Management Team

  • Eliot Forster

    CEO

    Eliot Forster

    CEO

    Eliot Forster has over 30 years’ experience in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors. He was Chief Executive Officer of F-star Therapeutics (NASDAQ:FSTX) until its acquisition by inovX Pharma limited in March 2023, and formerly Chief Executive Officer of Immunocore (NASDAQ:IMCR), Chief Executive Officer of Creabilis, and President and Chief Executive Officer of Solace Pharmaceuticals. Earlier in his career, he held positions at Pfizer and GSK. Eliot currently serves as the Non-Executive Chairman of Avacta Group (AIM:AVCT), as the Non-Executive Chairman of Protalix Biotherapeutics (AMEX:PLX), as a Non-Executive Director of Immatics NV (NASDAQ:IMTX) and as the Chairman of Ochre Bio and Tessellate Bio, private biotechnology companies. He is an honorary visiting Professor at the Universities of Pavia Italy and Liverpool, UK.

  • Simon Westbrook

    Founder and CSO

    Simon Westbrook

    Founder and CSO

    Simon has a strong track record of innovation and delivery of drug development programmes with 20 years of drug discovery and development experience, including 15 years at Pfizer Sandwich UK. Simon has played pivotal roles in progressing novel, successful projects from conception of idea to delivery of clinical data. Simon is the named inventor on numerous patents, including p75NTR-Fc for the treatment of pain. He was a team member of four programmes that achieved positive readout in proof-of-concept phase II clinical trials, of which he is the co-inventor of three of these.

  • Francesco de Rubertis

    Francesco de Rubertis

    Francesco is a co-founder and Partner at Medicxi. Prior to Medicxi, Francesco was a Partner at Index Ventures for 19 years, having joined the firm in 1997 to launch its life sciences practice. Under his leadership, the asset-centric approach to life sciences investing was conceived and implemented. Francesco currently serves on the boards of a number of portfolio companies, including Centessa Pharmaceuticals, Rivus Pharmaceuticals, Levicept, Alys Pharmaceuticals, TOAD Oncology and Kaerus Biosciences.

    Francesco’s prior investments include CellZome (acquired by GlaxoSmithKline), GenMab (Copenhagen: GEN.CO), GenSight Biologics (Euronext: SIGHT), Micromet (acquired by Amgen), Vaxcyte (NASDAQ:PCVX), Molecular Partners (SIX:MOLN), PanGenetics (acquired by Abbott), Parallele Biosciences (acquired by Affymetrix), Profibrix (acquired by The Medicines Company) and Versartis (NASDAQ:VSAR)

    Francesco received a BA in Genetics and Microbiology from the University of Pavia and a PhD Molecular Biology from the University of Geneva. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Whitehead Institute at MIT and is a CFA Charterholder.

  • Kevin Johnson

    Executive Chairman

    Kevin Johnson

    Executive Chairman

    Kevin is a co-founder and Venture Partner at Medicxi. Prior to Medicxi, Kevin was a Partner at Index Ventures for 13 years, having joined in 2003. Kevin originated Index’s first asset-centric investment in PanGenetics (acquired by Abbott) and led Medicxi’s investment in Impact Biomedicines (acquired by Celgene).

    Prior to joining Index, Kevin was with Cambridge Antibody Technology (CAT) where he was appointed Head of Research in 1994 and then Research Director and Chief Technology Officer in 1997. Kevin led the development of CAT’s platform technologies and oversaw their application in the discovery of a number of human antibodies – two of which are now marketed worldwide: Humira (by Abbott Pharmaceuticals) and Benlysta (by GlaxoSmithKline). Kevin was part of the management team that floated CAT on the London Stock Exchange (subsequently acquired by AstraZeneca).

    Kevin received a BSc in Molecular Biology from Edinburgh University and a PhD in Pathology from Cambridge University. He also acts as chairman of Crescendo Biologics.

  • Raj Parekh

    Raj Parekh

    Raj is a General Partner at Advent. He joined Advent in 2005 bringing over 20 years of experience in biomedical research and as an entrepreneur and investor.

    After gaining an MA and DPhil from Oxford University, he pursued a successful academic career in molecular medicine before co-founding Oxford GlycoSciences (IPO on LSE and NASDAQ). Following its sale to UCB-Celltech, he became Chairman of Galapagos nv, a member of the Supervisory Board of the Novartis Venture Fund and a founding Director of Celldex Therapeutics.

    Since joining Advent, Raj has been mainly involved in founding and supporting portfolio Companies that are involved in the discovery of new medicines. Raj has represented Advent on the Board of over 25 portfolio Companies including Avila Therapeutics, Amphista, CN Creative and EUSA Pharma.

    Raj currently serves on the Board of several Advent portfolio Companies including Aleta, Arrakis, Artax, Aura BioSciences and Levicept.

  • Paul-Peter Tak

    Paul-Peter Tak

    Paul-Peter Tak is Board Director of Levicept. He has served as President and Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the board of directors of Candel Therapeutics since September 2020; he oversaw the IPO process on the Nasdaq in 2021.

    He received his medical degree cum laude from the Amsterdam University Medical Center and was trained as an internist, rheumatologist, and immunologist at Leiden University Medical Center, where he also received his Ph.D. Dr. Tak has been Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of California San Diego. Next, he served as Professor of Medicine and Chair of the Department of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at the Amsterdam University Medical Center. Dr. Tak has pioneered preclinical and clinical research on the role of the vagus nerve in chronic inflammation. This work provided a platform from which to explore bioelectronics as a therapeutic approach in autoimmune disease.

    He has published ~600 papers in peer-reviewed journals (H-index 144) and received numerous awards. He has been elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (U.K.). At GlaxoSmithKline he served as Senior Vice President, Chief Immunology Officer, and Global Development Leader. In his role as Global Head of a cluster of Therapy Area Units at GSK he oversaw the creation of a portfolio of new medicines for immune-mediated inflammatory diseases, cancer, and infectious diseases. He was also the Chair of the Scientific Review Board. Dr Tak was also the President and CEO of Tempero Pharmaceuticals (acquired by GSK), and served as venture partner at Flagship Pioneering and also as President and CEO of Kintai Therapeutics (merged with Senda Biosciences). In addition, he has served as board director of Galvani Bioelectronics ViiV Healthcare, and Omega Therapeutics. Currently, he is on the Board of Sitryx Therapeutics (co-founder), Levicept, and he is the Chair of the Board of Citryll.

  • Arthur Franken

    Arthur Franken

    Arthur Franken is a General Partner at Gilde Healthcare having joined in 2001 as part of the founding team. He is focusing on venture and growth capital investments in the biopharm, medtech, diagnostics and digital health sectors. He led the investments in Breath Therapeutics (acquired by Zambon), Calypso Biotech, Conatus Pharmaceuticals (IPO on NASDAQ), FlowCardia (acquired by C. R. Bard), Levicept, Moximed, MTM Laboratories (acquired by Roche), Noema Pharma, ProQR Therapeutics (IPO on NASDAQ), SpliceBio and STAT-Dx (acquired by QIAGEN). He has been involved in multiple investments and divestments across all funds including Ablynx (IPO on Euronext, acquired by Sanofi-Aventis), Agendia, Amphista Therapeutics, Axonics (IPO on NASDAQ), Calypso Biotech, Eargo (IPO on NASDAQ), uniQure (IPO on NASDAQ), BG Medicine (IPO on NASDAQ), CVRx (IPO on NASDAQ), FIRE1, Pieris (IPO on NASDAQ) and Proverum.

    He represents Gilde on the boards of Calypso, Levicept, Moximed, Noema Pharma and SpliceBio and served as a board member for Breath Therapeutics, FlowCardia, MTM Laboratories, ProQR Therapeutics and STAT-Dx until the trade sales or IPO.

  • Irena Melnikova

    Board Observer

    Irena Melnikova

    Board Observer

    Irena Melnikova, Ph.D. is a Partner at Pfizer Ventures. She is an accomplished biopharma and finance executive with over 20 years of experience in equity financings in both public and private markets, corporate strategy, business development, and operations. She currently serves as a board director of Artios Pharma, Crossbow Therapeutics, Flare Therapeutics and Telavant Holdings.

    Prior to Pfizer Ventures, Dr. Melnikova served as the Chief Financial Officer at Umoja Biopharma where she was a senior member of the executive team responsible for all aspects of financial strategy and operations of the company.

    Prior to Umoja, Dr. Melnikova was a Managing Director, Biopharma Investment Banking at Leerink Partners, where she provided critical advice to biopharma companies and their boards on equity financing strategies, completing over 80 transactions raising over $9 billion for clients. Earlier in her career, she held leadership positions at Sanofi and TVM Capital.

    Dr. Melnikova holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine/Molecular Biology from the University of Texas.