Mina Sooch, M.B.A.
Vice Chair of the Board, Chief Executive Officer
Mina Sooch is a co-founder of Ocuphire and serves as President and Chief Executive Officer. She has served on the Ocuphire Board since founding in 2018. With over 25 years of pharmaceutical and biotech experience as CEO, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and strategist, Ms. Sooch has successfully raised hundreds of millions of dollars for over 10 biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies, which included two successful IPOs. Prior to Ocuphire, Ms. Sooch was a co-founder and CEO of Gemphire Therapeutics, a publicly-traded, clinical-stage cardiovascular company. Ms. Sooch’s leadership was instrumental in the company’s successful IPO in 2016. From July 2012 to May 2014, Ms. Sooch was a co-founder and CEO of ProNAi Therapeutics, a public, clinical-stage oncology company, and a member of the board of directors from its founding in 2004 through May 2014. At ProNai, Ms. Sooch guided the company through several important milestones, including a podium presentation at ASH 2013 on ProNai’s lead drug candidate’s cancer response rates in Phase 2 trials, and raised $60 million from over 10 institutional investors, setting up the IPO. Ms. Sooch also co-founded Apjohn Ventures Fund, a venture capital firm that invests primarily in early-stage life sciences companies and has served as its Managing Partner since its founding in 2003. Earlier in her career, from 1993-2000, Ms. Sooch served as a global account manager at Monitor Group, a top-tier global strategy consulting firm based in Boston. Ms. Sooch worked on the multi-billion Pharmacia & Upjohn merger in 1995 and later co-led the launch of the Corporate Finance group, specializing in M&A, valuations, and merger integration. Ms. Sooch has served on the boards of more than 10 private, public, and nonprofit firms, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including being named one of the Deal Makers of the year in 2016 by Crain’s Detroit Business, Entrepreneur of the Year® 2021 Michigan and Northwest Ohio Finalist. Ms. Sooch currently serves on the private board of Priority Health, a $6 billion healthcare plan based in Michigan. Ms. Sooch received an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a B.S. summa cum laude in Chemical Engineering from Wayne State University in Michigan.
Mitchell Brigell, Ph.D.
Head of Clinical Development and Strategy
Dr. Brigell joins Ocuphire with over 15 years of experience leading clinical strategy and development of therapeutic agents targeting highly prevalent ophthalmic diseases. Dr. Brigell was the Vice President of Clinical Development at Aerpio Pharmaceuticals from 2013 to 2019. While at Aerpio, Dr Brigell directed the development of a pipeline of novel small molecules and monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, wet AMD and DME. Before Aerpio, Dr. Brigell was Executive Director of Translational Medicine, Ophthalmology at Novartis Institutes of BioMedical Research and held roles of increasing responsibility at Parke-Davis/Pfizer in Experimental Medicine and Clinical Technologies. He originally joined the pharmaceutical industry as part of the Clinical Development team for Pregabalin (Lyrica).
Dr. Brigell spent over a decade in academic medicine at Loyola University and the University of Chicago in the Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience and Ophthalmology. His area of academic interest focused on electrophysiological and behavioral effects of diseases of the retina and optic nerve. He has published over 70 scientific papers and is a Fellow of the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. Dr. Brigell is on the Editorial Board of Translational Vision Science and Technology and Documenta Ophthalmologica.
Vice President of Clinical Operations
Drey Coleman serves as the Head of Clinical Operations for Ocuphire. Ms. Coleman has approximately fifteen years of experience in pharmaceutical research and development. From May 2012 to July 2019, Ms. Coleman was General Manager of Oculos Clinical Research, a clinical research organization dedicated to human clinical trials in ophthalmology. In this position, she had responsibility for management of Oculos business operations, guidance and support of clinical project teams and oversight of clinical trial activities, including responsibility for P&L vendor management and client relations. Prior to that, from October 2006 to December 2010, she was Director of Contracts and Compliance with Sirion Therapeutics, Inc., a successful ophthalmic pharmaceutical company. During this time, she was responsible for the creation of compliance programs, policies, and training associated with drug commercialization activities. In addition, Ms. Coleman acted as chair of Medical/Legal/Regulatory review team for promotional materials and aided with the development and support of programs for educational and investigator-initiated trial grants. She was also a key member in support of investment funding arrangements more than $80 million related diligence and responsibility for associated disclosures. Following the sale and liquidation of Sirion’s assets with multiple entities in 2010, Ms. Coleman was an integral part of the wind down team and execution of the wind down plan. Ms. Coleman has extensive knowledge of the laws and regulations affecting the pharmaceutical industry, along with a proven track record of successful contract negotiations. Ms. Coleman holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Central Florida.
Global Head, QA and Manufacturing
Chris Ernst is a research scientist with over 25 years’ experience in a variety of industry settings. Chris’ experience includes 18 years of research experience in support of nonclinical and clinical research in support of investigational new drug applications, amended new drug applications, combination products, biologics, and pivotal bioequivalent investigational products. During this time, he has have ensured regulatory compliance in support of Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP), Good Clinical Practice (GCP), and Good Laboratory Practice (GLP), College of American Pathologists (CAP), Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), Organization for Economic Cooperative Development (OECD), and Medical Device oversight including US FDA and associated international global regulations (ICH, EU Directives, etc.). Additionally, he has lead audit teams of regulatory inspectors from multiple international regulatory bodies including US FDA, Health Canada, Chile and other Latin and South American regulatory authorities, multiple member countries within the European Union (EMA), China, South Africa, Australia, India, and Russia. Chris has also served as an expert consultant to establish acceptance and approval of IND applications to achieve approval NDA by the US FDA, EMA, and other international regulatory authorities. His experience includes support of manufacturing practices from drug substance manufacturing and intermediate/registered starting materials manufacture including small molecule, proteins, and monoclonal antibodies from humanize mammalian strains, to drug product manufacture including solid oral dose, capsule, topical ointments, sterile injectables, and sterile topical ocular drops. This work has supported advancement of oral, subcutaneous, dermal, intravenous, and topical ocular-delivered drugs to Phase 1 through Phase 3 clinical trials.
Director of Project Management
Laura joins us with over 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry in various phases of drug development. Previously she was Director of Project Management at Aerpio Pharmaceuticals from 2009 to 2019. While at Aerpio, Laura directed the development of a pipeline of novel small molecules and monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and DME in preclinical to Phase 3 readiness trials. Before Aerpio, Laura was a Senior Clinical Project Manager at Quintiles Clinical Research (currently IQVIA) in Phase 2/3 Infectious Disease and Vaccine programs.
Before Quintiles, Laura spent many years at Pfizer Global Research & Development (previously Parke-Davis/Warner-Lambert). She later joined the Pfizer Global Project Management Research & Development group with focus on Infectious Diseases, Oncology, and Cardiovascular therapeutic areas in drug development.
Charlie Hoffmann, M.B.A.
VP of Corporate Development and Operations
Charlie Hoffmann serves as the Vice President of Corporate Development and Finance at Ocuphire. From 2008 to 2018, Mr. Hoffmann served as an advisor to the founders of Ocularis Pharma, the original developer of Nyxol, to help them raise capital for clinical development and evaluate possible strategic transactions for the company. After Ocularis and Ocuphire merged, he joined Ocuphire. Since 2004, Mr. Hoffmann has served as a financial and strategic advisor to emerging pharmaceutical development companies, including SynDevRx, Inc., a pioneer in the field of metabo-oncology. As a Director at Prudential Vector Healthcare from 1996 to 2001 and a partner of EHS Securities from 2001 to 2003, Mr. Hoffmann managed numerous PIPE, IPO, and follow-on offerings, as well as strategic and license transactions. Previously, Mr. Hoffmann gained extensive experience in corporate finance and merger and acquisition transactions and managed capital markets relationships at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse First Boston. Mr. Hoffmann earned his M.B.A. from the Tuck School of Business and his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College.
Mark R. Kelley, Ph.D.
Scientific Advisor for APX Program
Mark R. Kelley, Ph.D., is the Associate Director of Basic Science at Indiana University Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center (IUSCCC) and the Betty and Earl Herr Professor in Pediatric Oncology Research and Professor, Department of Pediatrics. He is also Professor in Ophthalmology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Pharmacology & Toxicology and Adjunct Professor, Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute. He is also the Glenn W. Irwin, Jr. M.D. Research Scholar and Bantz-Petrino Translating Research into Practice Scholar and co-leads the Cancer Drug Discovery and Development Program (CDDD), IUSCCC. Dr. Kelley’s work has focused on translational research in DNA damage and repair and redox signaling, specifically, to determine how those activities can be exploited therapeutically to treat a variety of diseases. Specifically, he has focused on the enzyme, Redox effector factor-1/apurininc/apyrimidinic endonuclease 1 (Ref-1 or Ref-1/APE1), a therapeutic target in cancers and other diseases such as diabetic retinopathy (DR), diabetic macular edema (DME) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). He discovered and has been developing redox-specific inhibitors of Ref-1. Dr. Kelley is the Chief Scientific Founder and Officer of Apexian Pharmaceuticals, an integrated drug development company focused on the Ref-1 target platform to produce new therapeutics for DR/DME and other diseases with alterations of similar pathways regulated by Ref-1. Apexian Pharmaceuticals, entered into an agreement with Ocuphire Pharma, granting Ocuphire an exclusive worldwide sublicense to Apexian’s Ref-1 Inhibitor program, including its lead drug candidate APX3330, for all ophthalmic and diabetic indications. Dr. Kelley has a B.A from DePauw University, M.S. and Ph.D. from Louisiana State University and was an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University.
Head of Market Development and Commercialization
Bindu currently serves as the Head of Market Development and Commercialization at Ocuphire Pharma, bringing over 17 years of experience and an extensive network in ophthalmics across all sub-specialties, including cornea, retina, and glaucoma. She’s been involved in ophthalmic product launches in both commercial and medical functions, including sales, thought-leader development, market development, professional education, public relations, and medical affairs at large and small pharmaceutical and medical device companies.
Most recently, Bindu served as the Director, Professional Affairs at Equinox Ophthalmic, Inc. to drive the medical and commercial strategy for the potential approval of a first-in-class non-invasive wearable device, Multi-Pressure Dial, to treat severe and normal-tension glaucoma, in the US and Asia, through a durable medical equipment model. Prior, she led Market Development at Ocular Therapeutix to launch the first intracanalicular drug delivery platform, Dextenza ® (dexamethasone ophthalmic insert) 0.4 mg for patients undergoing ophthalmic surgery with pass-through reimbursement. She accelerated the launch success by simultaneously building the foundational adoption from the Key Opinion Leaders, practice administrators, and ophthalmic surgery centers. Bindu played a vital role in Market Development at Shire to grow the regional and national thought-leadership for Xiidra® (lifitegrast ophthalmic solution) 5%.
Bindu currently serves on multiple non-profit boards in eye care, including Holland Foundation for Sight Restoration, Ophthalmic World Leader (OWL), and Pseudoexfoliation Foundation. Prior, she served as Advisor at SightLife, Global Council of Advisors and Advocates (GCAA), and Eye Foundation of America. Bindu’s broad network, collaborative relationships with the leading KOLs, extensive launch experience and strategic insights enable an efficient launch.
Bindu holds a BS in Business Administration with a double concentration in finance and marketing from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Daniela Oniciu, Ph.D.
Global Head of R&D, Chemistry & Product Development
Daniela C. Oniciu has two decades of industry expertise and executive leadership in (bio)pharmaceutical companies, with a broad reach across the entire spectrum of pharmaceutical development: early discovery and medicinal chemistry, chemical R&D and nonclinical operations, integrated clinical development planning (nonclinical/clinical/CMC) for all clinical phases and NDA, translational medicine. Dr. Oniciu is an inventor of bempedoic acid (Nexlitol®, Nilemdo®), an FDA- and EMA-approved drug for the treatment of dyslipidemia and cardiovascular risk, and was a co-leader of its CMC and nonclinical program for early clinical phases. Dr. Oniciu’s expertise encompasses process development and manufacture of small molecules, biologics, and lipids; she led teams of CMC operations from early R&D to production of global clinical supply and was an inventor and head of development of several nonclinical small molecule programs in the United States and European Union. Dr. Oniciu was a co-founder of four biotechs and CROs and instrumental in launching emerging companies. Dr Oniciu has experience in multiple therapeutical areas: cardiovascular, lipid and liver disorders, NAFLD/NASH, inflammation, cancer, ophthalmic, neuroprotective, cannabinoid, and endocrine drugs. Dr. Oniciu’s prior positions include Vice-President of Preclinical R&D and Manufacturing at Gemphire Pharmaceuticals Inc., Senior Director of Chemistry at Cerenis Therapeutics Holding SA, Associate Director of Chemistry at Pfizer Global Research and Development, and Senior Director of Chemical R&D at Esperion Therapeutics Inc. Dr. Oniciu has recently founded Creative Pharma Advisors LLC to provide independent advice for the pharmaceutical industry. She is a Courtesy Faculty in the Chemistry Department of the University of Florida at Gainesville. Dr. Oniciu received her MS in Chemical Engineering and her PhD in Chemical Engineering and Organic Chemistry Technologies from the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest (Romania), where she held faculty positions from 1985 until 1997.
Vice President, Business Development and Market Strategy
Ronil Patel currently serves as Vice President, Business Development and Market Strategy at Ocuphire Pharma. Mr. Patel has 15 years of experience in medical research, including biotech R&D, and pharmaceutical business development. He has been in ophthalmology since 2012 and has managed multiple clinical stage assets that resulted in FDA approval, and are currently being commercialized in the US. Mr. Patel’s global business development experience involves in-licensing clinical stage assets for development in the US. He has been part of several NewCos that raised over $25 million in funding and exit deals valued at over $300 million. Prior to 2012, Mr. Patel worked as a research scientist in drug discovery and delivery areas of oncology and infectious disease. Mr. Patel holds a Master of Science degree with specialization in Biotechnology from Florida Institute of Technology.
Amy Rabourn, CPA
VP of Finance
Amy Rabourn serves as VP of Finance of Ocuphire. She has 18 years of finance and accounting experience, including public company, with a focus on life sciences. In her most recent role, she was Director of Finance at Gemphire Therapeutics, Inc. which merged with NeuroBo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in December of 2019. She was with the company since inception as its first finance employee. She implemented processes and procedures and supported the Company through private fund raising and its IPO in August of 2016. She oversaw daily financial transactions, performed budgeting and forecasting, and managed the financial reviews and audit, SEC filings and tax preparation. Upon departure of the CFO in September of 2018, she assumed additional responsibilities including management of insurance and HR activities and reporting to the Audit Committee. After the merger, she continued as a consultant to NeuroBo in the same role as they transitioned to public company status. Prior to that, she held a position as Controller of a software start-up, performed financial consulting in the life sciences space and worked in Finance at Pfizer. She is a licensed CPA with public accounting experience from PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP where she worked in the audit practice. Amy is a graduate of the University of Michigan where she earned a MAcc (Master of Accounting) and BBA with a Finance and Accounting concentration.
Director, Corporate Controller
Erik Sims serves as the Controller of Ocuphire. He has over 8 years of progressive finance and accounting experience, including public company. Most recently, he spent time in the insurance industry working as the Corporate Controller and member of the management team for a Michigan based firm. He has previously spent time in the life sciences industry, serving as the Assistant Controller for Gemphire Therapeutics from the time they went public in late 2016 until their subsequent merger with NeurBo Pharmaceuticals. In addition, Erik has worked in the software start-up industry for an Ann Arbor based company that was later sold to the digital arm of Deloitte. In his career, he has gained broad experience that will help ensure the integrity and accuracy of the financial statements, along with enhancing processes and procedures for the organization. Erik earned his M.B.A. from Walsh College and a B.B.A. with a Finance concentration from University of Michigan-Flint, School of Management.
Barbara Withers, Ph.D.
VP of Clinical and Regulatory Strategy
Barbara Withers serves as Vice President of Clinical and Regulatory Strategy at Ocuphire. Dr. Withers has over 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry in various roles supporting drug development programs, spanning phases 1 through 4. Most recently, Dr. Withers held the position of Vice President of Clinical Operations at Aerpio Pharmaceuticals responsible for the oversight and delivery of clinical trials evaluating novel small molecules for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy, wet AMD, DME, glaucoma and COVID-19. Dr. Withers has previously held positions of Medical Writer supporting multiple NDAs, Drug Development Project Manager, Clinical Scientist and Safety Risk Management Leader at Pfizer; Clinical Scientist at GE Healthcare; and Site Head and Project Director at United Biosource Corporation. Dr. Withers received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Michigan and earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Genetics from Wayne State University School of Medicine and performed post-doctoral research in cancer biology at Parke Davis/Warner Lambert.