Leadership

 

Bastiano Sanna, PhD
CEO

Bastiano Sanna, PhD, serves as Semma Therapeutics’ CEO. Dr. Sanna joins Semma from Magenta Therapeutics, where he served as Chief Operating Officer and was responsible for operations, finance, clinical development and program management. Prior to Magenta, Dr. Sanna served in the leadership team of Novartis’ Cell and Gene Therapy Unit as the Global Program Head of Stem Cell Transplant and early programs, where he oversaw clinical, regulatory, CMC, and commercial aspects of programs in bone marrow transplant and CAR-T cell therapies. In an earlier role, he served as Global Head of Strategic Planning and Portfolio Management at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, where he was responsible for global portfolio management of all Novartis’ research programs from discovery through Phase II across all disease areas.

 


 

David Lebwohl, MD
Chief Medical Officer

David is Semma’s CMO. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President and Global Program Head of CART Team at Novartis, where he led the development of chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies. He served as Global Head of Oncology Clinical Development and Global Program Head for Afinitor, an oral mTOR inhibitor, within Novartis Oncology. He joined Novartis Oncology in 2002 where he was responsible for the development of Afinitor (RAD001) from phase 1 through five NDA/MAA approvals. He also led the clinical development of PTK787, a VEGFR inhibitor, panobinostat, a deacetylase inhibitor and midostaurin, a FLT3 kinase inhibitor. Following post-graduate training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in internal medicine, hematology and medical oncology, he joined the staff of Memorial Sloan-Kettering on the Breast Cancer Service. He graduated from Harvard College magna cum laude in Biochemical Sciences and was then a Graduate Research Student in Tumour Immunology at University College London. David graduated as Doctor of Medicine from the Yale University School of Medicine.

 


 

David DiGiusto, PhD
Chief Technical Officer

David is the Chief Technical Officer for Semma Therapeutics. He has over 28 years of experience in the scientific, clinical and regulatory aspects of cells as therapeutic agents including the isolation, characterization and genetic modification of hematopoietic stem cells and T-cells for clinical applications. He has been instrumental in the creation of six GMP compliant biologics manufacturing facilities and associated quality systems, production and QC testing programs. Under his direction, plasmid DNA, CAR-T-cells, regulatory T-cells, engineered stem cell grafts and gene modified hematopoietic stem cell products have been manufactured and released for use in Phase I/II clinical trials. David is a major contributor to first in human studies for Cancer and HIV Gene Therapy and has developed methods for assessing ex-vivo stem cell manipulations using in vitro and in vivo models. David is a member of the NIH recombinant DNA advisory committee (RAC).

 


 

Mary Kay Fenton
Chief Financial Officer

Mary Kay is the Chief Financial Officer for Semma. She joins Semma from Achillion Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company developing therapies for immune system disorders, where she served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. At Achillion, Mary Kay was a key member of the executive team and was instrumental in all phases of the company’s growth, including successfully raising multiple rounds of public and private capital, and leading financial and operational functions. Prior to joining Achillion, Mary Kay was with PricewaterCoopers LLP, where she led the emerging bioscience practice in Connecticut. She holds an MBA from the University of Connecticut School of Business, and a bachelor’s in economics from the College of the Holy Cross.

 


 

Felicia Pagliuca, PhD
Scientific Co-Founder, Vice President of Cell Biology Research and Development

Felicia currently serves as Vice President of Cell Biology Research and Development and is a scientific co-founder of Semma. She leads internal cell-based research and development and plays a key role in supporting Semma's preclinical, regulatory, and manufacturing strategies for its cell therapy products. Felicia also works closely with Semma’s senior leadership on corporate development activities, including key collaborations and partnerships. Previously, Felicia was a postdoctoral fellow in Professor Doug Melton’s laboratory at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. Felicia was part of the team in the Melton lab that discovered how to generate stem cell derived beta cells and published a seminal paper in Cell in 2014. She is an expert in stem cell biology and diabetes and one of the inventors of Semma Therapeutics’ key technologies. Felicia received a B.S. from Duke University and a Ph.D. from Cambridge University where she was a Marshall Scholar. She is currently on leave from Harvard Business School where she was a Kaplan Fellow.

 


 

Christopher G. Thanos, PhD
Vice President, Delivery

Chris leads cell encapsulation and delivery efforts at Semma. He has 15 years of cellular therapy experience in early-stage biotechnology companies including Neurotech, Living Cell Technologies, and TSC, a consulting group that he formed to provide cell encapsulation expertise to industry. Chris has been involved in the inception, design, formulation, characterization, and clinical / regulatory process of both micro- and macro- encapsulation platforms. He has appointments at Brown University in the Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology, where he completed his doctoral work in the field of oral drug delivery under the guidance of Edith Mathiowitz. Chris has contributed to numerous patents and peer-reviewed scientific articles spanning the disciplines of biomaterials, encapsulation, nanotechnology, tissue engineering, xenotransplantation, diabetes, and diseases of the nervous system. Most recently Chris served as co-founder and VP of Research and Development at Cytosolv.

 


 

Jeff Imbaro, MS, MBA
Vice President, Operations and Alliances

Jeff leads operations and strategic alliances at Semma Therapeutics and is part of the founding team. Before joining Semma, Jeff led a team of management consultants at Pursuit Solutions to improve processes of Genzyme’s Rare Disease Unit. Prior to that, Jeff created and led the Operational Alliances group at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) in Cambridge, MA. The group was responsible for Alliance Management of all major collaborative research alliances within NIBR, as well as for implementing all collaborative scientific relationships that supported NIBR’s internal research programs. The effort won an Operational Excellence award for comprehensive redesign of all internal business processes relating to collaborative research contracts. Prior to joining Novartis, Jeff was a bench scientist at various Boston biotechs. He holds an MBA from the F. W. Olin School of Business at Babson College, as well as a Master of Science in Molecular Genetics from the University of New Hampshire.

 


 

Ann Darda
Head of Human Resources

Ann brings over twenty years’ experience leading people and culture efforts that support scientific and business strategies. Most recently, she served as the Global Head of Talent Management and Organizational Development for Novartis Institutes of BioMedical Research (NIBR), where she led talent strategy and supported divisional business initiatives. Ann also held leadership roles at Biogen and Wyeth/Pfizer, often leading significant change initiatives. Ann holds a master’s degree from Columbia University in organizational psychology.