Tödistrasse 46
8810 Horgen
Zurich Switzerland

Phone +41 44 515 98 98