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Gene Therapy Innovation in the Heart of the Big Apple
By: Jenna Heyman, Head of Human Resources, Vice President at Apertura Gene Therapy
Jenna Heyman
Head of Human Resources, Vice President at Apertura Gene Therapy
Our team is a truly special blend of enthusiastic scientists, thought leaders and entrepreneurs who are respectful and collaborative as we work to engineer next-generation gene therapies to treat unaddressed genetic diseases using our machine learning- powered delivery and expression platforms.

When presented with the opportunity to join a gene therapy startup backed by Deerfield, I was thrilled at the thought of collaborating with a small, nimble team developing genetic medicines that have the potential to greatly impact patient lives. This was at the nexus of what I had been steadily working toward throughout my career in human resources.

Seven years after my first role at a biopharma company, I remain hooked on the promise of changing lives through science. I’ve had the privilege of helping numerous biotech companies grow from small startups to global organizations by aligning the right team and talent. While I’m not a scientist, my role is equally important. My charge is recruiting employees and helping to grow a company that will change lives. Being part of a mission-driven team working together to impact patients’ lives is a core tenet that makes me excited to come to work every day. At Apertura, we see everything first and foremost through the lens of patients. It’s the common denominator behind everything we do. Our team is a truly special blend of enthusiastic scientists, thought leaders and entrepreneurs who are respectful and collaborative as we work to engineer next-generation gene therapies to treat unaddressed genetic diseases using our machine learning- powered delivery and expression platforms. We are fortunate to call Deerfield’s innovation campus, the Cure., home, in the thriving life sciences hub of New York City.

Growing a Gene Therapy Startup with a Focus on Culture

As the Head of Human Resources, I am responsible for ensuring we foster an exciting, engaging and fulfilling culture while making Apertura a productive place to work and advance careers (and importantly, have fun while doing so). I create the vision for our workforce and lead our recruitment and talent strategy to achieve key business objectives and, ultimately, help our organization flourish and scale. I love the balance between the startup nature of our work environment while leveraging the strong foundational and operational support Deerfield has established for Apertura. And above all, CEO Joe La Barge brings extensive industry experience that sets the tone for effective leadership.

Why Apertura?

A question I frequently get asked is, “Why Apertura?” I love answering this question because there are so many reasons why I joined the team and look forward to going to work every day:

  • Team: We are diverse, determined, respectful and inquisitive, and importantly, we have fun while working hard. We may have differing opinions, but this is what drives us to succeed. Our people are what make our scientific research possible, and we take pride in the group we have assembled to achieve our critical mission of developing life-changing gene therapies.
  • Science: We are advancing our gene therapy technology platforms to create novel genetic medicines for patients with devastating diseases. To achieve our mission of expanding the promise of gene therapy to a broader set of diseases, we leverage machine learning and cutting-edge vector and genetic engineering. I am always amazed by the work we are doing.
  • Passion: You will be hard-pressed to find a more passionate group of brilliant and open-minded professionals, who come to work each and every day to bring us closer to a future in which gene therapy improves the lives of more patients living with genetic diseases. This passion is palpable and contagious.

Why I Love Working within the Cure. Ecosystem in NYC

It is exciting to be part of the burgeoning NYC biotech community. Our headquarters are located in the Cure. Building, Deerfield’s Innovation Campus at 345 Park Avenue South, offering world-class lab space and amenities to support growing biopharma companies. We love working within an ecosystem dedicated to improving human healthcare.

Here is a sample of things we do at Apertura to build a collaborative team environment:

  • Holiday celebrations and pot lucks
  • Team lunches catered by vendors that we assess for diversity and mission alignment
  • Core values cup – a rotational award recognition series to celebrate employee contributions & our values
  • Employee Development Plans, to make career growth and learning a focus
  • Volunteering and team building opportunities

Help Fulfill Our Mission of Engineering Next-Generation Gene Therapies

Intrigued by our mission, science and culture? We are rapidly expanding our team and are eager to bring on the best and brightest talent who are equally passionate about innovating novel genetic medicines through AAV engineering. The growth I’ve witnessed over the past six months in my role is inspiring, and I look forward to what the future holds for this team. Feel free to reach out to me to inquire about our current openings. We can’t wait to meet you!

Learn more about how Apertura is pioneering next-generation AAV gene therapies with patients in mind through novel capsid and payload engineering and check out open job opportunities at aperturagtx.com.

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Andrew Steinsapir

Acting Chief Technology Officer

Andrew Steinsapir is the Acting Chief Technology Officer of Apertura Gene Therapy and a Director, Gene Therapy Program Lead of Deerfield Management’s Discovery and Development team. Prior to joining Deerfield in 2021, Mr. Steinsapir was a Consultant for over three years at Dark Horse Consulting Group, where he provided strategic and tactical support for more than 30 cell and gene therapy firms, pharma, and investment firms. Previous to Dark Horse, Mr. Steinsapir worked at 4D Molecular Therapeutics for over three years, holding various positions, with his most recent role being Senior Process Development Associate I. Mr. Steinsapir holds a BS in Chemical Engineering with an emphasis on Biotechnology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Juliana Leung, PhD

The Broad Institute

Juliana Leung, PhD, is the Senior Director of Business Development and Licensing Transactions at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she leads Broad’s business development and licensing team. She has more than 15 years of business development and transactional experience. Juliana provides expertise to build collaborations with industry as well as partnerships with pharma, biotech, and venture groups that are eager to translate technologies into products that can benefit patients, the research community, and improve human health.

Before joining the Broad in 2012, Juliana was Senior Business Strategy and Licensing Manager for Research Ventures and Licensing at Partners Healthcare, now referred to as Innovation at MassGeneral Brigham. She received her SB in Biology from MIT and her PhD in Cellular, Molecular and Biophysical Studies from Columbia University in New York.

Ben Deverman, PhD

Senior Director of Vector Engineering at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Ben Deverman is the Senior Director of Vector Engineering and an Institute Scientist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Ben’s laboratory in the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute develops and applies novel high-throughput screens and data-driven protein and genome engineering techniques to create more efficient and targeted AAV vectors to advance gene therapy and support scientific discovery. In prior work at the California Institute of Technology, Ben and colleagues identified numerous capsids, including AAV-PHP.B and an enhanced variant, AAV-PHP.eB, that made efficient brain-wide gene delivery possible for the first time. Ben earned a PhD in Molecular Cell Biology from Washington University and was trained as a postdoc in neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology.

Michael Greenberg, PhD

Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and the Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School

Dr. Greenberg received his PhD from The Rockefeller University in 1982 and carried out his postdoctoral research at New York University Medical Center. After joining the faculty at Harvard Medical School in 1986, Dr. Greenberg served first as the founding Director of the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and since 2008 as Chair of the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School.

Joseph La Barge

Apertura Gene Therapy

Joseph La Barge is CEO and serves on the Board of Managers of Apertura Gene Therapy. Previously, Mr. La Barge was an executive at Spark Therapeutics, Inc., serving as Chief Business Officer from 2019 to 2021 and as Chief Legal Officer from 2013 to 2019. In these roles, he oversaw many areas of company growth, including business development, patient advocacy, quality assurance, legal affairs, compliance, finance, public policy and global pricing and reimbursement, growing the company to 830 employees over eight years. He led the negotiation of Spark’s acquisition by Roche, raised more than $1 billion in capital from private and public financings and oversaw the in-license of numerous product candidates and platform technologies. Mr. La Barge also managed the acquisition and construction of Spark’s initial 180,000 square feet office and laboratory space, including GMP suites, to manufacture the global supply of Luxturna. Prior to Spark, Mr. La Barge served as Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary, Chief Compliance Officer at Tengion, Inc., where he was responsible for managing legal affairs, compliance and quality assurance. Mr. La Barge has served as a Member of the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy Government Affairs Committee. He earned his BA in Education and Psychology at Bucknell University and his JD at Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law.

David Greenwald, PhD

Deerfield Management Company

Dave serves on the Board of Managers of Apertura Gene Therapy.

Dr. Greenwald was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute research fellow while earning a BS in Cellular Biology and Molecular Genetics from the University of Maryland, College Park and earned his PhD in Genetics from Tufts University. Dr. Greenwald currently serves on the Boards of Jaguar Gene Therapy, Axovia Therapeutics, and Apertura Gene Therapy, and has worked at Deerfield Management since 2018.

Elise Wang

Deerfield Management Company

Ms. Wang is a Partner and Head of Private Equity Capital Markets on the Public Structured Finance team at Deerfield Management and joined the Firm in 2010. Ms. Wang provides extensive research and analysis on individual companies operating in the healthcare industry in both the US and Europe.

Ms. Wang is a board member of Jaguar Gene Therapy. Prior to Deerfield, Ms. Wang was a Senior Research Analyst and Managing Director covering the biotechnology sector at PaineWebber and Citigroup. She began her career in healthcare as a venture capitalist and banker at PaineWebber and was an officer of PaineWebber Development Corporation, which managed nearly $1 billion in assets representing three PaineWebber funds and several research and development limited partnerships (RDLPs) invested in biotechnology and high technology companies.

Ms. Wang holds an AB in Engineering Sciences with a specialty in Biomechanics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Jonathan Leff

Deerfield Management Company

Mr. Leff is a Partner on the Therapeutics team at Deerfield Management since 2013 and Chairman of the Deerfield Institute. He focuses on venture capital and structured investments in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Prior to Deerfield, for more than sixteen years, Mr. Leff was with Warburg Pincus, where he led the firm’s investment efforts in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. He is a member of the Boards of several private healthcare companies as well as several not-for-profit Boards, including the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation, Friends of Cancer Research, Reagan-Udall Foundation for the Food and Drug Administration and the Columbia University Medical Center Board of Advisors. Mr. Leff has also been active in public policy discussions related to healthcare and medical innovation. He previously served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), where he led NVCA’s life sciences industry efforts as Chair of NVCA’s Medical Innovation and Competitiveness Coalition (NVCA-MedIC), and also previously served on the Board of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. Mr. Leff holds an AB from Harvard University and an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Roberto Pastrano

Vice President of Finance and Operations

Roberto Pastrano is Vice President of Finance and Operations at Apertura Gene Therapy. With over 17 years of Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical experience in finance, accounting, and operations, Mr. Pastrano oversees Apertura’s operations, IT, finance and accounting functions. Previously, Mr. Pastrano served as Senior Director and Corporate Controller at Day One Biopharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company focused on pediatric cancers, where he led the accounting, procurement, and IT functions. Prior to Day One, he spent six years at Loxo Oncology at Lilly, formerly Loxo Oncology, as Senior Director of Finance where he led the accounting, finance, procurement, and legal functions after joining the company as an Assistant Controller in August 2015. Notably, while at Loxo Oncology at Lilly, Mr. Pastrano played a key role in the development of Vitrakvi (larotrectinib), the second tissue agnostic FDA-approved drug for adult and pediatric patients with solid tumors that have a neurotrophic receptor tyrosine kinase (NTRK) gene fusion & Retevmo (selpercatinib), the first FDA-approved therapy for patients with lung and thyroid cancers with RET gene alterations, which was approved under the FDA’s Accelerated Approval pathway with an orphan drug designation. Mr. Pastrano holds a BS in Accounting from the City University of New York – Herbert H. Lehman College and an MBA with a concentration in Finance.

Jordan Dubow, MD

Acting Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Jordan Dubow is the Acting Chief Medical Officer of Apertura Gene Therapy. Dr Dubow is a neurologist with fellowship training in movement disorders and vascular neurology and began his medial career in academia as a movement disorders and stroke neurologist. Dr. Dubow has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, where he has served in full time and acting CMO capacities for both pubic and private companies, leading all clinical and regulatory aspects of development for small and large molecule drugs and cell and gene therapies. Dr. Dubow received his medical degree from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He completed his internal medicine internship, Neurology residency and fellowship training at University of California Los Angeles, Northwestern University and Weill Cornell Medical College.

Jenna Heyman

Head of Human Resources, Vice President

Jenna Heyman joined Apertura Gene Therapy as Vice President and Head of Human Resources, bringing more than a decade of experience in Human Resources, as well as exceptional knowledge of building strong high performing teams in the biotechnology and CDMO industry. In her previous role as Vice President of Human Resources at Recipharm, Ms. Heyman oversaw HR for Arranta Bio and Vibalogics, and was instrumental in helping execute a global growth strategy. There, she was responsible for all operational and strategic activity in HR, including the areas of talent acquisition and retention, benefits and compensation, employee development and growth and corporate culture. Prior, Ms. Heyman served in progressive leadership positions at Brammer Bio, which was acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific. Ms. Heyman has a BA in Psychology and an MA in Education from Quinnipiac University. She also holds a SHRM-SCP (Society of HR Management – Senior Certified Professional) certification.

Diego Garzón, PhD

Vice President of Corporate Development

Dr. Diego Garzón is Vice President of Corporate Development at Apertura Gene Therapy and has more than 16 years of biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector experience within the U.S. and internationally, with a background spanning commercial R&D and Business Development. Dr. Garzón brings extensive knowledge of multiple therapeutic areas and provides leadership in the areas of managing teams and portfolio execution, having previously brought seven medicines to the market. Prior to joining Apertura, Dr. Garzón held roles at Exicure, Allergan, BMS and Schering-Plough. He most recently served as Vice President, Corporate Development and Strategy at Exicure. Dr. Garzón received his BSc in Biology at the University of Waterloo, PhD in Neuroscience at McMaster University and MBA degrees from Queen’s University and Cornell University.

Sisi Chen, PhD

Senior Director of Platform Technology

Dr. Sisi Chen is  Senior Director of Platform Technology at Apertura Gene Therapy, where she and her teams are harnessing the power of machine learning and high-throughput experimentation to engineer better payloads and capsids for gene therapies. She brings over 15 years of research experience in technology development in the areas of functional and single-cell genomics, computational biology, and stem cell biology.Prior to Apertura, she served as the Director of the Beckman Single-cell Profiling and Engineering Center (SPEC) at Caltech, where she led a cross-functional computational and experimental team to leverage the power of single-cell genomics towards applications in therapeutic screening and cell engineering. Her work at SPEC on performing large-scale analyses of immune cell responses to small molecule drugs was awarded the Society of Laboratory Automation and Sciences (SLAS) 2021 Innovation Award. Dr. Chen earned a B.S. in Electrical engineering from MIT and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of California Berkeley.

Jorge Santiago-Ortiz, PhD

Senior Director of Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls (CMC)

Dr. Jorge Santiago-Ortiz is the Senior Director of Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls (CMC) at Apertura Gene Therapy. He is a chemical engineer with a background in bioprocess engineering, molecular biology, and biochemistry and a focus in gene therapy and process development. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Jorge completed his bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering with a Biotechnology Certificate in 2010 at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez; as an undergraduate student, he conducted research in biochemistry under Dr. Belinda Pastrana-Rios, where he worked on protein expression, purification, and characterization. In 2016, Jorge completed a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering with a minor in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Working in Dr. David Schaffer’s laboratory, his Ph.D. dissertation work focused on the engineering of lentiviral and adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors for gene therapy applications using in vitro and in vivo directed evolution. Following the completion of his Ph.D., Jorge transitioned to an industry role at BioConsortia Inc. (Davis, CA), where he led the fermentation and scale-up of beneficial plant-associated microbes for enhanced crop yields and improved plant health. Prior to his current role at Apertura, Jorge worked as the Sr. Director of Process Development at BioCentriq, a gene and cell therapy contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) based in Newark, NJ, where he oversaw process development for gene and cell therapy clinical products and managed gene therapy projects. Jorge is an active member of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and he also serves on the National Academies for Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Standing Committee on Biotechnology Capabilities and National Security Needs and in the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee.

Apertura Benefits
Flexible Time Off
Medical, Dental, Vision
401K
Equity
And more!

David Tischler

Strategy & Operations Consultant

David Tischler is an Advisor to Apertura Gene Therapy leveraging a background focused on building and financing companies to commercialize life science innovations. Currently, he is engaged by venture capital firms and their therapeutics and bioengineering-focused portfolio companies to lead operations, business development, fundraising, and strategic commercialization projects. Most recently, David was the co-founder and CEO of ZetaGen Therapeutics, an early-stage life science company developing targeted local therapies for large unmet needs in the regenerative medicine and oncology markets. Prior to ZetaGen, David was a product manager at Castlight Health (NYSE: CSLT), where he helped launch Action, an artificial intelligence product that uses machine learning to manage the health of employee populations of Fortune 100 companies. David also served as acting CEO of DigiSight Technologies (now Verana Health), a venture-backed company that leverages large datasets to manage retinal diseases. Previously, served as the due diligence chair for Mass Medical Angels, a life science-focused angel investment group and also worked as an associate at Venzyme Venture Catalyst where he turned early-stage life science technologies from academic institutions into financeable companies. David has a BS in Biology from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the UC Berkeley-Haas School of Business.

Joseph La Barge

Chief Executive Officer

Joseph La Barge is CEO and serves on the Board of Managers of Apertura Gene Therapy. Previously, Mr. La Barge was an executive at Spark Therapeutics, Inc., serving as Chief Business Officer from 2019 to 2021 and as Chief Legal Officer from 2013 to 2019. In these roles, he oversaw many areas of company growth, including business development, patient advocacy, quality assurance, legal affairs, compliance, finance, public policy and global pricing and reimbursement, growing the company to 830 employees over eight years. He led the negotiation of Spark’s acquisition by Roche, raised more than $1 billion in capital from private and public financings and oversaw the in-license of numerous product candidates and platform technologies. Mr. La Barge also managed the acquisition and construction of Spark’s initial 180,000 square feet office and laboratory space, including GMP suites, to manufacture the global supply of Luxturna. Prior to Spark, Mr. La Barge served as Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary, Chief Compliance Officer at Tengion, Inc., where he was responsible for managing legal affairs, compliance and quality assurance. Mr. La Barge has served as a Member of the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy Government Affairs Committee. He earned his BA in Education and Psychology at Bucknell University and his JD at Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law.