Primera Management Team
Primera’s founding team has been working since 2021 with leading innovators in gene therapies including Mayo Clinic, Cellectis, and other key strategic partners, advisors and academic institutions. We have built a proven management, operational, and scientific team of internationally recognized leaders from biotech and pharma with successes in research and discovery, drug approvals, and commercial launches alongside key scientific and clinical thought leaders from the world-renowned Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Ekker is a trained molecular biologist, engineer, and entrepreneur. His academic lab triangulates using a combination of human cells and the zebrafish as the pioneering animal model for gene editing technology development and for the science of engineering health. He believe's we can make a better world through science and technology to foster innovation and entrepreneurship, and that the 21st century is a tipping point for humanity on Spaceship Earth. Dr. Ekker is focused on the Bench to Business to Bedside model for the Science of Translation through entrepreneurial efforts as the next major wave in biotechnology.
Chris is a 25+ year veteran of healthcare and biotech. Beginning his career Chris ran clinical laboratories for the U.S. Air Force and civilian hospitals in the early 90’s. Since then, he has held various roles including CEO, General Counsel, Vice President of Drug Discovery, Managing Director and has served as outside counsel to hundreds of life science companies ranging from big pharma to individual inventors. Chris was a partner in the Washington, DC office of Mintz Levin, where he led a multidisciplinary team specializing in representing biotech and pharma companies in complex corporate, financing and commercial transactions as well as general business advising.
Head of Operations and Development
Amanda is an experienced drug developer with expertise in strategic portfolio management, managing alliances and partnerships, and providing organizational innovation. Amanda has a history of leading cross functional teams across various therapeutic areas including gene and cell therapy, rare disease, oncology, as well as cardiovascular and CNS. She provides operational expertise in design and execution of clinical development strategies from conception through IND submission and beyond. Amanda has experience utilizing new and innovative methodologies for clinical trial deliveries and has held positions in Clinical and Operational Leadership at MedImmune/AstraZeneca and most recently at REGENXBIO.
Head of Business and Corporate Development at Primera
Dr. Schwartz is an entrepreneur with almost 20 years of experience in biotechnology-based startup companies. He has been involved in founding at least 15 startups primarily focused on autoimmune diseases and cancer, which have led to large financings and an FDA-approved product. He has significant expertise in cancer immunotherapies, particularly in antisense and novel CART therapeutic modalities. More recently was part of Hibiscus BioVentures, which facilitated financings and launched several biotechnology companies. In addition, he helped in launching Hibiscus’ Mayflower BioVentures fund, which spearheaded laboratory-stage therapeutic assets from the Mayo Clinic into companies. He is a professor at Johns Hopkins, teaching finance and how to start a biotechnology company. Finally, he runs a Biotechnology based consulting agency, BioVisors, and volunteers with student-run biotechnology companies through Nucleate.
Colin brings more than a decade of genome editing expertise. Beginning his scientific career as a molecular virologist, Colin began studying genome editing to control HIV infection by engineering hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) to produce cells resistant to infection. Through an Academic-Industry collaboration he advanced studies through an IND filling towards a clinical study investigating the use of gene edited HSC as a “functional cure” for HIV infection. He also pioneered studies into making gene addition through gene editing more efficient in hematopoietic cells. He then went on to lead molecular biology teams at Synthetic Genomics and United Therapeutics focusing on utilizing gene editing to control the T cell responses both attacking cancers and protecting transplanted organs. His team was also creating genome edits in porcine cells to create organs that could be transplanted into humans with limited rejection culminating in edits that have led to the longest living xeno-heart transplantation patient.
Michael King, CFO of Primera, is the CFO of Hibiscus Biotechnology and Adaptive Phage Therapeutics. He is former CFO and CBO of PDS Biotechnology, serving from 2014 through its reverse merger with Edge Therapeutics in March 2019, then continuing as a senior advisor since that time. He has been a senior advisor at Akari Therapeutics since 2014, when he played a key role in the public-private merger and concurrent $75 million PIPE that formed the company in 2015. Michael was CFO and CBO of Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, where he raised more than $70 million in private financing, and CBO of Atrin Pharmaceuticals. He was a member of the US Executive Committee for Sandoz GmbH, the $10 billion subsidiary of Novartis AG.
A former management consultant with McKinsey & Company in its Pharmaceutical and Medical Products practice, Michael also has a background in corporate finance and sell-side analyst research, with deep knowledge of the pharmaceutical/biotech industry. Mr. King holds an M.B.A. with Honors from the Columbia Graduate School of Business.
By leveraging an innovative toolbox with the support of key strategic partners, Primera seeks to accelerate the development of mitochondrial disease therapies and rapidly support this undeserved patient population. Primera is working directly with Mayo Clinic, Cellectis, CHOP and other collaborators and parthers, to bring transformative therapeutics to clinic as fast as possible.