Venture Philanthropy Panel
RESI aims to represent a diversity of investment sources for early stage life science companies, beyond traditional venture capital firms and other investors with short-term horizons and, primarily financial aims.
The unique outlook of venture philanthropy investors means that each fund has created a distinct strategy for moving new inventions towards patients. They typically have deep domain expertise at their disposal, and many focus on assets at an earlier stage than typical VCs, with the aim of helping new treatments cross over biotech’s infamous ‘Valley of Death’. In this panel, these investors will explain their unique strategies and expertise, and entrepreneurs can learn how to find and work with a venture philanthropy investor in their domain.
John Reher, Managing Director, Brain Trust Accelerator Fund
John M. Reher created the Brain Trust Accelerator Fund in 2006. The goal of this venture capital fund is to earn an attractive rate of return by creating and investing in early-stage medical companies that address brain-related diseases. The general partner of the fund donates a portion of its carried interest to brain disease charities, which provide deal flow and advisory services.
From 2001-2006, John was founding president and executive director of Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, Inc. (ABC2), a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating therapies for treatment of brain cancer by employing venture principles to this philanthropic endeavor. Previously, John had more than 12 years of venture capital experience as a general partner and co-founder of Medicus Venture Partners, an early-stage healthcare venture partnership with investments that included Biosite Diagnostics, Inhale Therapeutic Systems (now Nektar), Tularik, and other successful companies.
Before entering the venture industry in 1989, John held financial, marketing, licensing, acquisitions and overall teamleader positions at Genentech (1982-1989) and at G.D. Searle Pharmaceuticals (1974-1981).
John has taught college level courses in Economics, Finance and Investments. He received a Masters of Management degree from Northwestern University and a BS in Mathematics and Business Economics from Illinois Benedictine University.
Bill Werkmeister, Board Member NFCR, Partner ICIF Fund, National Foundation for Cancer Research
Bill is a Founding Partner of the International Cancer Impact Fund, and in charge of the fund operations, organization, and capital raising efforts. He is a serial social venture capitalist and social entrepreneur. In addition to ICIF, Bill manages a private-holding company of social ventures which he founded in cleantech, media, and healthcare, and runs private equity for the ARCHNOVA family office.
Bill started his career as an investment banker at Salomon Smith Barney and Citigroup Global Markets, where he worked in corporate investment banking and structured finance. While at Salomon and CITI, Bill worked on over 14 structured transactions totaling $7.0 billion for Fortune 500 clients, as well as several marquee M&A transactions. Bill was then recruited by Newtek (NASDAQ: NEWT), one of the first publicly-traded venture funds, where he was Vice-President of Fund Capital Raising and Head of Securitization, Trading, and the Treasury at its SBA-lender, one of the largest non-bank SBA lenders in the country.
Following Newtek, Bill became interested in social venture capital and entrepreneurship, and at the age of 26, co-founded Aegis Capital Group’s series of state-subsidized venture funds, which focused on investing in high-technology life science, TMT, and consumer startups in Texas and New York. In 2012, he co-founded one of the first, and largest, mobile breast screening businesses, raising $24 million in startup equity capital. From 2014-2017, Bill worked as a banker and advisor to help several promising social enterprises in life sciences and cleantech raise funding.
Bill currently or has previously served on the Board or Advisory Board of the National Foundation for Cancer Research, the AIM-HI Cancer Fund, Immunicom, NexGen, VerdeEn, The Children’s Aid Society, and Houston Achievement Place. Bill has been published in or appeared on: Fox News, Fox Business, The Huffington Post, The Harvard Kennedy Review, Bold, among others. Mr. Werkmeister holds a B.S. summa cum laude from Cornell University where he studied finance and bioengineering, an MPA from Harvard University with a focus on Economic Policy, and an MBA from Yale University. He also completed graduate studies at the London School of Economics and participated in the Program in Structured Finance at NYU.
Cynthia Ringo, Managing Partner, DBL Partners
Cynthia Ringo is Senior Partner of DBL Partners, and Managing Partner of a prior fund managed under DBL Investors. Ms. Ringo currently sits on the board of directors of The RealReal, UrbanSitter, Maiyet, RubyRibbon, Brainscope and Siva Power, and works with View Glass, Yerdle, Kateeva and Apeel Sciences. Ms. Ringo was formerly a Managing Director of VantagePoint Venture Partners where she was Group Leader of the Communications, Systems, Internet and Media Practice. She also is a member of the Bay Area BUILD board of directors and a member of WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) Foundation. Ms. Ringo serves as an advisor to several organizations including: the NVCA Diversity Task Force, SVForum, a Silicon Valley leadership forum, Astia, supporting women-led entrepreneurs, as a judge for the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition, a member of the Emeritus Board, Watermark, and is a member of Broadway Angels. Ms. Ringo received a BS in Legal Systems from Georgia State University and a JD from Emory University School of Law.
Debra Miller, Founder, CureDuchenne
Debra Miller co-founded CureDuchenne in 2003 with her husband, Paul, after their only son was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. A respected thought leader in venture philanthropy and medical advocacy, Miller serves as CEO of CureDuchenne. She frequently shares her expertise through op-eds and industry events. Miller relies on her extensive background in sales and marketing to lead CureDuchenne.
In addition to overseeing all operations, research and financial resources, Debra works closely with CureDuchenne’s Scientific Advisory Board in setting out and implementing the organization’s medical and research strategic plans. She also is a voice on various Duchenne review panels, such as the Department of Defense Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Research Program and TREAT-NMD’s international review board TACT.
Miller has led CureDuchenne’s successful venture philanthropy programs and is the architect of CureDuchenne Ventures LLC, a new, for profit entity created to attract significant research funding to Duchenne research.
Miller has also been recognized often for her organization’s innovative approach to fighting Duchenne. She won Orange County Business Journal’s 2015 Women in Business Award and was a finalist for EY’s 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year in Orange County.
Prior to CureDuchenne, Miller had a career in publishing with positions at IDG Communications, Cahners Publishing, Ziff-Davis Publishing and Scholastic Publishing. She also worked in management at PC Magazine and was an independent stock trader.
Miller earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of California – Los Angeles.
Kenneth LaMontagne, Vice President of Research , The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Ken is an experienced leader with broad knowledge of the healthcare industry. Expertise in Oncology, Immuno-Oncology and Cell & Gene Therapies (CGT): includes research and development, clinical and commercial responsibilities. Ken has had roles including Oncology translational science, diagnostics, new products and business development and licensing (BD&L). Ken received his Ph.D. from SUNY at Stony Brook, while his PhD dissertation was done at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. Ken was a post-doctoral fellow (former Career Development Award recipient from the Leukemia Society of America) in the lab of the late Dr. Judah Folkman, Harvard Medical School. Upon completion of his training, Ken ventured into the Pharmaceutical sector with increasing roles at both Johnson & Johnson and Novartis. Ken recently completed an MBA from the Executive program at Rutgers Business School. Ken is now Head of the Therapy Acceleration Program (TAP) at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.