Advancing a promising scientific discovery to a viable treatment option requires long-term coordinated efforts from leaders across the biomedical ecosystem. Leaders from patient-centered nonprofits play a unique role in these efforts: they can leverage financial resources and data from the patient community to accelerate research that will have the most meaningful impact on patient lives—research that might not have progressed without their intervention.
As new patient organizations emerge and existing ones continue to move research forward, strong leaders can make or break efforts to bring promising discoveries out of the lab and into the doctor’s office. FasterCures established the LeadersLink program to foster the development of emerging leaders of nonprofit biomedical research organizations, while allowing them to make connections that will catalyze their efforts in the future.
The participants for the 2022-2023 cohort of FasterCures LeadersLink program have been selected. Each LeadersLink cohort will focus on a different theme; this year the theme will focus on building patient data resources. The participants will address their organizations’ top priorities through a capstone project, mentorship, a series of in-person convenings, and virtual collaboration.
From an exceptionally well-qualified pool of candidates, FasterCures selected six applicants to be the next LeadersLink participants and matched them with mentors from the FasterCures ChangeMakers advisory board. They will also have access to a network of experts in patient data resources from FasterCures’ and the Milken Institute’s network for advice and counsel. The Milken Institute is incredibly grateful for the support of these mentors and experts and looks forward to highlighting the accomplishments of the LeadersLink participants as they progress in their leadership journeys. Below are the bios of the six candidates that FasterCures is excited to welcome into the program.
Meet the Foundation CEOs
Chandra Clark is the Executive Director of the VHL Alliance (VHLA). In her role, Chandra is responsible for leading VHLA’s vision of curing cancer through Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome (VHL) while providing ongoing global support for patients through increased awareness, education, and advocacy. Prior to joining VHLA, she served as the Director of Community Outreach for Big Brothers Big Sisters Kansas City where she successfully launched the organization’s first Community Outreach department, postsecondary education initiatives and workforce development programs for youth which gained national exposure. Her previous professional experience also includes serving in nonprofit leadership at Kauffman Scholars, Newhouse Shelter, and as President and Founder of M.O.D.E.L, a faith-based organization. Chandra holds a Master of Education degree from Rockhurst University, Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and is a graduate of the Central Exchange Emerging Leaders Fellowship program. She has been honored to receive awards and recognitions including NextGen Leaders from the Kansas City Business Journal, Young Athena Leadership Award from the Kansas City Chamber, Rockhurst Faber Young Alum of the Year from Rockhurst University, Top Connector in Education and Entrepreneurship from the Kauffman Foundation, and Most Influential Women in Kansas City Business from the Kansas City Business Journal.
Beth Lewin Dean
Beth Lewin Dean is the CEO of CURE Epilepsy. Beth brings 17 years of extensive experience within the epilepsy field to CURE Epilepsy driven by a strong passion for the needs, aspirations, and hopes of those impacted by epilepsy and their loved ones. Her professional experience, which includes senior marketing roles at Lundbeck and Abbott Laboratories in addition to industry consulting, has resulted in a strong track record of engaging with physicians, researchers, thought leaders, and patient advocacy groups in this sector. Beth has broad experience in neurology, diabetes, and rare diseases. She has led the commercialization efforts for multiple pharmaceutical products and has significant involvement with patient registries and specialty pharmaceutical distribution. Her spirit of volunteerism and her dedication to patients is illustrated by her many years of partnering with the epilepsy nonprofit sector.
Beth holds a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell College, a Master of Public Administration from Indiana University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago.
Eszter Hars, PhD, is President and CEO of the Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome Alliance, a nonprofit she founded in 2020 to drive therapy development for Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome (SDS)—a leukemia predisposition disorder that affects her young daughter. Hars holds a PhD in Molecular Biology, in the field of cancer and leukemia. She has over 20 years of experience in the biotech industry, including co-founding two biotech startups, managing FDA regulatory approvals for medical devices, and managing customer relationships and business development at QUOSA Inc, an IT company acquired by Elsevier (a leading scientific publisher). In her role leading the Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome Alliance, she is dedicated to building collaborations to close scientific gaps, develop critical research tools and infrastructure to accelerate translation into therapies, and engage patient communities globally.
Kirk Nylen is the Deputy Scientific Director at the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI), a not-for-profit world leader in brain research, commercialization, and care. In this role, Kirk provides leadership on OBI’s research, informatics, and knowledge translation activities. He believes in the power of team science and that the future of discovery and innovation is anchored in data connectivity. Kirk sits on several national and provincial research and data governance advisory tables. Kirk is a recipient of the Van Gelder Savoy Award for epilepsy research, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Doctoral Research Award, author of dozens of academic and policy publications, and has helped lead work that resulted in OBI receiving the Changemaker Award from the Neurological Health Charities of Canada. Kirk holds an MSc and PhD from the University of Toronto where he serves as an adjunct professor and lecturer. Kirk is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Ontario Science Centre and the founding Director and Chairman of ReachUp, a not-for-profit focused on engaging Indigenous youth in active, healthy living through sport.
Kapila Hasso Viges
Kapila Hasso Viges is CEO of MPN Research Foundation, with expertise in starting, building, and scaling life science and healthcare organizations transitioning from clinical to commercial operations. Kapila has specific expertise in therapeutic and diagnostic product development, launch, and commercialization strategy in oncology and rare diseases, bringing six new products to market. Earlier in her career, Kapila gained extensive experience in technology transfer, intellectual property management, and high-tech and biotech startup incubation. Kapila has enabled or started dozens of biomedical companies, raised seed and growth capital investments from both non-dilutive and equity funds, and been principal and portfolio lead of a life science equity fund. Kapila has developed unique expertise in leveraging partnerships at the intersection of academia, public and philanthropic sectors, industry, and capital markets, to advance biomedical innovations to the clinic and eventually through the approval and access lifecycle. Kapila has a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Johns Hopkins University and is an Executive Scholar from Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University.
Kate Wears became President of the Myhre Syndrome Foundation in 2021, after joining the board in 2020. Kate’s main goal is to build organizational capacity and secure funding to find effective treatments and a cure for Myhre syndrome. Kate has held senior positions in both agency and b2b organizations, across communications and account management. Her areas of expertise include strategic and communication planning, event management, brand development, and copy and editorial. Kate graduated with a BA (Hons) in Journalism in 2004 and took a career break in 2016 to raise two sons. Josh, her youngest, was diagnosed with Myhre syndrome in 2020 and Kate is passionate about advocating for everyone with this incredibly rare disorder.