Driven by passion

We are relentlessly focused on bringing gene therapies to those with rare and life-threatening neurological genetic diseases.

  • Sean P. Nolan,

    Sean P. Nolan

    President and Chief Executive Officer
    Board of Directors Member

    Mr. Nolan's past success:

    • As Chief Business Officer of InterMune Inc.—a biotech company later acquired by Roche Holding AG—Mr. Nolan led multiple functions, including North American commercial operations, global marketing, corporate and business development, and global manufacturing and supply chain. He also planned and executed the U.S. launch of InterMune's treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a rare and fatal lung disease with no other approved treatments.
    • As Chief Commercial Officer of Reata Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Mr. Nolan led the market strategy development and commercialization of the company's first in-class product pipeline.
    • At Ovation Pharmaceuticals, Inc.—a company focused on orphan neurology diseases—Mr. Nolan held numerous management positions including President of Lundbeck Inc., a U.S. affiliate. Ovation Pharmaceuticals was acquired by H. Lundbeck A/S in March 2009.

    Sean P. Nolan holds a B.A. in biology from John Carroll University and also currently serves on the board of directors of Aquinox Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

  • Phillip Donenberg,

    Phillip Donenberg

    Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

    Mr. Donenberg's past success:

    • With more than 25 years of corporate finance, accounting and business development experience at publicly traded biotech and specialty pharmaceutical companies, Mr. Donenberg held key leadership roles in building early stage companies through corporate finance, business development and buy/sell side M&A transactions.
    • He previously served as Vice President, Controller at AveXis.
    • Prior to AveXis, Mr. Donenberg held senior positions of increasing responsibility, including: Chief Financial Officer at BioSante Pharma (ANI Pharma); Chief Financial Officer at RestorGenex (Diffusion Pharma); and Controller at Unimed Pharmaceuticals (AbbVie).

    Mr. Donenberg earned a BS degree in Accounting from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and is a Certified Public Accountant.



    Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer

    Mr. Johannesen's past success:

    • He served as Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Hospira, where he was responsible for the commercial and compliance functions of Hospira’s legal department.
    • Prior to Hospira, Mr. Johannesen also worked as an attorney in the legal departments of Abbott Laboratories and Whirlpool Corporation.
    • Mr. Johannesen began his legal career at Winston & Strawn in Chicago.

    Mr. Johannesen earned his juris doctorate degree from the University of Michigan Law School and holds a bachelor's degree in political science and public administration from the University of Illinois.

  • Dr. Brian K. Kaspar,

    Brian K. Kaspar, PH.D.

    Chief Scientific Officer
    Board of Directors Member

    Dr. Kaspar's past success:

    • Since August 2004, he's served as a principal investigator in the Center for Gene Therapy at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Department of Neuroscience at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, where his research focuses on basic and translational studies related to neurological and neuromuscular disorders.
    • Dr. Brian Kaspar was named Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2013.
    • He's published more than 100 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals.

    Dr. Kaspar earned a B.S. from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Kaspar has also done post-doctoral training at the University of California, San Diego and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

  • Andrew Knudten,

    Andrew Knudten

    Senior Vice President, Technical Operations and Chief Technical Officer

    Mr. Knudten's past success:

    • As Vice President of Operations and Vice President of API Operations at Hospira Inc., Mr. Knudten had overall global responsibility for the company's API business.
    • He served as Global Head of Contract Manufacturing and Strategy for Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Inc.
    • Mr. Knudten also held the position of Vice President of Manufacturing at CoDa Therapeutics Inc.
    • From 1994 to 2007, he took on various research, product development, finance and operations roles at Amgen Inc.—supporting the development of numerous pipeline products and more than five eventual commercial products now being marketed by Amgen.

    Mr. Knudten holds a B.S. in biology and health from Concordia University, an M.S. in cell biology from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and an M.B.A. from the Anderson School at the University of California, Los Angeles.

  • Dr. James J. L’Italien,

    James J. L’Italien, PH.D.

    Senior Vice President, Chief Regulatory and Quality Officer

    Dr. L’Italien's past success:

    • As Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Quality Assurance for InterMune Inc., Dr. L’Italien oversaw all global regulatory affairs and quality assurance activities in support of the company's commercial- and development-stage pharmaceutical programs—including the regulatory process for Esbriet®, which was granted a breakthrough designation by the FDA.
    • As Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Quality Assurance for the Geron Corporation, Dr. L’Italien supported development-stage programs in oncology and stem cell therapy.
    • He served as Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Quality Assurance at Somaxon Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
    • Dr. L’Italien also held the global position of Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Compliance at Ligand Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

    Dr. L’Italien earned a B.S. in chemistry from Merrimack College and his Ph.D. in protein biochemistry from Boston University.

  • Rick Modi,


    Senior Vice President, Chief Business Officer

    Mr. Modi's past success:

    • He brings more than 15 years of commercial, business, and corporate experience to the position, including pre-launch preparation and global product launch experience in rare disease settings.
    • Prior to AveXis, Mr. Modi held positions of increasing responsibilities in sales, marketing, access and corporate strategy at Centocor (Johnson & Johnson), Medimmune (AstraZeneca) and InterMune (Roche), where he played leadership roles in product launches in multiple different rare disease indications.
    • Most recently, Mr. Modi served as Chief Business Officer at Catabasis Pharmaceuticals.
    • Mr. Modi earned a BS degree in Pharmacy from the University of Iowa and an MBA from the Wharton School.
  • Dr. Sukumar Nagendran,

    Sukumar Nagendran, M.D.

    Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer

    Dr. Nagendran's past success:

    • He held the role of Vice President, Head of Medical Affairs of U.S. and international business for Quest Diagnostics Inc.—the largest lab/diagnostics provider in the world.
    • Dr. Nagendran served as Vice President, Head of Medical Affairs for the biotechnology company Reata Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
    • At Daiichi Sankyo Company, he took on a number of leadership positions, including head of new products, metabolism, oncology, biometrics, and clinical operations for medical affairs.

    Dr. Nagendran received a B.A. from Rutgers University and an M.D. from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He also trained in Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and is a Mayo Alumni Laureate.



    Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy & Business Development

    Mr. Session’s past success:

    • Mr. Session held senior management positions at PTC Therapeutics, including Vice President, Commercial Development for APAC/LATAM Partnerships and Vice President, Corporate Development.
    • He has held a number of senior roles across the industry, including: Senior Director, Strategic Planning & Finance at Reata Pharmaceuticals; Senior Manager, Managed Markets at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals; Senior Analyst, Strategic Business Group at Ortho-McNeil Janssen Pharmaceutical; and Senior Analyst, Global Drug Development, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development.

    Mr. Session earned a B.S.B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and an M.B.A. and M.S.F. from Texas A&M University at Commerce, College of Business and Technology. He also is a member of the Society of Kauffman Fellows.



    Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer

    Ms. Smith’s past success:

    • Ms. Smith’s career has been focused in the human resources space across the pharmaceutical industry. She most recently served as an independent business consultant.
    • From 1999 to 2007, Ms. Smith held a number of senior management positions at Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, including: Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Administration; Vice President, Human Resources and Administration; and Director, Human Resources.
    • Prior to Takeda, Ms. Smith served as Director of Human Resources across several functions at Abbott Laboratories, and has served as the Vice President of Human Resources at Gateway, the third largest PC company in the U.S. at the time.

    Ms. Smith earned a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin.